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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of June 15, 2001

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Transcript

TOOMEY: It's Living on Earth. I'm Diane Toomey.

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Sixty-five years ago this week, the small town of Racine, Wisconsin was put on the national trivia map when a local policeman set up the first bicycle traffic court in America. For seven years, Officer Al Costible held court at his police desk, presiding over 6,000 cases of bicycle ordinance violations. He recruited several teenage boys to form a bike patrol. Bikers who broke the rules were handed a citation and ordered into the police department, usually on a Saturday afternoon. The bicycle court was intended for children. The less serious offenders -- say those who failed to stop at stop signs -- were ordered to write over and over, "I must stop at stop signs." If the offense was more egregious, the bike was seized until the offender learned his or her lesson. When Officer Costible was later promoted to sergeant, the bicycle court fell by the wayside. In the 1980s, the town tried a new tactic. Law abiding bikers received gift certificates for sticking to bicycle safety laws. Today, Racine's wayward cyclists get a ticket and are sent to municipal court just like every other traffic violator. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

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