Police Ticketing Enforcement in Isla Vista Needs Reform

Image Courtesy of The Bottom Line Archive

Addison Morris
Arts & Entertainment Editor

I get it. We’re a nation of laws. Without laws, society devolves into anarchy. And laws that aren’t enforced end up being ignored (take, for instance, any of the strange laws in LA, like the illegality of hunting moths under a streetlight.) But allowing police officers to ticket UCSB students on bikes, skateboards, and scooters — three eco-friendly modes of transportation that police and the government should be promoting, not penalizing — does nothing to make campus or our surroundings safer.

Many students have been complaining about increased police presence around popular biking and skating spots recently. Reports detail stories of the UCPD hiding out of view to catch rule-breakers, citing for every little rule (and believe me, there are plenty of laughably unnecessary rules) just so that they can meet their quarterly ticket quota.

Moreover, this year has seen an explosion of electric scooters on campus, and the police have not hesitated to capitalize on giving out citations for scooter riders, either. For the most part, Bird or Lime riders get fined for riding in the bike lane or for riding on campus, which is presently disallowed, at least until a lasting policy is drafted.

Yet, both the Bird and Lime app explicitly instruct riders to travel in bike lanes when they are available so as to not disrupt pedestrians and cars. Both scooters can reach up to speeds of about 15 mph, and so can easily keep up with bikes. I, as a pedestrian and occasional car-driver, strongly believe that the bike lanes are where Birds belong.

People have also received citations for “CUI” (cycling under the influence) and, recently, I’ve heard of people getting what I can only imagine must be called “SUI’s” (scooting under the influence?) Now that just sounds ridiculous.

Driving automobiles under the influence certainly endangers society, but it is unclear exactly what threat riding a scooter under the influence poses to anyone other than the rider. Moreover, I think we as a society should be happy that inebriated students choose to ride a bike or scooter home, rather than choose the obvious hazard, driving.

Yet, as absurd as it is to issue tickets for biking or scooting “under the influence” (remember, if they are a threat to themselves or others, laws against public drunkenness can be enforced), I can understand cracking down on riding while intoxicated more than I can understand punishment for riding in general. I don’t understand punishment for innocently riding a bike, skateboard, or Bird at all.

It is my strong belief that the government should not discourage activities which improve society. Bikes, scooters, and skateboards are indisputably less detrimental to roads, congestion, noise, pollution, and the environment (that is, they have “fewer negative externalities,” as economists would say) than automobiles. Moreover, all three travel options offer their drivers more exercise than driving a car, and exercise seems to be something that Americans increasingly need in light of the recent obesity epidemic.

I also believe that ticket quotas are unfair because police officers should only be handing out as many tickets as there is crime, not titrating their tolerance of infractions as deadlines approach. Why does anyone think there should be a set amount of crime a city must experience per quarter for it to function? I don’t know.

Accordingly, ticketing scooters must primarily be a money grab. The laws haven’t yet caught up with the notion of scooter use, so treating them as closer to traditional motor vehicles than, say, roller skates is hasty — and, most likely, temporary because it’s fatuous. The police should not make up new infractions in order only to meet quotas and make money.

I simply believe that the police around UCSB and Isla Vista could be putting their efforts towards more pressing problems than riders who may have inadvertently violated interim policies just trying to hurry to class. I would much rather see the police crack down on bike-theft over bike-riding — a solution that would flow in the right direction towards punishing menaces to society while encouraging beneficial activities.

Citations for electric scooters, which are presently classified as motor vehicles, can run up $250 while biking and skating fees can run as high as $197 — now that’s a clear disincentive to ride bikes, skateboards, and scooters, which I argue are better for society in general and UCSB’s campus in particular. Until the laws are rewritten to distinguish electric scooters from automobiles, police enforcement should focus on education, and not revenue generation.