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Published: Saturday, 10/15/2005

Cited cyclist pedals out of court case with no fine

Surprise Surprise

Melvin Surprise was - well, surprised.

The West Toledoan, who was cited last summer for riding his bike on a sidewalk along Alexis Road, walked into Toledo Municipal Court yesterday ready to plead his case.

Riding his bike about 9:15 p.m. July 22, he was hurt when he was struck by a vehicle leaving Gino's Pizza, 1280 Alexis.

A police officer inked out a rare citation after the accident, ticketing Mr. Surprise, 22, for riding on the sidewalk.

In Toledo, adults are not allowed to ride bicycles on sidewalks, but Mr. Surprise argued that it was safer there than peddling alongside fast-moving Alexis motorists.

The ticket has been issued only six times in the city of Toledo, according to court records. And City Council is considering changing the law to allow bicyclists on sidewalks along certain streets.

Still, Mr. Surprise knew he'd broken the law, and yesterday said he was prepared to ask Judge Amy Berling for community service rather than pay a fine of up to $93 and court costs of up to $78. He pleaded no contest to the charge.

"I just don't have the money," he said later.

But although Judge Berling found him guilty of the violation, she sent him on his way - no fines, no court costs. "It's great," Mr. Surprise said, adding that he's going to school to become a registered nurse and still has $1,300 in hospital and ambulance bills he hasn't paid.

City Council will mull the law during a Law and Criminal Justice Committee hearing at 4 p.m. Nov. 14 at Government Center.

Meanwhile, Mr. Surprise said he no longer rides his bike. He recently went to get his two-wheeled transportation from a bike rack at the University of Toledo and instead found a dangling chain and mangled lock.

"Someone stole it," he said.

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