Home City City Council: Walk, don’t ride your bike on uptown sidewalks

City Council: Walk, don’t ride your bike on uptown sidewalks

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The Athens City Council voted in October to place more signage in Uptown Athens to remind cyclists to walk, not ride bikes on city sidewalks. Photo by Connor Perrett.

The Athens City Council voted in October to place more signage in Uptown Athens to remind cyclists to walk, not ride bikes on city sidewalks.

The city of Athens now has blue “walk your wheels” signs along Court Street in an effort to increase awareness of a city code against riding bicycles, skateboards and rollerblades on the sidewalks surrounding uptown.

During an Athens City Council Planning and Development Committee meeting on Oct. 23, 2017, the city administration and City Council discussed multiple proposed modifications to city code on sidewalk violations and bicycling on certain streets.

The proposed modifications will increase the penalty for bicycling and skateboarding on the sidewalks surrounding Court Street from $20 to $30. If the person caught riding their bicycle or board doesn’t pay the fine within five days of their scheduled date, they will be charged with a minor misdemeanor. The changes also allow city parking enforcement and code enforcement officers to administer fines alongside police officers.  

However, the proposed modifications do limit the area of enforcement for this code. The city currently bans riding bicycles and boards on sidewalks in the broader uptown area: College Street, Congress Street, and Court Street, from State Street up to Union Street. The changes propose removing College Street and Congress Street from the restricted areas, allowing cyclists and skateboarders to freely use those sidewalks.

For those currently disobeying the ordinance, Mayor Steve Patterson said the city will be administering warnings to people caught in violation during the remainder of Ohio University’s fall semester.

The ordinance was introduced by council member Chris Fahl, who supports the changes because of potential cyclist-pedestrian accidents.

“We have received a number of comments and do each year about safety concerns,” Fahl said. “One example we’ve heard of is customers leaving the uptown shops, and as they exit the business place to the sidewalk there is a near miss with a bicyclist or skateboarder. Our attention to the uptown area is all part of our work to make the community pedestrian, bicycle and auto friendly and safe.”

Chase Harman, a senior studying secondary education, rides his bicycle to class on occasion and doesn’t think the code will produce much change.

“I was aware of the code beforehand but not of what streets the code was enforced on,” Harman said. “Unless they actively enforce the code people will continue to ride on the sidewalks. I’ve never heard of anyone getting a ticket for riding their bicycle on the sidewalk.”

The ordinance does not become official city code until Jan. 1, 2018, but more signs and publicity can be expected in the meantime, Fahl said.

For the time being, it remains legal to ride bicycles and boards on the sidewalks throughout the rest of Athens and most of Ohio.

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