UMPD pedals in bicycle law enforcement

Eighteen people received biking-related tickets from University police Thursday.
September 27, 2010

University of Minnesota junior Jordan Bernens biked through a stop sign into a clear intersection without thinking Thursday.


She was one of 18 people to receive biking-related tickets from University police that day, at least 15 of which were for failing to stop at two intersections on campus, officials said. Specific enforcement of bike laws at the roundabout near Pillsbury Drive Southeast and Pleasant Street Southeast, close to Jones Hall, will continue for about two weeks.


"It’s for everybody’s safety," said University police officer Tom Bohrer, who handed out at least five tickets Thursday. "I’d rather not pick up anybody off the street."


Bohrer was one of at least four officers assigned to the area Thursday. Police patrolled Friday as well.


Two squad cars waited at the intersection Thursday evening and stopped unsuspecting bikers who "blew through" the intersection.


The increased enforcement is part of a "patrol directive" to crack down on bikers who aren’t obeying traffic laws at the intersection, Lt. Troy Buhta said. University police had received a significant number of complaints about bikers in the area.


Other examples of a patrol directive include focusing on a rash of thefts or ticketing jaywalkers at busy intersections.


"It’s just things that come up on our radar screen," Buhta said.


Reckless bikers pose a safety risk because the roundabout is busy with pedestrian traffic after classes finish and the intersections are clogged with cars, Buhta said.


But Bernens said she received her ticket at an odd time — in the evening when fewer students were on campus.


"I don’t really feel like I’m a threat to other people on my bike," she said. "I think that it’s stupid. I don’t really know who I’m going to hurt by going through a stop sign when there are absolutely no cars."


A lot of people are unaware of the law, Bohrer said. Bernens was confused when she received her ticket and argued with the officer who gave it.


For the most part, bikers are subject to the same laws that govern drivers, Buhta said. There have been several accidents involving bikes and cars in the past year.


Despite the importance of bike safety, things will likely return to business as usual shortly after the police leave, Buhta said.


After a nasty crash, police are often asked what they’re doing to prevent accidents.


"This is just one way to show we’re trying to get the message out there and we’re trying to keep people safe," Buhta said. "It’s not the perfect solution because I imagine as soon as the cops are gone people start doing it again, but we at least have to try."


Although it "sucks" to get a ticket, University senior Matt Theisen, who has taken a cycling skills class, said it’s important for bikers to follow the law.


"When you go out there and you’re ignoring the laws like that, then that gives bicyclists a bad name," Theisen said. "I think it’s fair that they get the ticket."


Bernens said her ticket will probably motivate her to change her biking habits slightly, but not in the way law enforcement would prefer.


"I’ll definitely keep an eye out for stop signs when there are police around."

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