It’s a common scene: students coming and going on the busy sidewalks of Nutwood Avenue. Many of these eco-friendly commuters are bicyclists choosing to ride on the sidewalk for reasons ranging from convenience to safety.
But when sidewalks are crowded with students, bikers are actually putting themselves and the pedestrians at greater risk. Bikes simply can’t maneuver safely through congested areas. It’s time for them to move off the sidewalk and onto the street.
In California, there is no law regulating whether bicyclists should be on the street or the sidewalk. The California Vehicle Code Division 11 states that “(the state) does not prevent local authorities, by ordinance, from regulating the registration of bicycles and the parking and operation of bicycles on pedestrian or bicycle facilities.”
In other words, individual cities decide whether or not bicyclists must ride on the street. Fullerton has no law regulating this, so bikers on the sidewalk are within their rights to be there. However, the absence of a law doesn’t make this a safe action.
In fact, to protect bikers and pedestrians on CSUF’s busy campus there are eight Dismount Zones where students are not allowed to bike. For example, the often crowded Titan Walk.
These designated areas are considered too crowded to be safe for bikers to ride through. The Dismount Zones are indicated by signs. “Those are really strong suggestions that this (is) probably a highly congested area most times of the day,” said University Police Capt. Scot Willey.
The principle of the Dismount Zones, that bikers can’t safely maneuver in large crowds of pedestrians, should also be applied to sidewalks and should be a citywide ordinance.
Since the California Vehicle Code allows for individual cities to determine their own laws on bike issues, a lobbyist with enough support could actually make it illegal for bicyclists to ride through crowded sidewalks.
Sadly, there is no such ordinance. The Dismount Zones are CSUF specific and don’t extend onto Fullerton city streets, despite cars adding a greater element of danger.
Pedestrians are unpredictable. Combine a distracted pedestrian with a speeding bicyclist on the sidewalk and there is a recipe for disaster. At this point, the safest option for everyone is for bicyclists to utilize the bike lane.
“If there’s no bike lane, you’re to utilize the farthest edge but you don’t have to be in the gutter or anything like that. You just have to be off to the right hand side,” Willey said. An alternative option, like in the Dismount Zones, is for bicyclists to walk if not comfortable biking with traffic.
Skateboarders and scooters aren’t exempt from this, either. Since it’s not safe for them to ride in the street alongside traffic, they have no choice but to walk on sidewalks. Skateboarders especially need to exercise caution in crowds, as skateboards are actually banned on campus.
However, Willey and the university police doesn’t often go after offenders of this law, however.
“If we see someone barreling through a crowd, most of the time our officers will try to give them an education piece and tell them that’s probably not a good place to go flying through on a bike,” Willey said.
An “education piece” is a warning, because they are not looking to punish students monetarily. There is no argument here being made against less fines for college students, only a call to apply CSUF’s Dismount Zones to Fullerton sidewalks. If the area is congested, bicyclists need to utilize the bike lanes, take the far right of the street or walk their bike alongside pedestrians. It’s just safer for everyone.