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YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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City tracks danger spots for bicycles

A cyclist travels eastbound on a bike path adjacent to Russell Boulevard on Monday afternoon as a motorist waits to make a right turn from the northbound Highway 113 offramp. A sign posted there prohibits right turns on red lights. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

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From page A1 | January 08, 2013 |

The most perilous intersection that a bicyclist will encounter in Davis is where Russell Boulevard and Highway 113 meet, featuring a heavily trafficked bike path that runs parallel to a busy road, mixed in with multiple drive cuts and exit ramps.

Meanwhile, over the past four years, Davis and UC Davis have had more than $1.1 million worth of bicycles stolen from various locations within city and campus limits.

Both bits of bicycle information come from several recent studies completed by city of Davis staff, who compiled a multitude of statistics regarding bicycle-related crashes, thefts and citations over the past four years as the first step in the process of figuring out how to address each problem.

Since 2009, there have been 244 bicycle-related crashes in Davis, averaging about 64 per year, according to city numbers. Dave Kemp, the city’s active transportation coordinator, says that one-third of all crashes are bicycle-only.

But no intersection has seen more accidents than Russell Boulevard and Highway 113 where there have been nine, four more than any other intersection in town.

Kemp believes the intersection presents a variety of problems for bicyclists and drivers alike.

“(For example), a lot of times there’s a crash called a broadside when a motorist may be stopped at the stoplight and they’re looking left and they want to go right, but they’re not looking to the right,” Kemp said.

The result is that they don’t see the bicyclists, who have a green light, traveling through the intersection.

The other problematic intersections in town include Anderson Road and Villanova Drive, near Chávez Elementary School; West Covell Boulevard and Anderson Road; East Eighth Street and L Street near Da Vinci High School; and Pole Line Road and Fifth Street. Each saw five crashes over the past four years.

Kemp attributes the problems at these intersections to poor lighting, wide road width and high speed limits, among other factors.

Not surprisingly, more crashes occur in September when UC Davis students arrive on campus for the start of the semester, and in April, when students pull out their bikes after a rainy winter and hit the road again.

“It is possible that many of these students may be at higher risk for a crash due to being first-time or returning bicyclists needing an adjustment period to become comfortable riding safely,” writes Jimmy Fong, the city active transportation intern who put the reports together.

To encourage safe bicycling, Davis police officers issued 3,762 citations over the past four years, including 1,807 for stop sign infractions (48 percent) and 597 for riding in the dark without lights (16 percent). Fifty-six percent of the total citations issued were issued downtown.

To combat the problem on campus, David Takemoto-Weerts, bicycle program coordinator for UCD Transportation and Parking Services, has spearheaded an education campaign since late 2011 that promotes an affordable online safety class that students and residents can take to improve safe riding.

In fact, rather than paying a $200 bike citation, student offenders can pay $70 to take the class instead, Takemoto-Weerts says. Those not cited for any violations can take the class for free at bikesafety.ucdavis.edu.

“We have had several hundred people take it just for educational purposes,” Takemoto-Weerts said Monday. “Since we launched it Oct. 15 2011, of the 500 citations that were written for bike violations, 455 took and completed the traffic school class.”

More than 1,000 students have taken the online course since the program’s inception.

As for the bicycle theft data, more than 3,000 bikes have been reported stolen since 2009 in Davis and on campus, topping $1.1 million in value.

Fong reports that the average value for bikes stolen in the city of Davis was $492, compared to $309 on campus.

The hottest spot for bike thefts? Central Davis, with 31 percent or 413 total thefts. That study area includes Davis High School; Willett, Chávez and North Davis elementary schools; and the Stephens Branch Library.

After Central Davis, downtown Davis and Olive Drive saw 207 thefts, or 16 percent of the total, and East Davis, with 232 thefts or 18 percent.

The majority of the bikes, 75 percent of them, are taken from residences. Seventeen percent of bikes are stolen from public facilities like parks or schools and about 10 percent from in front of businesses like grocery stores.

Davis High School saw the most bike thefts over the past four years at all schools, with 71.

To Takemoto-Weerts, the high number of thefts comes as no surprise.

“If I were a bike thief I might very well come to Davis because there are so many bicycles,” Takemoto-Weerts said. “They just know they can come onto the (UCD) campus when on any given day there are 20,000 bicycles; they might see a bike that they can get a good price for on Craigslist. It’s just so easy.”

Kemp and city officials, including a newly formed bicycle theft task force, have begun to look at several methods that could curb the high rate of bicycle thefts.

The first wave of defense is the promotion of bicycle registration. At the very least, Kemp says, that’s one way to get a bicycle back if it is stolen.

The city is also looking at a bait bike program, where police plant bikes equipped with GPS chips, so they can track them if they’re stolen. They’re also looking at installing more bike lockers, updating bike racks and installing more security cameras on public facilities.

— Reach Tom Sakash at tsakash@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash

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Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at tsakash@davisenterprise.net, (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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