Bill Supports UCPD Plan to Lower Bicycle Dismount Fines

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Correction Appended

A new ASUC Senate bill supports UCPD's plans to reduce the fine for bicyclists caught riding through UC Berkeley's dismount zone and advocates clearer demarcation of the zone, funded by the fines.

Created in 2001 at the request of then Chancellor Robert Berdahl, the dismount zone is defined as an area spanning California Plaza, Dwinelle Plaza and Sproul Plaza where students must walk their bikes Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. - the peak hours of foot traffic. Until last semester, bicyclists who did not dismount in this area were susceptible to a $220 fine. UCPD now plans to lessen the consequences with a new program.

"This is something I wanted to raise an issue about this semester because I know a lot of students are pissed off about this bike fine being so high," said Cooperative Movement Senator Elliot Goldstein, who sponsored the bill.

According to UCPD Lt. Alex Yao, UCPD was not aware of the exact price of the fine - set by the courts, which decide the base fine based on the California Penal Code and then add court fees - until it was brought to their attention by a student last semester. Until a new policy is in place, UCPD officers have been ordered not to issue any citations, according to Goldstein.

Although UCPD issued a base fee much less than $220, Yao said additional associated administrative and court charges raised the price. UCPD's new plan will get rid of these extra charges and allow the department to handle citations internally.

The bill's authors said they have been in communication with UCPD officials who said the fine will be reduced to $50, though Yao said he could not confirm the price of the fine because plans have not yet been finalized.

The bill states that under UCPD's plans, students would also be required to attend a bicycle education class in order to receive the reduced fee, which would give UCPD "an opportunity to impart a lesson with the citation rather than just impose a punishment."

Money from the fine would be used to fund bicycle awareness efforts, and the bill states that the fine should also pay for bigger signs and more paint to designate the zone, according to Samantha Strimling, author of the bill and a former employee of The Daily Californian.

Last year, the department issued 103 citations alone for dismount zone violations during the four-month period between August and November.

Yao said that since the beginning of 2001, UCPD has received 53 reports of bicycle-related injuries on or around campus, not all of which were in the dismount zone. He said that in the past two years, three injuries were reported.

Student Action Senator Spencer McLeod said the senate's bill is a symbolic gesture that enacts no tangible change, but rather "shows the UCPD that this is where the students are."

Goldstein said the goal of the bill is to raise awareness and endorse a more reasonable dismount zone policy.

"Honestly, I don't know how this policy persisted for so long and people got fined so much over the years in an unjust way," Goldstein said.


Correction: Friday, February 25, 2011
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Yao said that until a new policy is in place, UCPD officers have been ordered not to issue any citations. In fact, Goldstein and Strimling said this and Yao confirmed the information.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Weiru Fang at [email protected]

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