Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reining in reckless bicyclists

Posted By on Thu, Oct 1, 2009 at 4:15 AM

After successfully getting the city to address aggressive panhandlers, downtown business owners have now set their sites on reining in reckless cyclists.

“Bikes should not be ridden on sidewalks in the urban setting,” says Rod Austin, operations director for the Downtown Business Improvement District. “That’s just another reason for people to not come downtown.”

Austin, who recently started lobbying city government on the issue, says downtown Missoula has become increasingly bicycle friendly with the addition of new bike lanes painted onto N. Higgins Avenue this summer. But despite the added lanes, downtown ambassadors spot speeding cyclists nearly missing pedestrians on sidewalks daily.

“We hate it,” says Chris Niswanger, manager at Worden’s Market.

Montana law allows biking on sidewalks unless municipalities post signs saying otherwise. Bozeman is one city that enacted an outright ban downtown, but Missoula officials appear lukewarm to the concept. Missoula City Councilman Dave Strohmaier, who chairs the Public Health and Safety Committee, says the city needs to research the cost and effectiveness of posting signs before bringing more stringent measures into the mix. He thinks educating cyclists about using bike lanes over sidewalks is a better place to start.

Phil Smith, the city’s bicycle/pedestrian program manager agrees, saying most cyclists don’t want to intimidate pedestrians.

“The challenge to us is how do we get people to be more thoughtful,” says Smith.

But Austin maintains if Missoula officials don’t act, someone will get hurt.

“We’re basically waiting for a wreck to happen,” he says.

While he waits for the city to act, Austin aims to stencil requests on roadways asking cyclists to de-bike before window shopping or cruising with friends. If asking nicely doesn’t work, he’ll apply more pressure.
“I’m going to try to put a little bit more force behind it.”

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