Cyclists learning rules of the road the hard way

Published 09/05 2013 10:08AM

Updated 09/05 2013 10:13AM

URBANA-CHAMPAIGN -- A new program is keeping bike riders in line by teaching them the rules of the road. A few weeks ago, the Champaign County Bicycle Diversion Program began. Instead of getting a hefty $185 ticket, riders have the option of taking a class for the first offense. WCIA-3's Amanda Porterfield has more.

It's been a little over a week and police say they've handed out more tickets than ever. It's not because they're trying to harass bikers. Rather, they're trying to educate them.

Joy Amade is a freshman trying to make her way through all the campus traffic. She's borrowing her roommate's wheels to get around.

So far, the only rule she knows is "people are more important than my bike. Make sure your brakes work."

But officers say, like Amade, most people don't know there's a little bit more to it than that.

"We got a lot of complaints via email, phone calls."

It's those complaints, mainly from campus, that got their wheels turning.

"I'm going to write you a ticket today, but there's a way you can handle that and learn about bicycle safety."

Now, as students make their mad dash to class, officers are making sure they learn their first lesson on the streets.

"We could go out and write traffic tickets if we wanted to, all day long if we wanted to. But are they really learning? It's a program where we concentrate on safety and education of the community on bicycle rules of the road."

Officers say rolling through stop signs and red lights, plus distracted riding are the biggest problems. Whether you're a newbie or an experienced rider, this quiz reminds you of the rules.

"At the end of the quiz, it will bring up all the questions that you missed. You have to go back through and answer those questions again so that you can learn as opposed to just clicking as fast as you can."

Jeff Yockey, with Champaign County Bikes, has lots of experience on two wheels. He believes riders of all levels will take it seriously.

"It's the same as getting a speeding ticket, to a reminder that they're are boundaries and those are appropriate and we need to respect them. In the long run, it's a little bit better deal for the violator even though it will cost them a little bit more the second time around."

Another change? Previously, when officers wrote tickets for bicyclists, those tickets showed up on a person's driving record. Now they don't, no matter how many you get. It helps keep insurance rates down.

Fines for the program are more expensive because riders are considered to be violating a city ordinance and the minimum fee for any city ordinance is $185.

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