LJWorld.com weblogs Rolling along
I read with interest the other day the story that Lawrence’s Bicycle Advisory Committee had discussed an old law that makes it illegal to ride a bike on some sidewalks.
The ordinance, on the books since the 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.”
While the group still champions a bike-on-sidewalk ban downtown, there’s some sentiment that bikes should be permitted in other parts of the city.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit here I generally don’t like riding on sidewalks with or without pedestrians, and I don’t like walking on sidewalks with folks on bikes.
Whenever the Hartsock clan goes for rides, all of us use the lightly trafficked residential streets, but we still insist the kids ride on the sidewalk on the busier thoroughfares, even if mom and dad keep to the streets.
That said, there are two little stretches of sidewalk — downtown even! Gasp! — I ride nearly every day. One is to avoid Sixth Street car traffic — in the interest of self-preservation, as well as to avoid hindering said traffic — and the other the fraction-of-a-block stretch just north of Seventh on New Hampshire. That’s the ministrip of sidewalk that leads to the employee entrance where I work. Legally, I should turn north on New Hampshire, force my way into the turn lane (which usually is filled with traffic headed south) and turn into the loading-dock entrance, but that’s loads more dangerous and potentially disrupting to car traffic.
So I selectively choose to disregard the ordinance — I’m pretty sure the former instance is far enough from any business district not to be part of the ordinance, but the latter is pure scofflaw city — in the interest of my health and the convenience of others. But I do yield to pedestrians and will walk of the path is too crowded.
But I can’t help but think the law is a little silly elsewhere.
Two personal cases in point:
When my son and I ride to school (his, not mine), he’s on the sidewalk about half the time. Though he has become quite a responsible cyclist, I don’t feel great with him on some of the bigger streets. I don’t think he belongs on, say, Folks Road when students are streaming by to get to school at Free State. Yet, I can’t think of a path from our house to his school that doesn’t involve a bit of sidewalk within 100 yards of a store. Technically, he’s breaking the law by riding to school. Throw away the key.
Another example: My son participates in his school’s track club. For safety’s sake, there are parents at various spots on the course, a “caboose” adult bringing up the rear and an adult — me! — on a bike out front. Most of the time is spent on sidewalks and a paved nature trail away from business, but the long course would put us within a dozen feet of several business. There would be no way to lead the pack on a bike from across the street — in this across four lanes of busy Wakarusa. So, again, I’ll thumb my nose at The Man and hope I’m not hauled off to the hoosegow.
Of course, any law is only as good as its enforcement, and I’ve never heard of anyone running afoul of this particular ordinance. I reckon it’s a lot like the drug tax stamp: break the big law, and the little law adds to your woe. In the case of the bike-on-the-sidewalk law, I imagine it only would come into play if I were to, say, plow into the mayor at Ninth and Mass.
Then, I imagine, I’d have the book thrown at me. And, truth to tell, I’d deserve it.