Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cycling on Sidewalks

The City Council in the town I live in, Santa Clarita California, is set to take up and most likely approve a new cycling on sidewalks ordinance tonight.

The ordinance would allow cyclists to ride their bikes on sidewalks just about everywhere.

From the item on the Council's Agenda:
Staff has seen a growing number of inquiries from the community regarding bicycles on sidewalks for a variety of reasons:
Driving has become too expensive and more residents rely on other modes of transportation such as bicycling.
Current gaps in City trails force bicyclists to use sidewalks to make connections.
Some bicyclists feel unsafe riding on major streets that do not provide sufficient lane width for bicycles.
Parents are not comfortable allowing their children to ride bicycles on streets.
With the adoption of the City's Non-Motorized Transportation Plan in June 2008, the City dedicated itself to providing the infrastructure and policy support necessary to create a non-motorized transportation network. Developing a policy to allow bicycles on sidewalks complements the City's efforts to create a non-motorized transportation network. While it is the City's objective to encourage bicycling as a viable transportation option, any policy regarding bicycles on sidewalks must take into account potential public safety issues created when bicycles interact with pedestrians and automobiles.

There's a couple ways to look at this. Santa Clarita does have a very nice path and trail system, much of it Class 1 bike paths. But it is woefully incomplete and lacks connectivity.

So by allowing us to ride on sidewalks, they're helping us out, right? Or will this ordinance be an excuse to not develop bike lanes/paths in the future?

Earlier this year, the ordinance was shot down with the help of some local cyclists who noticed that the ordinance would have required cyclists to dismount their bikes and walk them through crosswalks. A friend of mine showed up at the Council Meeting, pulled out her SIDI race shoes, and said she could barely walk in them on carpet, let alone asphalt. She also mentioned that some cyclists are disabled and can't walk well (I think she was referring to some 'bent riders).The Council then delayed adoption of the ordinance and subsequently took out the walk through cross-walks section.

Overall I support this ordinance and will gladly take advantage of it (especially in places where the bike path dumps you out onto a sidewalk with no other options), but I hope it's not used as an excuse to retard development of more bike lanes.

Link to ordinance

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