When a distracted adult cyclist riding the wrong way on a sidewalk collided with Atascadero police Officer Caleb Davis’ motorcycle as he was leaving the police station this spring, Davis said he knew he had to reach out to the public on bike safety.
“I think a lot of it is starting the younger kids off on the right roads,” Davis, a traffic officer, said of communicating bicycle laws to the public.
Riding on sidewalks, against the flow of traffic and through crosswalks are among the common taboos of bicycling, he said.
“A lot of people just don’t know. And I’m hoping that we can educate both the parents and the youth,” he added.
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His goal is to get people talking about the Police Department and police union’s annual Bike Rodeo, a free community event Saturday.
Police have held the event in the past, but this year it will take on a grander scale with BMX stunt bike shows, a riding course with props for younger kids to practice watching for traffic, safety talks and bicycle equipment checks on the east side of the Colony Square parking lot. There will also be a raffle with giveaways.
In the past two weeks, Davis visited elementary schools around town and in Santa Margarita to encourage students and their families to attend.
“My thing has always been that if you don’t do something that will imprint their mind, kids may forget. Like, when mom asks ‘What did you learn at school today?’ the typical response is ‘Nothing.’ ”
Davis thought riding up to students’ lunch areas on his motorcycle would get kids and parents talking, he said.
Atascadero police don’t have a traffic officer dedicated to bicycle enforcement, but officers believe equipping the public with information can be more effective in the long run than fines and penalties.
Davis also just applied for a state grant for the department to get 100 helmets for families that can’t afford to buy helmets.
One of the common misconceptions about bike riding, Davis said, is some people think that when they are on their bike, they are considered a pedestrian.
That’s not the case in the state’s Vehicle Code, which defines cyclists as a vehicle and therefore requires cyclists to abide by many of the same laws that motorists do.
For example, cyclists aren’t allowed to ride through a crosswalk, but they can walk their bikes through.
And, like the cyclist who collided with Davis, many people prefer to ride against the flow of traffic — sometimes on the sidewalk — because they think that’s safer, Davis said.
“A lot of time it’s the minor stuff that the bicyclist may not see as a huge thing that actually is,” Davis said.
If a cyclist is riding against the flow of traffic, that poses a huge risk of not being seen by motorists exiting a driveway, he said.
That’s because drivers typically look to their left, as that is where the traffic is coming from.
“By the time you look to the right, you’re already moving and that’s a bad thing if you have a bicyclist coming down the wrong way,” he said.
Being on the sidewalk also makes cyclists less visible because others aren’t expecting them to be there, and it poses a risk to pedestrians.
The rodeo is also designed to help teach motorists what cyclists are allowed to do, such as being on the side of a left-turn lane next to cars. Officers will also go over what hand signals mean and provide handouts on state laws for cyclists.