UPenn Police Warn Bicyclists of Ticketing

Bicyclists beware.

If you're caught running red lights or riding on the sidewalk in the area of the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) campus, you may get ticketed.

According to UPenn's Division of Public Safety, the University's police officers have full authority to issue traffic tickets to bike riders found in violation of traffic safety laws.

"On occasion, especially if we have warned the same individual numerous times, our officers have issued motor vehicle traffic tickets," UPenn Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said.

Penn Police officers have been issuing traffic tickets in conjunction with the Philadelphia Police Department since 1996. According to Rush, the school's officers can legally issue tickets to both bicyclists and car owners, and the tickets carry identically hefty fines.

Bicyclists over the age of 12 caught riding on a sidewalk can be ticketed and fined $57. Bikers who disregard a red light or ride in the wrong direction on a street can be ordered to pay as much as $137.50.

On Tuesday, the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia issued a friendly reminder of UPenn's ticketing procedures via the organization's Twitter account:

We're told that Penn Police are ticketing bicyclists near CHOP. Remember to now, as always, stop at reds & stay off sidewalk. #bikePHL

— Bike Coalition Phila (@bcgp) April 1, 2014

Bike Coalition spokesman Nicholas Mirra said the group is in full support of the ticketing process, as long as its impartial to all persons on the road, not just bicyclists.

"This is not surprising to us. We had someone report it to us on social media and we just wanted to share that information," he said.

"We are fine with enforcement efforts as long as they're equitable. Whether it's bikers, cars or pedestrians, we recognize that the road is safer when everyone follows the rules."

According to Rush, UPenn would prefer not to have to issue tickets at all. The school's Public Safety office manages an annual campaign called Share the Road to inform motorists, bikers, and pedestrians about local laws, traffic violations, fines and basic safety practices.

The University launched this year's campaign with a press conference in front of the Penn Bookstore at 36th and Walnut Street on Tuesday morning. As part of the campaign, Penn Police and Allied Barton bicycle security officers will be posted at strategic locations around the campus providing information about safe bicycle practices and laws now through April 2.

One of the traffic issues the Public Safety team encounters is instances of people violating the 'right-of-way.' At intersections with turning cars, pedestrians are to cross first, bicyclists second, and motorist last. According to UPenn 80-percent of all accidents involving bicycles and motor vehicles occur at intersections with cars turning.

UPenn Public Safety uses the Share the Road campaign to inform bicyclists that they are legally obligated to follow the same laws as motor vehicle drivers, and to remind drivers to yield to pedestrians and bicyclists at all times. The purpose of the campaign, Rush said, is ultimately to prevent injuries and to keep travelers safe.

"Share the Road really looks at everybody. It centers on bicyclists, motor vehicles and pedestrians. So pedestrians, we obviously try to get them not to jaywalk; motor vehicles, we try to make sure they yield to pedestrians and not drive in the bicycle lanes; and, in turn, bicyclists have to give the right-of-way to pedestrians and follow traffic laws," she said.

"Our goal is not to issue tickets to bicyclists. It's just not something we try to do every day. We prefer the educational model. We stress the importance of sharing the safety responsibilities of all partners on the road and encourage all of the community to be SMART when traveling our streets. We have a lot of people walking and driving around campus here, and we need to make sure everyone is safe."

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