There is a dangerous trend that has recently gained popularity among the youth around the region that has turned a harmless bike ride into a game of chicken with motor vehicles. This type of reckless bicycle activity has been seen across the country and more frequently in Riverbank and surrounding areas.
With this dangerous trend making its way into Riverbank, Police Chief Ed Ridenour expressed that they are not currently impounding bikes but the illegal activity will not be tolerated and kids will be cited. Riverbank Police Services has seen an increase in calls recently from citizens regarding this illegal bicycle activity.
“We have seen an increase in dangerous and illegal activity involving juveniles on bicycles swerving into oncoming traffic and at motor vehicles,” noted Ridenour. “Our deputies and our traffic units are providing additional enforcement and education to those who choose to participate in this dangerous activity. We have ramped up a social media campaign to educate the public and ask that parents speak with their children regarding bicycle safety.”
The City of Riverbank has an ordinance that requires all bicycles to be registered with the police department. The fee is $4 for two years and with each registration they will receive education on bicycle safety. This allows deputies to have a record of the make, model, color and who the bicycle belongs to which will assist them in returning the bike to the owner if it has been stolen.
Officials added that most of the participants in this activity are under the age of 18 and riding BMX-type bicycles with oversized wheels that are about 29 inch wheels. The normal bike tire is about 26 inches. Some of them do not wear helmets or they are not properly fitted or fastened. Children under the age of 18 are required by law to wear a helmet. The youngsters post their activity on social media like Tik Tok where they roll up to a vehicle and get as close as they can and do a wheelie. They swerve in and out of traffic and do not obey the rules of the road, said officials.
“The kids do not realize how dangerous it really is,” added Ridenour. “It is a challenge for them I think and a show amongst their friends. Again what we are really worried about is one of the kids misjudging it for one, a driver not seeing them, the driver swerving and hitting another driver or pedestrian, the kids getting hit. We are worried about all those things.”
Deputies have issued several citations to kids for various violations. Bicyclists must follow all the same rules as vehicles. They must ride with the traffic, cannot impede traffic, cannot be in the middle of the roadway and cannot drive into oncoming traffic and swerve at the last second. It was reported that they are not stopping at stop signs, they are crossing solid yellow lines, and impeding the normal flow of traffic.
“Basically if it is illegal to do it in a car it is illegal to do it on a bicycle,” stated Ridenour. “That is what it comes down to. There is a section in the California Vehicle Code that says a bicyclist must follow all the rules of the road and obey all laws just as a vehicle does.”
He added that the bikes must have all the proper safety equipment like working brakes, reflectors on the front and rear of the bicycles, and a forward facing light.
Ridenour expressed that in a recent case decision an intoxicated bicyclist was charged with reckless driving after hitting a pedestrian that was severely injured. Based on the circumstances the bicyclist was charged with reckless driving and not just a traffic infraction.
Traffic Deputy Maldonado added that the bicyclists have been seen throughout Riverbank in the Crossroads Shopping Center, on Patterson Road in front of Galaxy Theatres, downtown, and River Cove. There are approximately six to eight kids riding together.
“This is an underground movement,” said Maldonado. “Social media is propelling it forward. It is the cool thing to do right now. They are impeding the normal flow of traffic. We just don’t want anyone to get hurt, that is the main thing.”
RPS is asking parents to be aware of their children’s social media because the illegal activity is being posted on social media.
“You might not realize your child was out doing that type of activity,” said Ridenour. “It is a good way for you to be aware of what is going on with your child’s life and to educate them. We need the parents’ help. This cannot be something that falls all on the shoulders of law enforcement. We are doing our best to keep providing education and also providing citations.”
Citizens are also getting frustrated with this activity as comments have been posted from people. There was an incident on Highway 108 where a bicyclist was doing a wheelie for several blocks and holding up about 20 to 30 cars which is impeding traffic.
“So if the bike hits the car it will be treated as a collision,” noted Maldonado. “They are required to stay there and report it just like any other collision and exchange information and what not.”
The recommendation for the public if they are exposed to this illegal bicycle activity is to be patient and not to take matters into their own hands. If this activity is witnessed the public can call the non-emergency number at 209-552-2468 or for questions call the substation at 209-869-7162.