Bicycling: Getting Started and Staying Safe

A bicyclist rides through Main St. between Colorado and Olympic during COAST. COAST was held in Santa Monica, Calif.. October 1, 2017. Photo by: Justin Han

A bicyclist rides through Main St. between Colorado and Olympic during COAST. COAST was held in Santa Monica, Calif.. October 1, 2017. Photo by: Justin Han

During the first week of September during rush hour, as the day was ending, a collision occurred at the intersection of Olympic and Stewart, right next to the newest satellite campus. All all lights were red as a bicyclist rushed through the light and fell off his bicycle in the middle of the road when a car proceeded to make a legal turn in his direction.

Stories of bicyclists not following the rules are not uncommon on one's daily commute. More than 100 people die a year from collisions due to bicycles, according to the DMV of California.

Commuting is something that is experienced by all. Bicycling is a form of such that has many benefits but it is not without its flaws. The easiest part of a bicycle is that anybody can hop on and start going. There is no insurance, no gasoline, and maintaining a bicycle is much less complex than other forms of transportation. However, this also means that people who use a bicycle might not be aware of the rules they must follow if they are to be on the road.

Currently, the city of Santa Monica as well as Santa Monica College has been making several strides to create a safer environment for cyclists.

Many streets such as Ocean Park have bicycling lanes, including one that runs adjacent to the Metro Rail. Around a year and a half ago, Breeze Bike Share stations were installed around the city that allow anyone to quickly rent a bicycle. The company reports roughly around 325 students of SMC have registered as monthly users.

For those that own a bicycle and have their Associated Students sticker on their student ID, they can go to Bikerowave, a repair shop on Venice and Centinela where they can help you learn how to repair your bicycle.

Ferris Kawar, the sustainability manager and the advisor to the bike club deals with transportation a lot.

Kawar said, “You don’t have to know everything about a bike. There is support out there for you. People are intimidated by riding your bike so they are afraid of what might happen. If I have a problem with my car, I can call AAA, but what do you do with a bike? We are trying to make people feel comfortable that there are options.”

The SMC Bike Club has an active presence on campus. Every Tuesday and Thursday from 11 AM to 2 PM at the Pearl St. bike lot is where they will help fix small problems on your bicycle as well as host workshops and rides.

With these resources, it is less of an issue for somebody to find a way to cycle. Before getting on a bicycle, brushing up on the rules could prevent injury or save a life.

Kawar said, “Everyone needs to follow the same rules or it doesn’t work. People who drive should imagine how vulnerable it feels to be on a bike and give them that extra room.”

For people who drive, it's important to remember that bicycles have the same set of rules. Drivers who have the right of away might try to let the bicyclist pass which could lead to an accident.

Brianda Rodriquez, 26, a nursing major at SMC that drives to school has a similar viewpoint. Rodriquez said, “They should follow the same rules as the cars. Some of them are on the opposite side of the street which is really dangerous since I almost hit somebody like that.”

In Santa Monica, it is illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk or run through stoplights or stop signs, yet these rules are broken every day. The DMV has several tips for bicyclists to remain safe on the road. Using proper hand signals when turning will help drivers know your intentions. It is against the law to ride in the dark unless you have lights on the front and back of your bicycle.

For Santa Monica College, there are fines for people that ride a bicycle through campus. Joshua Davoodzadeh, 19, a biology major at SMC commutes by driving. “My aunt was riding a bicycle and a woman was opening her door and didn’t see her and so was knocked off her bicycle and into the road and it was a bad accident. I read this thing in an article where you’re supposed to open the door with your opposite hand so that you instinctively turn to see if somebody is there.”

Being aware of the rules as a bicyclist will make it safer for everybody. Bicycling is not just a form of commuting, it is also enjoyable to most.