UI police to start ticketing cyclists for traffic violations
Updated 9:35 a.m. Saturday.
URBANA — University of Illinois police would like bicyclists who ignore the Illinois Vehicle Code to be warned: You will be ticketed. And the ticket will cost you money.
"The message we're trying to get out is while we have been active in doing educational enforcement, the problem has become so pervasive, we will begin issuing traffic tickets," said UI Deputy Chief of Police Skip Frost.
Educational enforcement is the nice term for a warning ticket. That's a stop by an officer, accompanied by an explanation of how the bicyclist violated the law, and a written warning.
Frost said there are more bicyclists on campus in recent years, given the increase in gas prices and the UI's push for sustainability. That has also meant an increase in the number of traffic violations by bicyclists, who are obligated to follow all the same laws as someone driving a vehicle.
"We're talking about people running stop signs, stop lights, not signaling when they turn, and here's a huge one: going the wrong way on a one-way street. It is a violation of the Illinois Vehicle Code and that is a standard traffic citation which will cost you $120," Frost reminded.
Frost spends a good deal of his time at work engaging in efforts to educate and re-educate those who live and work in and near campus.
"It's an every-year issue. It is not any different than our goals in setting pedestrian and vehicular safety. We roll out the education and education enforcement in the beginning of the semester, but we're no longer in the beginning of the semester," he said.
Frost added that he has been in touch with the Urbana and Champaign police departments to ask them to help in the effort to ticket bicyclists.
He's already bracing for the criticism that comes with such enforcement but is unapologetic about trying to make campus safer.
"There will be a mass hue and cry: 'Don't police have anything better to do?' Yes, we do, but if you'd just abide by the law, we wouldn't have to do it. In the end, it's a huge public-safety concern. We have people injured every day. Some of them are never reported to us," he said.
"Our goal is not to write any certain number of citations or to generate revenue. We're the state, so it goes to the general operating fund anyway. The goal is voluntary compliance. If we don't do this enforcement, the situation will not improve," he said.
Gary Cziko, a lifelong cyclist and safe-cycling instructor, is not bothered about the enforcement approach.
"There are rights and responsibilities. It is a good idea for cyclists to obey the laws so they can legitimately claim the rights they have. If they are operating opportunistically, motorists don't want to give them those rights. It's a good deal to follow the rules because you get the rights in return," said the retired professor of educational psychology, who has lived locally since 1979.
"I caught up with a cyclist today who blasted through a red light and I said, 'That can cost you $120.' He chuckled when I said that," Cziko said Thursday. "A cyclist puts me more at risk than they put motorists at risk. If I stop at a four-way and then go into the intersection and another cyclist goes through, he'll kill me. But he would only scratch the paint on a car. It's not going to injure or kill them (vehicle drivers) the way a cyclist can injure or kill another cyclist. And pedestrians," Cziko said.
Cziko has been certified as an instructor for the CyclingSavvy program. Started by the Florida Bicycling Association several years ago, the program has spread to other states.
The veteran bicyclist took it himself in May 2011 and was so impressed that he has been teaching it since last fall. He has done the three-hour classroom portion of the program six or seven times.
Thanks to help from the UI, that portion is offered free. There are two additional parts of the program that involve on-the-street training. There is a fee for those portions and registration is required. All have been well-received, he said.
"We market the course for anybody who wants to be able to use a bike to go anywhere they want to go," said Cziko.
The material examines why cyclists have problems as they try to move with vehicle traffic.
"We look at the cause of crashes bicyclists have. Roughly 40 percent ... have nothing to do with another vehicle or a bike. They are slip-and-fall, running into a hazard on the side of road. That's why bike handling skills are important."
"Then you look at the 18 percent of crashes that involve a motor vehicle. You can show that by doing basic things like riding on the right side, obeying traffic laws, you can eliminate more than half of those. There are other techniques such as position in the lane, communicating, and most often, not being too far to the right."
"If you obey the laws, stay sober, and learn some basic techniques, you can eliminate 90 percent of motorists' crashes. That's pretty empowering when you learn what causes the crashes. You can make it much safer than being a car," he said.
On the web:
Information about the CyclingSavvy courses can be found at CyclingSavvyIllinois.notlong.com.
Here are the rules for bicyclists in Champaign.
And here are the rules for bicyclists in Urbana.