At Tuesday night’s council meeting, four members of the council unanimously approved the B Street parking changes. However, the conservation shifted from the safety issues driving the need to restrict parking toward the view that there is a lack of enforcement on bicyclists for violating the vehicle code.
Indeed, council seemed to agree with this view. Councilmember Rochelle Swanson quickly asked staff to look at enforcement of rules such as bike lights and reflectors. There is also the stop sign issue.
On the other hand, there are also plenty of problems with general traffic enforcement, as Councilmember Brett Lee brought up.
Whenever safety issues arise for bicyclists, we hear the push back in the community over the bicyclists who do not follow the rules of the road. I cannot defend bicyclists here. I see far too many bicyclists who blatantly and sometimes dangerously run lights and stop signs.
I see bicyclists who bike without using their hands to steer the bike and often with their arms crossed. (I have often thought it might be useful to test their reflexes and how quickly they could avoid oncoming danger). I see bicyclists with earbuds listening ostensibly to music while others are on their cell having a conversation.
At the same time, starting last November, I have had a slew of collisions and close calls with other cars.
- On November 3, I was backing out from a parking space at Montgomery when a car, suddenly seeing an open spot, perhaps mine, backed up at a high rate of speed and collided with the rear of my car as I was about to pull forward. My car was totaled from about $4000 worth of damage.
- A week later, same lot, a car saw an open spot and backed up. I was already there and did not back up to accommodate her. She did a 50 point turn in order to get into the parking spot despite the fact that there were several open spots ahead and she had clearly passed the parking spot.
- A few weeks later my car was hit while parked in a private lot by a car that was illegally parked in that private lot.
- Earlier this year, I was about turn into Montgomery at the stop sign at Lilliard and Danbury. One eastbound truck went and, as I was about to turn, a second car followed that truck and had to swerve to avoid me.
- In February, there was the truck that hit the bicyclist (or rather the bicyclist ran into the truck), of which I posted the video.
- A month ago at the Starbucks in north Davis I was hit by a car backing out of parking spot.
- A few weeks ago, crossing Mace on Cowell, I had the green light, a car turning right onto Cowell from southbound Mace, not only cut in front but did a u-turn in front of my vehicle and then looked at me like I was crazy when I honked at him (several times).
Bottom line, in my view, while drivers in Davis often complain about bicyclists, in my view, motorists are just as culpable.
Some of that is due to the poorly constructed downtown streets with four-way stops attempting to regulate three different modes of transportation.
As I have said, it is chaotic and I’m frankly amazed that we do not have more collisions. At some point, though, a car and a bike are going to meet and it’s going to be a fatality and then we will be forced to look at the set up.
However, you’ll note that of all of my listed encounters, the ones I can really remember and have somewhere on video, only the bicyclist getting hit by a car occurred in the downtown.
So, if drivers of cars want the police to look more closely at enforcing bike laws, I am all for it ‒ but the real problem is that no one is really beyond reproach here. It’s not that all bicyclists are flaunting the law, but enough certainly are that it creates that perception.
While many of those are students, out of town and with limited stake in the overall perception of bicyclists in this town, enough are by older people who should know better and should care that their actions undermine not only their own personal safety but the perceptions of those in the community.
However, the driver issue is a problem as well. Here is an interesting fact: of the seven vehicle encounters I had, only one of the drivers could have been a student or was at least at student age.
Instead, it was a wide variety of people from all sorts of demographic backgrounds that were driving unsafely. The most recent one was an elderly gentleman. But before that it was a 40-year-old school district employee. Before that it was a 50-something woman. The two incidents at Montgomery were by mothers.
There is no rhyme or pattern, at least from my personal experiences, since November. I often will see parents dropping their kids off and talking on a cell phone, usually holding it in their hands, and engrossed in conservation.
So again, we want to have a discussion of bicyclists not following the rules, but we need to have it for everyone.
There are also structural factors involved, as well. I have often talked about the problems with the downtown. As I have argued many times before, while Davis is a bike-friendly town, it is not well set up for bicyclists. Downtown, in particular, is a gauntlet. And I feel that way, not just driving my car, but walking around downtown.
The problem is that we have set up every intersection as a four-way stop, which means that at busy times you will have a car stopped at each of the four corners, pedestrians crossing four ways, and maybe a bicyclist or two.
The other problematic zone is the school zone where you have children walking, bikes, and cars. I have already met with Barbara Archer, who is working with Dan Wolk on safe schools.
I have to drop my kids off at separate schools in the morning and each has their own set up and their own hazards. We need to evaluate each situation on the ground for their specifics.
But even taking the downtown and the schools outside of the equation, I still have had encounters with people just not driving safely. Given the limited resources of the police department and a rising crime rate, I don’t see us being able to divert resources to traffic enforcement.
We need to find an answer and the answer is not to pick on the bicyclists, because from my perspective cars are just as big a problem.
—David M. Greenwald reporting