Bike-friendly Davis sees room for improving biker habits

Each weeknight in Davis, thousands of bicyclists leave the University of California campus and take to the city's darkened streets.

As the winter solstice approaches, those streets are getting darker earlier and cyclists are getting harder to see.

They're required by law to have headlights, stop at intersections and follow other rules of the road.

But many ride without lights in dark clothes – making them practically invisible.

They blow through stop signs, assuming cars will yield the right of way. They race down the city's greenbelts and sidewalks, putting walkers and runners at risk.

In a city that prides itself on being one of the most bike-friendly places in America, Davis officials are asking whether the city and the university are doing enough to ensure that cyclists obey the rules.

"It's a bike-friendly town, but there's a lot of room for improvement," said John Berg, an avid cyclist and chairman of the city's Bicycle Advisory Commission.

Bikes outnumber cars and people in Davis. The city's official symbol is a high-wheeled bicycle, and it has been recognized by the League of American Bicyclists for its extensive network of bike lanes, traffic signals and bike bridges and tunnels.

In the past year, there were 65 collisions in Davis between bikes and cars, according to police records. In about a dozen of those, bicyclists were to blame for running stop signs, police said.

Fatalities on the city's streets have been relatively rare, but the increasing concentration of bikes and cars creates a greater "potential for conflict," said Tara Goddard, the city's bicycle coordinator.

At the university, 15,000 to 20,000 cyclists pedal the campus each weekday. A thousand an hour may pass through the busiest intersections, said David Takemoto-Weerts, the UC Davis bicycle coordinator. It's one of the highest concentrations of bicycles in America, he said.

Yet there is only sporadic enforcement of cycling laws and no required bicycle safety education, he said.

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