UC Davis has an undergraduate population of about 25,000 and a total population of 33,000, so bike accidents on campus are a statistical certainty. However, there are many measures you can take to reduce your risk of becoming road kill.
As we are only in week three of instruction, it’s important to be considerate of students who have not fully acclimated to the chaos. But freshmen alone cannot be blamed for traffic.
Many bike accidents are caused by the failure to follow “bike etiquette” — a combination of actual rules and psychic understandings between established Davis bikers. Though it is possible to reach this awareness after months of trial and error, we would like to catalyze the process by providing some guidelines that might keep you intact.
Even if you are not a friend of physics, familiarize yourself with constant velocity. It is essential on roundabouts and can prevent collisions wherever bikers and pedestrians interact.
In roundabouts, remember to yield to those already in the roundabout, bike counterclockwise at a steady speed and perhaps circle more than once before exiting safely. Suddenly stopping or speeding up is unwise because bikers in the proximity will be estimating their paths based on your current speed and would need to recalculate, which may result in panic and/or disaster.
Similarly, pedestrians should take straight paths across roads when crossing, and should avoid moving back and forth to adjust for bikers. Bikers travel faster than pedestrians, so a pedestrian who backtracks may occupy the space that a biker intends to occupy.
Seconds before contact, there’s not much a biker can do but brake or blindly turn away, which is still likely to cause an accident. So keep in mind that it is usually easier for bikers to move around pedestrians.
As a biker, it is crucial to convey both left and right turns in advance so that people coming from behind can adjust accordingly. It also helps to signal and check behind you before turning; pretend you are beginning a turn or lane change in a car. Extend the arm that is closest to the direction you are turning. Left turn, left arm. Right turn, right arm. If one of your arms is busy, use the opposite arm with forearm bent vertically upwards or downwards to signify your turn.
The rules may be overwhelming, but it is up to you to understand them to keep yourself, and the people around you, safe.
While some complain that construction on bikeways constricts space for bikers and pedestrians, we believe it will enable safer and more comfortable biking. The renovation of roads near the Sciences Lecture Hall has increased congestion, but is well worth the improvement. Hutchison Drive, especially near the Peter J. Shields Library and Olson Hall, is another rough patch we hope to see smoothed in the future.
More information about proposed bikeway improvements and their priorities can be accessed in Appendix I of the UC Davis Bicycle Plan, a PDF available for download at taps.ucdavis.edu.
If you are still prone to nightmares about collisions on campus, please refer to our previous editorial, “Hassle-free tips for new bikers,” for more advice. The ASUCD Bike Barn also offers a Biking 101 brochure. Further, both new and returning bikers can benefit from the information provided by Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS), whose office behind the West Entry Parking Structure is open 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.