City promotes safer biking

ALAMOSA — Acknowledging that more public education is needed, the Alamosa city council approved an ordinance designed to make bicycling safer in the city.

After hearing comments and suggestions from local bicyclists, the council unanimously approved an ordinance amending the city’s code regarding bicycling.

No one is allowed to ride bicyclists on the sidewalk in the central business district (Ross to Denver and Fourth to Sixth), and that has not changed with the code amendment. The ordinance expands areas where bicycling by adults over age 16 is not allowed (unless accompanying a minor) on sidewalks to include State between 17th and First and First Streets between Cole Park and Victoria Ave and to Ross and West between Fourth and Sixth. However, it removes from the existing restrictions the 1400 block of Main Street.

The ordinance gives provision for youngsters to ride their bicycles on sidewalks when it is unsafe for them to be on the street.

Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks explained that the city council had received complaints from residents who were concerned about bicyclists riding on the sidewalks and the dangers to customers in the commercial area who might be exiting a business while a bicyclist was coming down the sidewalk. Staff looked into it and wanted something that the city could enforce. They proposed to expand the area where adults were not allowed to ride bikes on the sidewalks.

Resident Christine Newton shared her concerns and suggestions during a recent public hearing regarding the ordinance amendment. She said she rides a bicycle as her only form of transportation and for exercise. She said she does not ride on the sidewalks if she can ride on the street. Sometimes she cannot cross the street without getting on the sidewalk, she added.

She added that she follows the rules of the road just as motorists are expected to follow but realizes there are bicyclists who do not. She suggested that the city might set up something similar to a driver’s license that could be issued for cyclists willing to complete a safety course, and they could have a permit card they could then carry.

Newton said in areas where bicyclists do not feel safe riding in the street they could always get off their bikes and walk them on the sidewalk. Brooks said that was a good point, as that is permitted.

Newton also recommended that the city put the map in the paper outlining where bicycling on sidewalks is prohibited and other changes in cycling downtown. She also suggested that the city wait to make a decision and hold another public hearing and invite more of the area bicyclists to comment.

Peter Wise also spoke during the public hearing preceding the ordinance approval. He commended the city for having so many bike lanes. He said he rides a bike to work most of the time, and he believes bicycle safety is a real problem in Alamosa. He said he has felt endangered riding his bicycle in the past. He said he knows there are also bicyclists breaking the rules by riding on the sidewalk in downtown areas that are clearly marked to prohibit that activity. Cyclists also ride in the oncoming lane, rather than with traffic, which is also against the rules, he said.

He said public education would be important to improve safety for both cyclists and motorists.

“From a public safety perspective, we realize we need to do more public education,” Brooks said. She said it is important for people to know the rules of the road and comply with them.

Councilman Jan Vigil said he takes his young daughter on her bike from their house to Cole Park and has felt safer with her riding on the sidewalk than on the street.

Councilor Liz Hensley said education is important. She said when she attended school there was a lot of bike education, and she suggested the city look into providing more bicycle safety awareness and education.

Mayor Ty Coleman said perhaps that could be accomplished through the city recreation center.

Brooks said although city staff has not yet developed a bike safety program, it could be accomplished without reinventing the wheel since there are many public education programs available.

Caption: Alamosa offers many bicycle lanes and encourages both cyclists and motorists to obey the rules of the road./Courier photo by Ruth Heide