Bill Larson, spokesman for the Stanford Department of Public Safety (SUDPS), confirmed that the Stanford police department has recently increased its efforts regarding bicycle safety and education in an effort to reduce the number of collisions on campus.
Larson noted, however, that “bike enforcement is [an ongoing] part of our education of the Stanford community to obey traffic laws,” and that enforcement efforts periodically increase throughout the year, especially during times such as New Student Orientation (NSO).
SUDPS Chief Laura Wilson said an in email to The Daily that the increased patrols by Stanford sheriffs are in response to concerns raised by, among others, members of the Board of Trustees and the University Cabinet. According to Wilson, education-based bike safety programs had previously failed to change the actual behavior of bikers around campus.
Enforcement has increased around the intersections of Campus Drive and Escondido Road, Lomita Drive and Santa Teresa Street and Serra Street and Galvez Street.
Larson emphasized that the increased time spent on bicycle safety has not necessitated redeployment of deputies from other tasks – a particularly salient point following two assaults reported on campus this past weekend.
Larson said that enforcement efforts have been predominantly situated in response to observations and complaints from the community.
While cycling violations, the most common of which are stop-sign infringements, can be penalized by fines ranging from $100 to $200, students are often offered a choice between paying a monetary fine and attending a bike “diversion” program intended to educate students about bike safety.
“We have always enforced cycling laws on campus,” said Deputy Allen James, the program’s coordinator and developer. “We hope that by enforcing the laws and educating the community, we can change the whole bicycling environment.”
The hour-long class, which is offered twice a month, is a collaboration between the SUDPS and Parking & Transportation and was created in 2011. The program is free and open to all students, but repeat offenders are barred from attending the class again within 18 months.
John Burke ’14 was at the most recent class in the Parking and Transportation building, along with about 50 other students.
“They talked a bunch about various rules involving lane changes and what to do at intersections,” said Burke, who received a ticket for not having a bike light. The instructor “told a couple stories of bad accidents he’d seen, and told us it’s not that uncommon to have bike accidents and get hurt in them.”
Burke noted that the class didn’t teach him anything new, however it did serve to remind him that biking is not as safe as students sometimes think it is.
“The bike diversion program offers an opportunity,” James said, “to change a punitive endeavor into an educational situation.”
James noted that a significant majority of students cited on campus choose to attend the class rather than pay a fine. He added that, while there is no data to suggest conclusively that ticketing levels have fallen, feedback for the program has been almost entirely positive.
“The program’s been very successful for the University,” James said. “It’s good for our community, and we’re very proud of it.”
Brendan O’Byrne contributed to this report.