ALAMEDA -- Cyclists cited with a moving violation in Alameda now have a way to reduce the cost of their expensive tickets and learn the ins and outs of bicycle safety at the same time.
The Alameda Police Department and the nonprofit East Bay Bicycle Coalition recently launched a bicycle traffic school program, which offers two-hour safety classes to at-risk bikers. Bicyclists who attend the class within 30 days of their citation pay a reduced $50 fine, which will help fund the program.
Robert Prinz, education coordinator for the coalition, said the classes focus on safety techniques and the relevant elements of the California bicycle road rules, which are often poorly understood by bicyclists, motorists and enforcers alike. Ultimately, he said, the central objective is to help people feel confident about cycling.
While the monthly safety classes are open to the general public for free, the traffic school program was specifically developed as a way to reach those cyclists who might not normally attend a safety workshop.
The first bicycle traffic school class was held Dec. 13, and two out of the 16 people in attendance had received a moving citation. The East Bay Bicycle Coalition hopes that number will rise in the coming months, as people realize that in addition to a reduced fine, attending the class gives them contact with the cycling community.
"In our classes we try to get conversations going ... there are a lot of important connections made in the classes between different students," Prinz said. "Maybe two people who find out that they live in the same neighborhood aren't confident enough to go out on their own, but are happy to go out together ... What we're trying to do with these classes is really just build confidence."
The city of Alameda and the Alameda Police Department are the first in the East Bay to offer a bicycle traffic school program as an option to cyclists with moving violations.
However, the Coalition, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in November 2012, has been administering a similar program for the students at UC Berkeley for more than two years. According to Prinz, even the students who were indignant about their tickets left feeling that they had learned something valuable.
The Alameda Bicycle Traffic School workshop will be held every second Thursday at the Alameda Fire Department Conference Center and same day drop-ins are welcome. Classroom space is limited to 30 students, however, so preregistration on the Coalition website is encouraged.