State College

Cyclists ignoring traffic laws draw scrutiny from State College Borough Council, police

The Borough Council had some harsh words for the cyclists who ignore traffic laws Monday during its regular meeting.

The comments came on the heels of a presentation by Transportation Commission Chairman Paul Rito as he described transportation matters and safety issues the commission will be examining in the coming year.

Among these issues are evaluations on pedestrian-bicycle safety awareness programs rolled out recently by the borough and working with COG’s bicycle advisory group, he said.

Several new connection paths and lanes are also being evaluated, including a connection path along University Drive between Foster Avenue and Hastings Road, a connection path along Blue Course Drive between Whitehall Road and the Orchard Park bike path and the feasibility of a contraflow bike lane on Burrowes Street from Foster Avenue to Beaver Avenue.

A contraflow bicycle lane would allow cyclists to ride against the flow of a one-way street.

Councilwoman Theresa Lafer said in the past three days, she’s experienced several “hair-raising bicycle moments,” adding that three cyclists have hit the right-hand side of her car because “they don’t believe my right turn signal.”

“I’m not certain why people think being on black bicycles in black clothing with no lights somehow means a car can’t hit them,” she said.

She continued saying she has seen cyclists making turns without stopping at stop signs or using arm signals and riding dangerously close to cars. With the increasing number of bicycles in the borough, she said the problem is only going to get worse.

The parts of the evaluations dealing with education and enforcement need to be important parts of the commission’s upcoming work, she said.

Police Chief Tom King said he’s heard of cyclists riding around with no lights a number of times this season.

The transportation commission, police department and others have worked on enhancing notice of the responsibility of drivers and cyclists.

“Following that,” he said, “we have been stepping up enforcement. In September and October, we stopped 191 bicycles. Most were nighttime violations.”

For the remainder of fall going into winter, he said, the cyclist will be given 10 days to give proof they have added a light to his or her bicycle.

After proof is given, the initial violation will be cleared. If proof isn’t given, the cyclist will be cited.

“The goal is to get their lights on,” he said. “I think if they have it on a bike, they’ll use it. A lot of stopped bikes have lights, the riders just didn’t turn it on.”

It’s not punitive, he said, but it will make a difference.

As the peak riding season picks up in spring, fewer opportunities for proof will be given and more citations will be issued, he said.

“Personally, every time I pass someone like that on my bike I say, ‘Get some lights,’ ” Rito said.