URBANA — Skip Frost is pretty sure his warning a couple of weeks ago to bicycling scofflaws on the University of Illinois campus was heard.
“There is no question it has helped,” said the UI deputy chief of police of his threat late last month that bicyclists who disobey the Illinois Vehicle Code would be ticketed.
Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 10, UI police officers had issued 47 written warnings and three tickets for violations for such offenses as cycling the wrong way on one-way streets, not stopping at stop signs and lights, not having lights on bicycles at night, and failure to yield to pedestrians when required.
“I want this to be an educational campaign. Voluntary compliance is our goal. Our goal was never to go out and make sure every cyclist gets a citation,” said Frost, who added that his department has received lots of positive feedback about efforts to improve the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians alike on campus.
“It’s the officers’ discretion to determine what they feel is the best route to change the behavior,” Frost said of the decision whether to issue a warning or the more serious citation punishable by a fine.
“We’re still out there,” Frost said, adding that the bicycle safety campaign is not intended to be temporary. “I made it very clear in a total staff meeting that this was to continue. There were 50 or so warnings (in the first two weeks). They won’t get another warning. The next one will be a citation.”
Meantime, Urbana police who have joined in the enforcement effort have issued plenty of tickets.
Lt. Bob Fitzgerald said between Oct. 4 and the end of the day Thursday, his officers wrote 24 tickets to bicyclists and two to pedestrians.
“Most of them are failure to stop at stop signs on the street by bicyclists,” he said.
“We‘re concentrating on Lincoln and Goodwin avenues and Green Street. In the past, we wrote warnings, more as an education issue,” said Fitzgerald, who said the issue has warranted more police attention because of the increasing number of complaints his department has received about errant bicyclists.
“They have to follow the Illinois Vehicle Code. We have such an increase in number of bicyclists on the road. It becomes dangerous when they’re blowing stop signs or they’re not yielding where students are crossing,” Fitzgerald said.
Like Frost, Fitzgerald is aware of the criticism that comes with ticketing bicyclists, but he’s unapologetic about trying to create a safer environment.
“We don’t want to respond to a call of a kid lying in the street after someone blowing a stop sign while on a bicycle,” he said.