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Saturday, April 13, 2024

UC Davis’ chaotic bicycle culture needs to be addressed

By not following the rules of the road, bicyclists put themselves and others at risk


By OWEN RUDERMAN — opruderman@ucdavis.edu 


With UC Davis reopening and with classes in full swing, it seems like there are more people than ever on campus. In some ways, this is a good thing. It’s nice to be out of the house and off Zoom. It’s nice to see friends and classmates as you walk around campus. But it isn’t nice to be minding your own business when suddenly, a fellow student on a bicycle comes speeding out of left field, seemingly bent on running you down.

I think most of us can agree that the biking culture on campus is… chaotic, to say the least. Maybe this is because people forgot how to ride their bikes during the pandemic; perhaps many of us forgot the rules of the road. Or it could be that many students don’t care and are determined to get from point A to point B as fast as possible.

Perhaps the most compelling reason that bicycle culture at UC Davis is so chaotic is because of the sheer amount of bikes on campus. According to the 2020-21 Campus Travel Survey, sixty-four percent of respondents reported that biking was their primary means of transportation to and around campus at least once during the week. This indicated an increase since the pre-pandemic 2018-19 survey, which reported only 44%.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that the multitude of people riding their bicycle to campus is a good thing. It benefits the environment, and it improves the health and wellbeing of the bicyclists. I just think that there needs to be a shift in the way UC Davis students think about riding bikes.

I’ve experienced the frenzied bicycle culture myself. At the start of this quarter, I stopped taking the bus to campus and switched to riding my bicycle. Since then, I’ve slowly noticed myself conforming to the campus bike culture. Usually I would yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk, as California law stipulates. But since I started riding around campus, I’ve almost felt peer pressured into whizzing straight through crosswalks and into roundabouts without a care in the world. I feel bad when I don’t signal which way I’m turning or let a pedestrian pass, but I don’t want to rock the boat or stand out.

The bicycle culture doesn’t affect just the bicyclist, though. After I get to campus, I usually park my bike in one spot and walk around for the rest of the day. I’m getting pretty tired of having to bob and weave my way through crosswalks in an effort to dodge oncoming bicyclists. I haven’t been hit yet, but it’s looking more and more like an inevitable future. 

Some might say that I should just suck it up and accept that this is the way it is on campus. But I feel like yielding to pedestrians, signaling which way you’re going to turn and passing on the left is common sense. Riding straight through bike circles is especially dangerous, since it cuts off the entire stream of bicyclists in the roundabout. It would probably prevent a lot of accidents and cut down on the stress associated with riding bicycles around campus if these rules were followed. 

A good start to getting students to adhere to these basic rules would be some sort of initiative from the school about biking responsibly.

I’ve only been at UC Davis for a few quarters, but other than the whole “Helmet Hair Don’t Care” program, I’ve never heard any announcement from the school about bicycles on campus, let alone the chaotic culture that surrounds them. We need to end this vicious (bi)cycle. It’s time for UC Davis to do something about our chaotic bicycle culture on campus.

Written by: Owen Ruderman — opruderman@ucdavis.edu 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.



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