By Doug Oakley
Bay Area News Group
Berkeley police had no problem finding bicyclists breaking the law last week.
During the second crackdown of the year near the UC Berkeley campus on Sept. 23, hordes of riders were cruising through stop signs, running red lights, riding on the sidewalk and riding the wrong way.
In two hours five officers wrote 19 citations with some costing riders more than $200.
Officer Melissa Kelly, parked at the corner of Dana and Channing streets on her mountain bike, cited one after the other as they blew through the stop sign.
While writing one ticket, several more would fly through the intersection.
The operation was aimed at reducing injury crashes.
So far this year, 129 bicyclists have been injured in the city, police said. Since 1984, four bicyclists have died in crashes with cars, and investigations showed in each accident that it was the bicyclist's fault.
"We've also been getting complaints regarding reckless riding," said Officer Jennifer Coats of the police department's traffic bureau who was on Thursday's crackdown. "We're up here as a deterrent. They're running stop signs, red lights and weaving in and out of traffic and riding the wrong way."
The crackdown also served as a reminder to bicyclists that they must pay attention to all the rules of the road, just as a person driving a car would.
As he was getting a ticket, one young UC Berkeley student from New Zealand asked Kelly: "Are we supposed to ride on the sidewalk or on the street?"
The answer is no, Kelly said, but it was a good questions and gave her the opportunity to offer a quick primer on the rules of the road: stop at stop signs, yield to pedestrians, stop at red lights, don't ride on the sidewalk, don't ride in crosswalks.
Dave Campbell, president of Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalition, said he heard about the crackdown and approved of it as a way of educating riders.
"The bicycle coalition encourages everyone to follow the rules of the road and ride responsibly," said Campbell. "Enforcement can be a good thing. It's helpful when cyclists know that police take traffic safety seriously."
Campbell said so many bicyclists do not obey the rules of the road because they never learn them.
"My parents taught me how to ride, told me to be safe and sent me out on the street," Campbell said. "You don't get the training in school. A lot of people don't know that the rules of the road apply to bikes."
Campbell said the crackdown is a good opportunity for Berkeley bike riders to take one of his organization's three free classes on bike safety. For more info, check http://www.bfbc.org.