Back-Seat Driver

Confused on how to ride your bike on city streets? There’s a class for that

A cyclist and cars wait at an L Street traffic light, Sept., 2015
A cyclist and cars wait at an L Street traffic light, Sept., 2015

Last year, when debate erupted over cyclists on sidewalks endangering pedestrians, the city of Sacramento found itself with a dilemma.

City officials want more people to ride bicycles, and they are particularly hoping more people will commute to work downtown on bikes. They don’t want them riding on sidewalks, but there aren’t many commuting streets with room for cyclists to mix safely in traffic.

It was “a messy conversation” with upset people on all sides, Councilman Steve Hansen said.

The situation reflects an ongoing problem. Sacramento (and other cities) still have a way to go to retrofit their urban areas so that car drivers, cyclists and pedestrians can all have their own safe, sane and separate travel ways.

The Sacramento City Council decided this past summer to slowly begin designating some sidewalks as “no cycling,” and increasing those banned areas over time, while simultaneously carving out safer spaces on streets for cyclists.

Meantime, the city decided to start offering classes for cyclists to teach them the rules of the road for biking and safety techniques for urban cycling.

This month, the city is launching the first of those cycling classes. It’s called Urban Bicycling 101. Classes are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

“The point is to teach people to be better riders,” Hansen said.

The city has scheduled one class a month. The classes are free. The first class, this Thursday, filled up just a couple of days after it was announced. So did the February class. City officials say they may hold several classes in April and May.

Sign-ups are on the city’s website at

Advocacy groups offer bicycling classes in other cities, but Sacramento might be the first California city to organize and operate one itself.

The city plans this year to begin analyzing streets and sidewalks to determine which sidewalks should have a “no cycling” sign. Once the signs start going up, bicyclists cited by police for riding on those sidewalks will have the option of going to court and asking to take the urban cycling class instead of paying a fine.

City officials say they plan over time to increase bike safety on key commuting routes from neighborhoods into downtown.

The city recently added bike lanes on busy Freeport Boulevard in the Land Park neighborhood, getting cyclists off sidewalks. The project involved eliminating one traffic lane. Early reports are that the street is functioning better for pedestrians, cyclists and even drivers.

Cellphone fine is ... not what you think

There has been some confusion about the fine amount for California’s tough, new no-hands cellphone law.

The law, which went into effect last week, requires drivers to use only cellphones that are mounted or affixed to the windshield, dashboard or center console. They are allowed to touch the phone but limited to only one finger swipe or tap.

The law says the fine is $20. Some people have said that’s not much of a deterrent. But, there are a bunch of add-on fines and fees (much of that money goes to crime investigation, victims’ funds and courthouse construction). The total amount that a cited driver will pay is about $162 in most counties, according to the state Office of Traffic Safety.

For details about the new cellphone law, click on this link.