by Annie Tran:
Photo by Wendy Qiu
According to PAPD Sergeant Craig Lee, most students stopped by the Traffic Division are cooperative, but relatively apathetic to the laws governing cycling or even about their own safety on the road. Lee also mentions that high school-aged students in general often do not wear their helmets and commit common violations of the law, such as running red lights, stop signs and riding on the wrong side of the road.
While many students may find the laws bothersome, the administration agrees with their enforcement. “A law intended to save lives is never a bad thing,” Assistant Principal Trinity Klein wrote in an email. “There’s a saying about ‘sometimes you have to be the cop on the side of the road’, meaning that sometimes it’s important to have that overt reminder so people adhere to safe behavior. If everyone was following the law, it wouldn’t be necessary.”
A student cyclist caught violating the law, who is under the age of 18, is mandated to attend a two-hour Juvenile Traffic Diversion class, sponsored by Santa Clara County with a parent or legal guardian, on a school night, at a nearby location. The student will also have to pay a $10 fee when taking part in the class. After attending this class, the county office will notify the PAPD that the student successfully passed the course, and the bike citation will not be forwarded to the court. An alternative to taking this class is paying a fine of $114.
California law also states that all vehicles (including bicycles) must stop at a stop sign and follow the rules of traffic that are stated in the California Vehicle Code (CVC). Riders over the age of 13 are also not allowed to bike on the sidewalk and must walk their bikes when on a sidewalk.
[pullquote]“A law intended to save lives is never a bad thing”—Assistant Principal Trinity Klein
Junior Kakeru Imanaka was ticketed by the police earlier this year when he was ticketed for not wearing a helmet. “I guess it’s reasonable on some level for police to be waiting in certain areas for bikers because there aren’t as many crimes in Palo Alto,” he said. “But I think they should focus on patrolling the streets and looking for bad drivers for the safety of both drivers and pedestrians rather than sitting in one place waiting for student bikers to do something wrong.” However, Imanaka admits that he is more careful when biking around Palo Alto and always caps his head with a helmet before leaving home.
Lee recommends students ride defensively and always follow the rules of the road. “It hurts when you get hit by a car,” he said in an email. “Even if you are in ‘the right,’ you will always lose against a two-ton car. Ride with the flow of traffic; not against it because if the cyclist does get hit, it’s generally the cyclist’s fault for the collision,” Lee also reminds students that cyclists do not have special privileges on the road and that student bikers should take responsibility for their own ac tions and do the right thing, all the time, even when nobody else is watching them.
Klein agrees with these regulations, recalling the story of a previous student. “He had a simple fall, not some big crash, but he wasn’t wearing a helmet at the time and was forever changed after that accident,” Klein said. “I can only say that if he had been wearing his helmet, his life would have been much different.”