Coronado wants to make bicycling safer by issuing more affordable tickets, and more of them.
An ordinance introduced by the City Council on May 16 would reduce fines for 38 minor violations of state and local vehicle code that apply to bicyclists, and would likely increase enforcement. The new amounts recommended are $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second and $250 for the third within a 12-month period.
Currently, failure to stop at a red light, say, can — counting bail and other court fees along with the base amount — result in a fine as high as $490, a staff report notes. But state vehicle code allows cities to set more reasonable fees for minor bike violations; an option not available to cars.
“This solution was based on similar efforts by the City of Davis,” the report says. “They indicated officers were more apt to issue a citation knowing the bail amount was more reasonable.” In 2013, Davis became the first city to reduce bike fines under state vehicle code after finding that officers were slow to ticket bicyclists due to public anger over the steep costs. Once fines were reduced, the number of tickets issued increased while bike accidents dropped 14 percent.
There were 30 bike collisions in Coronado in 2015, a traffic report shows (14 of them occurred along the Bayshore Bikeway Class 1 facility, and only five involved a bicyclist and a moving vehicle; the rest were between multiple bicyclists or a bike and a parked vehicle). “No trends regarding the cause of the collisions” were identified, the report says, so no changes were made to address specific safety concerns.
But complaints about the costs of bike tickets nudged Coronado towards a fix in September 2015, when the city council approved a resolution for staff to work with the San Diego Superior Court to approve the reduced fines. No changes were made in 2016, since the city had neglected to identify the specific Vehicle Code sections they sought to revise.
Coronado then prepared for approval of the new fines for calendar year 2017, but the court again rejected the request, only providing the modified fines for violations of Coronado’s local bike code. “The reason given was that due to its computer system functions, the court could not maintain two bail schedules for the same Vehicle Code violations.”
The latest: the city must adopt an ordinance setting the new fine amounts before they can go into effect and the courts will follow them.
San Diego Bike Coalition executive director, Andy Hanshaw, says Coronado's efforts, “align with other bike-friendly communities across the country.” The group agrees with the lowering of fines proposed for bicyclists. “We encourage other cities throughout San Diego County to do the same."