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Published: Wednesday, 9/28/2005

Bowling Green: Ordinance on bicycles on sidewalks enforced


Bowling Green City Administrator John Fawcett was enjoying lunch at Call of the Canyon restaurant on North Main Street when a bicyclist cruised past the front window going at least 15 mph.

"If anyone had been stepping out onto that recessed area they would have been nailed," he said.

The fact is, the speeding cyclist was in violation of a city ordinance passed in 1979 that says no one "shall ride or park a bicycle or operate a skateboard or ride upon in-line skates on any sidewalk area within a business district."

In Bowling Green, that district is defined as the immediate downtown area bounded to the east by Prospect Street, to the north by Ridge and Clay streets, to the west by Church Street, and to the south by Ordway and Lehman avenues.

After numerous complaints about bikes on the sidewalks from pedestrians and merchants downtown, police began stepping up enforcement of the law. Since Sept. 2, officers have warned at least 33 people and given citations to 11, said Lt. Brad Biller.

And last week, city workers painted bright blue warnings on sidewalks throughout the downtown business district warning cyclists and skateboarders they were not to ride on sidewalks. It is legal for cyclists to ride on sidewalks in other parts of the city.

When downtown, though, Mr. Fawcett said cyclists may ride down the center of the traffic lane as long as they follow the rules of the road and do not create a hazard by riding too slowly. They also may walk their bike down the sidewalk if that seems like a safer option, he said.

"Our goal is not to cite people. Our goal is to get people off the sidewalks while on bicycles," he said.

Mr. Fawcett, who is himself a cyclist, said city hall has gotten some complaints in the last few weeks about the stepped-up enforcement, which is why the city is posting the prohibition more visibly and trying to get the word out that bikes simply aren't allowed on downtown sidewalks.

"It is a safety issue and it's certainly designed to ensure that pedestrians are safe and it's also going to have an impact on the safety of cyclists," Mr. Fawcett said. "A cyclist moving quickly down the sidewalk is navigating a very narrow lane. And then you've got the big flower pots. You've got light poles. You've got tables and chairs, and you've got people moving very slowly and doors opening out into sidewalk and sidewalks going right up to the storefronts. It's just a matter of timing before someone gets whacked."

Contact Jennifer Feehan

at jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.

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