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Davis, California

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Q&A with a downtown bike cop

There’s little doubt that Davis is one of the best towns in which to ride a bike, but with a great amount of bicycles comes great responsibility. That’s precisely where Davis Police Department bicycle officer Peter Faeth steps in. The Aggie sat down with officer Faeth to get the low down on what it’s like to keep Davis safe while on a tricked out patrol bike.

What are the three most common citations you give?

Stop sign violations are easily the number one citation I give out. Riding with two headphones in is definitely number two but after that there’s a steep drop off. If I had to give a third, it would probably be for cycling on the sidewalk downtown.

Do you give tickets to automobiles as well as bikes?

I pull over way more cars than I do bikes. Cars are at fault as often as bikes are for collisions and violations. The most common violation I give is probably cell phones as they’re distracting and that’s dangerous with all the bikes and pedestrians downtown.

What is the most dangerous situation to be in on your bike?

Just riding downtown in general is pretty dangerous, especially with the parking situation we have here. This is because cars back out and rarely check for bikes and bikers are often what we unofficially call “doored” when people are exiting their cars roadside.

What is your favorite part about being a bicycle patrolman?

I actually work full time 40 hours a week on the bike. My favorite part, as an alumnus, has to be interacting with the students and talking with them. I like the public context and the closeness of being bike cop, as opposed to in a car.

Do you consider “bike cop” to be a derogatory term?

No, I call myself bike cop all the time. When people ask what I do I say “I’m a bike cop over in Davis.” If there’s anything negative, it’s more in the tone than the actual word.

If someone ran a stop sign, how would you stop them if they didn’t pull over?

I’ve had a couple people try to run. Usually I just do my best to keep up with them and odds are you’re not gonna ditch me. I would say generally it’s a bad idea [to run] because I ride bikes on my own too. Please don’t try it, I don’t encourage it and I have friends in cars too. Also, if you run, whatever previous violation you had is now a misdemeanor.

Has anyone ever talked you out of a ticket?

There are no legitimate excuses, but sometimes there are legitimate reasons I might not give a ticket. I’ve pulled people over for talking on the phone while driving and they’ve been on a call with 911.

Is it illegal to talk on your cell phone on a bike?

It’s not illegal, as long as you have the ability to stop still. If you have your phone in one hand and a coffee in the other then it’s not gonna work.

What do you have to say to students who think bicycle traffic tickets are BS?

I don’t make the laws, I just enforce them. So simply obey the laws. Every city and state has their own codes.

What are the main priorities of the Davis Police Department?

We provide community and public safety. What each officer does is different. My role as a bicycle officer is to ensure bike, vehicle and pedestrian safety in the downtown area. We’re not told to give out tickets for this or give tickets for that. General public safety is our primary goal.

What’s the coolest story to ever happen to you on your bike? Have you ever had to chase anyone down?

My best chase was just for a stop sign. Some guy ran it and thought he could get away. He actually got into his apartment downtown. By the time I caught up with him he was in his bathroom with the shower on pretending he couldn’t hear me.

AARON WEISS can be reached at city@theaggie.org.


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