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Bicycle Crime and Punishment

By spokesman | February 20, 2011

Campus police at the University of California at Berkeley have been issuing tickets to bicyclists for $220 apiece.  These fines are higher than the fines for motorists for similar violations.  The bicyclists have been ticketed for locking a bicycle to a railing rather than a filled bike rack or riding a bicycle through a pedestrian area where riding is prohibited.

One cyclist got a $220 ticket for failing to put his foot on the ground at a stop sign.  The cyclist claimed to have stopped for about 1/2 second without touching the ground.  I guess the cops never heard of a track stand.  

The purpose of tickets and fines is to stop illegal behavior and in this era of budget deficits, raise money.  The fine should fit the crime and be large enough to serve as a deterrent to most people.  A $10 parking ticket in Manhattan would be ineffective.  People would opt for the cheaper ticket than the more expensive parking garages.   So vehicle parking tickets in Manhattan cost more than $10, but they are still less than $220.  The fine for speeding tickets often rises with the speed of the motorist.  The theory is that the higher price will be more of a deterrent and the increased fine is correlated with the increased level of danger to the general public.

With these arguments in mind, a $220 ticket for an illegally “parked” bicycle that is locked to a railing rather than a bike rack is absurd.  There is little if any danger to the general public.  The fine is overly harsh.  In fact, the ticket exceeds the value of many bikes on a typical college campus.  Check out craigslist for the Berkeley area and you will see dozens of bikes listed for $100 or less.   Can you imagine the protests that would arise if illegally parked cars were given $20,000 tickets.

Like many biking issues this issue has attracted the attention of angry motorists who think cyclists deserve any injustice. Essentially their argument is - don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.  Several have been quite vocal on a facebook group called BikeBusters established by bicyclist to fight the tickets and excessive fines.  

California is projected to have a $25 billion deficit this year.  I know every dollar is needed but wouldn’t it be easier to just give Mark Zuckerberg a $25 billion ticket rather than ticket Berkeley students.

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Topics: Bikes and Politics |

2 Responses to “Bicycle Crime and Punishment”

  1. Skippy Says:
    February 20th, 2011 at 3:59 am

    Picked this story up through twitter but your idea of ticketing Zuckerberg is hilarious !

    He doesn’t by chance have the sign “The Buck stops here” on his desk ?

    Definitely a money grabbing scheme to hit the cyclist in the pocket !

    Would the campus police behave like this in Oxford or Cambridge ? NO CHANCE !

    THese fools have made their point but the only outcome will be that Students will decide to study elsawhere even if the Campus has a good rep in other areas .

    My latest Post is about Embulisms as i have just recovered from the second bout .

    Should have said endured as the recovery with heavy duty compression socks will take a lot longer than the first bout in 2009.

    Close to a million in the USA endure this complaint each year and i am fortunate to have survived . Many collapses with cramp are either this at an early stage but rarely does the victim think to seek medical oversight thus succumbing later when medical intervention could have saed the day .

    Even when following Strict Medical advice i was unable to avoid repeating and it looks as if the early start to my season has been the end of an active 2011 1

  2. 2whls3spds Says:
    February 27th, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Time to start locking up junk bikes to every available railing so they will LOSE money by having to remove them.


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