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Davis, California

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Crafting Gemeinschaft: Big wheel keep on turnin’

Check the corresponding box if you have ever done any of the following as a biker:

Impatiently running a red light because the light has not changed for you and you have been waiting for close to ten minutes [   ]

Taking a collective turn at the stop sign with all the other bikers instead of going one by one because that is ridiculous [   ]

Locking your bike to a tree/bench/post/etc. due to lack of parking and you’re about to be late to a midterm [   ]

If you checked off any or all of the above symptoms, you have been diagnosed with biker road rage. If left untreated it can lead to future complications, such as seeking car loan approvals. I find it odd that we go to one of the most “bike-friendly” college campuses in the nation (we are the only city to have received the Platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Community Award, given out by the League of American Cyclists), yet as a city we are behind in terms of establishing better bike infrastructure, such as timed signals and leniency when it comes to stop signs. Davis does have some fairly advanced bike infrastructure, such as numerous bike tunnels throughout town (also the perfect place to recreate the iconic scene of droogs from Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange). However, it is time some greater innovations are made.

Bike infrastructure does not have to be just physical; it can also be embedded in social policies. One policy is the rule that bikes must stop at stop signs or else they are subject to ticketing. This reminds me of when I hear warnings of the cops being on patrol downtown, giving out tickets to unsuspecting students who do not respect stop signs. I think that is absurd, especially since sometimes there is nobody at the intersection, or you are going with the traffic anyway.

An example of why adaptation to bike infrastructure is necessary can be seen from an incident in the Netherlands. The police once gave out 144 traffic tickets to cyclists who ran a red light because of the long waiting time. As a result of the ticketing, cyclists began obeying the stop light and traffic jams started to form. The dangers created in stopping were greater than if the cyclists had just used their sound judgement to assess when the intersection was safe to cross. Things would be much better if places like the Netherlands and other states in the U.S. adopted Idaho’s law, in which “Idaho stops” are allowed. This is when cyclists are allowed to treat stop signs like yield signs. There are multiple benefits of using the Idaho stop, one being that it allows traffic officials to divert their attention away from the harmless traffic violator to the people that actually present some danger.

Another device that would be useful are traffic sensors that can detect a cyclist’s presence, thereby reducing the amount of time cyclists have to wait at traffic stops. The city of Portland, Ore. uses inductive loops (wires in the road) to sense when a bike is there. We should be making cycling more attractive to people as a transportation option, but when the button to cross the street is far out there and you have to do this awkward dance that involves trying to not fall off your bike, the grass looks greener behind the windshield.

Also, does Davis even have a bike share program? Bike sharing is when users pick up a bike from a self-service station, pay a small fee, and then return the bike to the station when they are done. There are numerous private companies with bike sharing services, and it has become a competitive market on its own. It seems as if urban city after urban city is implementing a bike share program, and it makes me wonder why Davis does not have anything like that. The only option available is to rent out bikes from the UC Davis Bike Barn (for a hefty fee of $20 a day). The last discussion I have heard about a bike share program was in 2012, and a major challenge at the time (as it always is) was getting funding for the program. It would take an estimated $200,000 to get the program rolling, which, in the grand scheme of university funding, is not that much money — but it still has not become a reality.

On a final and serious note, I would like to say two words: bike parking. Recently, the university has admitted more students. Yeah, we get it; freshmen are cute. We have more housing to put them in, and everyone is happy. Wrong! The new bike parking near the gym does not help me when I’m trying to find parking before class. Sorry, school planners — not everyone is spending all their time at the gym; some of us are getting an education (or trying to, if there was parking). We should look into alternative parking structures, like bike parking that goes deep into the ground or is confined to a raised cylinder.

The city of Davis started this whole “biking is cool” thing in the 1960s when they invested in the development of bike lanes; however, as time progresses it would be nice to see improvements made to perpetuate this biking culture. The easier and more attractive that biking is, the greater the chances are of abandoning the norm of car dependency.

If you want to draw futuristic bike parking structures for fun you can email NICOLE NELSON at nsnelson@ucdavis.edu, and she will wholeheartedly support you in your space-saving desires.


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