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The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

University Police adopts bike light program

Stephanie Kraker, age 20, a junior hospitality major, rides her bike home at night.Photo credit: Frances Mansour

Starting this week, University Police officers may choose to provide free bike lights instead of citations for unlit cycling.

With the loss of Chico State nursing student Kristina Chesterman and Butte College student Janee Nickerson, both from bicycle accidents last semester, bike safety has become a major campus issue, said University Police Chief Robyn Hearne.

The students’ deaths urged community members to create the Chico Velo Cycling Club’s Light Up Chico program, which has led to a similar program on campus.

Officers from Chico Police Department chose to leave tickets behind and give violators bike lights instead of tickets. The Chico Police Department began the program in December, said Janine Rood, the executive director of Chico Velo Cycling Club’s.

Unlike the community program, officers will not be handing lights over to students. Hearne said officers will give students vouchers to receive their lights at the Associated Students Bike Cart or at local bike shops.

“We don’t want to just give them away and not have them mounted,” Hearne said. “We want them on the bikes.”

Curtis Sicheneder, assistant director of facilities and recreation, who oversees the A.S. Bike Cart, is pleased with the program because it helps them achieve their goal of providing services to students at cheaper rates.

The program also exposes students to the cart’s many services, such as fixing flats and brakes, at student-oriented prices, Sicheneder said.

Russell Mills, a Chico State professor and bike safety advocate, brought Rood and Lorraine Hoffman, vice president for business and finance at Chico State, together to expand the club’s bike-light initiative to students.

“I see it as a valuable program for people who need lights but can’t afford them,” Mills said. “To have lights and not just be legal when they’re riding their bikes, but to be safer.”

About 12 students received citations within the last two years for riding without a bike light at night, excluding warnings, Hearne said.

The University Police Department plans to track the number of lights it gives out through the vouchers. The department and the A.S. Bike Cart will log all the voucher information.

The department wants to know who uses the lights most, Hearne said. This documentation also allows officers to know if they’ve given an individual a bike light before. The second time around, that person may not be so lucky.

“I’m really big on asking for compliance before enforcement,” Hearne said. “It’s just a better place for us all to be because, ultimately, it’s about safety.”

While the cycling club raises funds for their program through community fundraisers, the campus program will purchase lights with the Bike Trust Fund, which students fill when they pay the $10 bike registration fee on campus. The fund is only used for education, equipment for bicycle-mounted officers and bike give-a-ways or enforcement programs like this one.

So far, the program has purchased $500 worth of light sets so the front and back of bikes are lit, Hearne said. The lights are simple, to discourage thieves from taking the lights off bikes.

Alex Kensil, a senior engineering student at Chico State, just uses reflectors because his bike light was stolen within a week of purchasing it. While he sees headlamps as a more versatile option, he said he still supports the program.

“I’m for any initiative that increases bike awareness and biker safety in Chico,” Kensil said.

Yessenia Funes can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_yfunes on Twitter.

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