Archive for Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lawrence bicycle committee reviews old sidewalk law

September 22, 2010, 12:00 a.m. Updated September 22, 2010, 4:37 p.m.


Lawrence’s Bicycle Advisory Committee met Tuesday night to discuss, among other items, an old law that no longer reflects what is occurring in the city — the law that makes it illegal to ride a bike on some sidewalks.

“This is really the first step at taking a look at something we have that needs to be rewritten,” said Jessica Mortinger, Lawrence transportation planner.

The ordinance that’s been on the books since the late 1970s states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk within any business district within the city or upon any sidewalk within a distance of 100 feet from any store or business place or place of assembly or where specifically prohibited by posted sign.”

Committee members discovered the law while investigating the bicycle parking situation in downtown Lawrence. Mortinger found that the downtown area provided riders with 304 places to park their bikes. That number doesn’t include parking meter ovals, which are also available to use for bicycle parking.

According to Megan Gilliland, Lawrence communications manager, “The BAC feels very strongly that bicycling should remain prohibited on the sidewalks in Downtown Lawrence.”

But members believe bicyclists should be allowed to ride on the sidewalks in other parts of the city.

“There are some places where bicyclists feel it’s safer to ride on the sidewalk; we wanted the law to reflect what the practice and reality is on the streets,” Mortinger said.

So group members are asking for a review of the law and looking for a recommendation to update the ordinance. The request has been forwarded to the staff attorney.

The advisory committee will meet next in October to discuss the matter further.

An earlier version of this story mistakenly left the impression that the advisory committee was looking at allowing bicyclists to ride on downtown sidewalks.


rdkone 7 years, 7 months ago

My advice to bikers is to be very afraid. It is safe to assume that a large percentage of drivers are inattentive at any given time. Distractions include cell phones, texting, ipods, radios, alcohol, drugs - both legal and illegal, sleep deprivation, eating, etc. In addition to these dangers we have inexperienced drivers, elderly drivers, and drivers who drive aggressively. "Share the Road" signs do not solve the problem. Sadly the biker has no choice but to be afraid. Allowing bikers on sidewalks is a no-brainer.

like_n_Lawrence 7 years, 7 months ago

I can't wait for the lawsuits to come pouring in when people get run over by bicycles downtown on the sidewalks. It is a problem right now because the bikers don't pay attention to the signs, or have any common sense. Don't make it legal. The sidewalks are full of people walking downtown. It would be a poor decision by the commission.

Corey Williams 7 years, 7 months ago

Except when you are downtown and, as a pedestrian, you have to dodge people on bikes who are trying to dodge other pedestrians. All because the cyclists are in too much of a hurry to get nowhere to step off their bikes and walk them through a busy pedestrian area

RoeDapple 7 years, 7 months ago

It's a side "walk", not a side "road".

texburgh 7 years, 7 months ago

Out of the hundreds, count 'em hundreds, of drivers that I had the opportunity to see attempt to drive lawfully in the last couple of days, not one of them did so. Each and every one of them did something such as run through red lights, stop signs, gave no signal to turning, passed other vehicles on the right, were texting, applying make-up, wearing earbuds, etc.

Don't give me any crap about 'broad, largely false generalizations', for every driver I see follow the rules of the road, I see 20 that refuse. Until you drive responsibly, quit your crying, period.

dontcallmedan 7 years, 7 months ago

Defender--stop name calling. Spend a half hour watching drivers at the stop sign @ 7th & Tennessee. Nine out of ten do not make a legal stop.

Caesar_Augustus 7 years, 7 months ago

I saw two in a 10 minute period just last weekend. One blew through the 8th and Arizona stop sign driving a jeep cherokee, almost running over a pedestrian walking his dog on the sidewalk, and another who appeared to be texting while driving at the 3 way stop at 8th and kasold near the Ace Hardware. More people blow through that 3 way stop than I care to count and it is a hazardous area.

windjammer 7 years, 7 months ago

Are you kidding me Defender? You must have your head buried in the sand.

whats_going_on 7 years, 7 months ago

funny, I feel the same way about drivers.

grimpeur 7 years, 7 months ago

Multiply that by about 25, and you have a picture of motorists in Lawrence. What's your point? Ah, none, I see.

Yours are lies of omission.


jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

I would say that the vast majority of bikers I see on the roads do not follow the rules of the road.

Stopping at stop signs seems to be particularly impossible for them.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

This is because in this country we still don't take cycling as a serious, legitimate means of transportation. A high percentage of car drivers see them strictly as an annoyance, and way too many bike riders are really just car drivers who see using them as a way to avoid having obey the rules of the road.

And there is a whole other category of bike riders-- the ones who are largely incapable of getting and maintaining a car and a driver's license. They'd drive just the way the ride, if they could, and that would be truly scary.

Most "serious" bike riders do obey the rules of the road (which means they also exercise their rights to use them, which annoys many car drivers who think they own the roads.) But there is a certain segment of "serious" bike riders who are just arrogant jerks, whether they are in a car, or on a bike.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

Maybe the bicyclists who do follow those rules (a small minority apparently) should get together and improve the behavior of the other bicyclists.

Then they'd all get more respect.

windjammer 7 years, 7 months ago

Sorry we are not looking for you respect.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

Then you won't get it.

One of the main complaints by many bicyclists on these threads is that automobile drivers don't respect bicycle riders.

If they followed the rules of the road, they'd get more respect.

If not, they won't.

whats_going_on 7 years, 7 months ago

This, I don't understand. As a biker, I always stop...if not only because I don't want to be road kill.

Common sense ftw.

Kontum1972 7 years, 7 months ago

ride-by bicycle shootings...are next...

cafn8ed 7 years, 7 months ago

Riding downtown behind the angle-parked cars is a pretty harrowing experience for a bicyclist. When a car needs to back out, in order to back far enough for the driver to see the oncoming traffic, the rear of the car is already out in the lane usually used by cyclists.

I suggest allowing riders on the sidewalk, but impose a "walking pace" speed limit on the bikes. They shouldn't be mixed up with pedestrians and moving at fast bicycle pace. If a cyclist wants to use the sidewalk, which is often crowded enough with outside cafe seating, the speed should be slow enough to be safe for everyone else.

Matt Needham 7 years, 7 months ago

How about just walking the bike when on the sidewalk?

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 7 months ago

Good idea for downtown. They can use the sidewalk but they must be walking their bikes close to the edge where the meters are and not down the middle of the sidewalk.

lawrencenerd 7 years, 7 months ago

Splitting hairs much? There is no law against walking your bike down the sidewalk anywhere, nor should there be a regulation on exactly where on the sidewalk you should be allowed to walk your bike.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

I agree. If you can't ride your bike on the sidewalk at a speed safe to pedestrians, get off and walk it.

texburgh 7 years, 7 months ago

And, by the way, as a cyclist, I agree that bikes should not be ridden on downtown sidewalks. The sidewalks need to be safe places for pedestrians, window shoppers, etc. There will undoubtably be bike-pedestrian collisions. If a cyclist feels unsafe on the street downtown, he/she should walk the bike on the sidewalk. If we cyclists want our rights to the road - and we do have rights as guaranteed by statute - then we need to act as road users.

Lawrence has done a very good job of providing recreational paths, designated bike lames, and a well designed system of safe bike routes. We cyclists don't need to be on downtown sidewalks.

timetospeakup 7 years, 7 months ago

Let them ride on the sidewalks! Why they need to hold up traffic on west 23rd street rather than ride on the lane-width sidewalks is beyond me.

Ward 7 years, 7 months ago

Riding on sidewalks and continuing to ride through streets at crosswalks is dangerous for bicyclists. It is difficult for automobile drivers to see the bicyclists at driveways, alleys, and intersections. Bicyclists riding responsibly in the street are EASIER to see.

puddleglum 7 years, 7 months ago

riding on sidewalks is too dangerous for the majority of cyclists. I realize that there are those really really slow people that magically crawl at 2 mph somehow, but they are very few and far between. cyclists belong on roads, just like tractors, horse and buggies, ford mustangs, and other slow-moving vehicles.

Matt Needham 7 years, 7 months ago

On 23rd and 6th streets, even on 9th (with it's crazy bike lane that comes and goes, veers out into traffic, etc...), it makes sense to have cyclists on the sidewalks instead of in the busy streets. Downtown sidewalks are too crowded with pedestrians.

I've lived/worked/walked/biked/driven in downtown Lawrence for over 25 years. A large percentage of the pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers don't pay any attention to the current laws, so what good are new ones? I've often noticed that the cops don't always follow the laws when they are walking/cycling/driving downtown either. They just jaywalk, ride on the sidewalk, roll through red lights, and ignore pedestrian crossings when it suits them like everyone else. I've tried to explain to my young children that just because everyone else walks on red we don't because it's not safe. Then a couple of cops jaywalk right in front of us. No one cares, and new laws won't change that a bit.

Adam P Atterson 7 years, 7 months ago

9th st is the most dangerous street in town for bikes, I got hit by a car on monday morning! Gotta love the worthless two block bike lane!

Ken Harris 7 years, 7 months ago

The problem with 23rd, 6th and 9th is that the sidewalks are not consistent, and where there are sidewalks, there are also too many driveways/entrances for businesses. The bikes belong in the streets, in the lanes where they can be seen.

Edwin Rothrock 7 years, 7 months ago

When bike riders traveling at 15-20 mph on sidewalks come through intersections without slowing, they can be traveling faster than many of the cars. Several times, I have almost hit/been hit by bikes traveling south at 23rd & Louisiana as I made my right turn. They come flying off the sidewalk, basically passing me on the right while I am in a dedicated turn lane, signaling my turn. How is a car driver supposed to keep track of a faster moving vehicle approaching out of one's blind spot.

For 15 years, my main transportation was bicycles and motorcycles, and I've been hit more than once by idiots in cars. But we have more than our fair share of fools on bicycles in this town who won't accept that they need to take responsibility for their own actions (and safety).

Keep vehicles on the roadways unless there is a designated bike path. Choose a safe route. Ride responsibly, ride predictably. Sharing the road only works if everyone is on board.

tir 7 years, 7 months ago

I used to ride my bike a lot, in the street, not on the sidewalks. But I stopped biking and started walking because biking was becoming too dangerous. I was having too many close calls with drivers who were driving distracted or were deliberately trying to run me off the road because they hate cyclists. I can understand why cyclists feel safer riding on the sidewalk instead of the street, particularly on streets like 23rd, Iowa, 6th, etc. And definitely kids should not be riding bikes on busy streets like this.

On the other hand, putting more bikes on the sidewalk is dangerous for pedestrians, especially in the downtown area, where the walks are already clogged up with garment racks full of t-shirts and outdoor dining enclosures and groups of people standing around waiting to get in to restaurants. So what are pedestrians supposed to do now if more bikes take to the downtown sidewalks? Walk in the the street?

Even in areas outside of downtown, cyclists are frequently inconsiderate of pedestrians, blowing past them at high rates of speed without warning. On Massachusetts south of downtown you have to walk at the very edge of the sidewalk and keep looking over your shoulder. The amount of traffic on the street makes it impossible to hear a bike approaching from behind. And most cyclists seem to expect pedestrians to get out of their way and not vice versa.

If everyone would just be more courteous and share the streets and walkways, everyone could get where they were going in safety. But honestly, I haven't seen much of that happening lately.

kernal 7 years, 7 months ago

This story is basically about allowing people to ride bicycles on sidewalks in downtown Lawrence, not 23rd St, W. 6th St, Kasold, etc. That being said, I'm against it.. After reading the first paragraph, the first thing that popped into mind was kids facing down Mass. St. sidewalks on their bicycles. Even some adults will not take into consideration that children will not always walk in a straight line down any sidewalk and can dart in front of a pedestrian in a second. If you're on a bicycle, and a child runs in front of you on the sidewalk ... well, you get the picture. Should the City Commission change this ordinance, the City should consider increasing it's liablity insurance.

Kristine Bailey 7 years, 7 months ago

The rest of us park our cars and walk downtown. If you need to get past downtown, use Vermont or New Hampshire. If you need to be downtown, Park and Walk! Like the rest of us. Their is absolutely no reason for bikes to be ridden on the sidewalks downtown. Walk 'em.

Uhjh 7 years, 7 months ago

Bikes on the sidewalk downtown? Very bad idea,

pizzapete 7 years, 7 months ago

I ride my bike on the street mostly and on the sidewalk on Mass. until I get to downtown. Downtown I get back on the street or walk the bike on the sidewalk. Bikes should not be on the sidewalk where there are businesses and lots of people walking or coming out of stores. No need to change the law, it's not broken, in fact it's a good law.

knayte 7 years, 7 months ago

It's weird that they're concerned about the downtown area. That's where I feel the MOST safe riding my bike in the street, because you can actually keep up with traffic. However, there's no way in hell I'm riding in the street on, say, 23rd. I'll stay in the sidewalk; there are few pedestrians there anyway.

And yeah, when I ride downtown and decide to use the sidewalk, I walk my bike like any sane person.

Ken Harris 7 years, 7 months ago

This idea is more foolish than the bike lanes on ninth street. Paint sharrows in the middle of the lanes in both directions on Mass downtown. These will indicate to all road users that bikes have the right to use the whole lane. The safest place for a bike is in the middle of the street where it can be seen, especially downtown.

The speed limit on Mass from 11th to 6th is 20mph. If you are going faster than that in a busy shopping district, you are going TOO FAST. And a bike going 10-15 mph should not be a problem for anyone. Your on Mass! If you want to go faster, get on New Hampshire or Vermont.

lawrencenerd 7 years, 7 months ago

I totally agree, but unfortunately aggressive drivers don't care about that. I like to stick to the streets to ride my bike, but the number of times I've had a driver do something to endanger me is really quite high. I've had people try to run me off the road, people pass me on the left while I was in the process of turning left and nearly clip my arm off, I've had a car weave around behind me and cut me off as I was trying to enter a turn lane, etc... What gets me most is when I'm following all the rules of the road and riding defensively, drivers still find ways to nearly kill me on a pretty much daily basis. Walking in this town frightens me just as much considering the amount of times I've been nearly run down on crosswalks or passing by an alley on the sidewalk.

I think to make things truly safer for everybody there should be better enforcement of the laws. People should be ticketed for riding unsafely, and cars should be ticketed for driving unsafely. I think it would be great if the LPD made undercover bike cops to catch drivers that target cyclists and make the roads unsafe for them. Just have a plain clothes cop ride a bike around, and when a driver does something illegal and unsafe, radio the license to a cop car and have them pulled over and ticketed for it. There'd be a lot of tickets handed out real fast.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago


As long as the bikers are also ticketed.

knayte 7 years, 7 months ago

I agree. I'm an avid biker but these kinds of debates always fall into a "drivers vs. bikers" debate, which is stupid. There are law-breaking bikers as well as law-breaking drivers. Ticket everyone who endangers the lives of others. What's missing in all cases is a lack of common courtesy.

lawrencenerd 7 years, 7 months ago

Yes, of course the bikers should be ticketed as well. They are a bit easier to catch at it though. Just putting the idea out there on how to catch drivers that purposefully endanger cyclists. They tend not to do so if a cop car is around and likely wouldn't do the same to a cop in uniform on a bicycle. Undercover bicycle cop partnered with a uniformed cop in a car waiting somewhere out of sight though...

Editorator 7 years, 7 months ago

"discovered the law"..

Wait? There are people on a bicycle committee who had no idea that was a law?

So sad that there needs to be evaluation of a law that makes common sense. Walk your bike on the sidewalk if you feel unsafe on the road. Please don't put pedestrians at the same risk for your own pleasure.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago


Apparently many people who ride bicycles have no idea of the rules of the road and the laws they're supposed to follow.

Maybe we should require that they take a test similar to what automobile drivers must take.

d_prowess 7 years, 7 months ago

Definitely don't want bikes ridden on Mass St. But I also think it is crazy that some runners choose a route that includes Mass St!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

Speed limits on streets and highways are often changed to reflect the speed drivers tend to drive. (wasn't the speed limit on N. 2nd raised to 45mph a few years ago for this very reason?)

kidicarus 7 years, 7 months ago

I would never ride my bike down Mass street, on road or sidewalk. Why not stick to New Hampshire or Vermont? Both are pretty conducive to biking. Is this really that big of an issue?

otto 7 years, 7 months ago

Committee members discovered the law while investigating the bicycle parking situation downtown. Thats funny!

This law was discussed a few months ago in the comment section when a bicyclist was struck by a car. Wonder whatever happened to the motorist that got cited.

whats_going_on 7 years, 7 months ago

I'm just floored at the reports so many of you have on really bad cyclists. I am SO careful when I'm on my bike. I'm not going to pick a fight with a car, duh...half the time I won't even cross a street unless I'm clear for quite awhile. Call it being timid or careful, or both, who cares, I don't want to die. And when I'm about to pass a walker/jogger, other bicycle, etc... I always let them know well ahead of time so they are aware. I feel really bad that those people give cyclists a bad name. :(

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

You are in the distinct minority, unfortunately.

lawrencenerd 7 years, 7 months ago

I've always thought it was common courtesy to yell ahead to the the walker or jogger in front of you what side you intend to pass them on. I've rarely had a bicyclist come up behind me walking without doing the same. Usually I only seem to have issues with young kids on their bikes.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

My wife walks on a trail near our house, and says that almost all of the bicycle riders give no notice whatsoever as they zoom by her.

If "common courtesy" were actually common, we'd have a lot fewer problems.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

YES absolutely bikes on sidewalks....... except on mass street downtown. Also sidewalks are a good choice for training our children

Of course it is now against a city ordinance to ride on downtown sidewalks.

Here is an improved idea:

Create inner urban bike/pedestrians pathways on the most dangerous streets . The right of way is available aka existing sidewalks. There is ample bike and pedestrian traffic in these to warrant conversion.


  1. Widen sidewalks on selected busy streets to 10' ft wide that which accommodates both cyclists and pedestrians.

Streets such as 6th,9th 13th,15th,19th , Connecticut,Kentucky,Tenn,Wakarusa,Kasold.

  1. NIGHT Light them up which in the process the city is making it safer for women = rape prevention.

  2. Provide cross walk signs and markings at each intersection from 7th to 19th to increase awareness for drivers

  3. Decrease speed by 5 mph from 7th to 19th along inner urban busy pathways

Brad Maestas 7 years, 7 months ago

Everyone needs to improve their interaction skills, motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike. It's not just the angry drivers, it's also the cyclists that don't signal and aren't verbal and the pedestrians that only look for automobiles when crossing the street. The list goes on and on and no amount of finger pointing is going to improve the situation. Education and a healthy dose of patience and selflessness is the answer.

As a cyclist living in NYC and who has ridden in many cities across the country, I generally do not advocate riding on sidewalks but of course there are always some exceptions. The tendency for a NYer is to say, "If you think riding on 23rd St is shady, try riding down 5th Ave during rush hour," when in reality I often feel safer on the busy streets of NY than on something like 23rd or Iowa because NY drivers are used to driving with cyclists. They expect them and are generally more aware of them. Lawrence drivers and pedestrians have a long way to go as far as their safe interaction with cyclists. Likewise, cyclists also have an obligation to uphold their end as a vehicle and obey traffic laws.

The biggest problem I see most often in Lawrence is meek cyclists that hug the curb. You are not only inviting a close call but you are also not going to be able to ride predictably because you'll be darting around storm drains, debris and parked cars among other things so give yourself some room to breathe, keep a nice line and be predictable.

Making or modifying the law to make cycling on downtown sidewalks illegal implies that it will then be enforced but as others have pointed out, we shall see. I think it's great that the NYPD are writing record numbers of tickets for sidewalk riders. They are also seriously enforcing traffic signals just over the George Washington Bridge where many thousands of road cyclists flock. I hope that they will start ticketing riders that 'salmon' (going against traffic) as well as it's becoming a bit of an epidemic, especially with delivery guys.

It's all well and good that Lawrence is taking a good look at the existing laws and seeing how they can be improved upon but unless there is going to be any honest and concerted effort by LPD to enforce these laws, nothing is going to change.

Brad Maestas 7 years, 7 months ago

BTW, one of my favorite sites on bike safety, provides loads of data against riding on the sidewalk. He also examines the perceived vs. actual efficacy of helmets.

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