Bike fine irks Aspen officials |

Bike fine irks Aspen officials

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – The idea of local policemen issuing fines to kids for riding their bicycles on sidewalks rankled some Aspen City Council members Monday.

“I was just riding with my 4-year-old yesterday, breaking the laws. I wouldn’t let young kids ride on the street,” Councilman Derek Johnson said. “I’m not sure how parents are going to react to their son or daughter getting a $5 fine. That would send me through the roof. If my 11-year-old son came home with a $5 ticket, I would go ballistic. And I wouldn’t fault him.”

Currently, it is illegal for anyone, even small kids, to ride a bike along a city sidewalk. At Monday’s regular meeting, the council discussed a proposed code amendment that would lower the existing $100 fine for violators – a punitive measure that police rarely, if ever, enforce.

Under the amendment, the fines would be $5 for a first offense, $25 for a second offense and $100 for a third offense. If the fines are lowered, police might be more inclined to issue citations to violators, Aspen Police Department spokeswoman Blair Weyer wrote in a February memorandum to council members.

The amendment states that children younger than 8 only would be allowed to ride bikes on sidewalks if they are accompanied by an adult on foot, Weyer wrote. The exception would not apply to the Hyman and Cooper pedestrian malls downtown, where all bike riding still would be prohibited, the memorandum states.

Weyer told council members at Monday’s meeting that the primary goal of the code change is not to cite kids and families for the sidewalk violation.

“The main goal of this is an educational outreach,” she said. “We feel that the changes to the code are a minor piece of this but will propel our educational efforts forward this spring.”

Discussions last year among officials with the city’s parks, transportation and police departments examined interactions between pedestrians and bicyclists within the city. The talks were sparked by local residents who provided anecdotal reports about the need to ensure consistent enforcement of bicycle laws.

City staff conducted a monthlong survey on the issue last fall. In all, 593 surveys were collected either in person or online. The survey indicated that residents support current laws, which prohibit bike riding on sidewalks, the memo states. They also want moderate to strict enforcement of the regulation, Weyer said during the meeting.

The code amendment can serve as a good tool for the educational program, she said. Police will be better equipped to warn families and kids about the dangers of riding bicycles on sidewalks or through the city’s two pedestrian malls.

Councilman Steve Skadron suggested that the survey might have been skewed by the large number of respondents between ages 51 and 60. Weyer said that the 51- to 60-year-olds were the largest segment surveyed but not by an overwhelming amount.

Councilman Adam Frisch asked Johnson if he were suggesting the creation of a warning system, without financial penalties, to be followed by a re-evaluation of the problem a year later along with the potential for tougher regulations.

“Yeah, but I haven’t seen that we have a problem today,” Johnson said. “We can educate. There are some signs on the malls. … I’d rather go to the education component and the carrot rather than going right to the stick, especially to beat the kids.”

Weyer said she can’t speak for all local police officers, but a warning for a first infraction is generally what’s being discussed among city officials and police. She took the council’s comments under advisement.

Introduction of the amendment passed unanimously. The council will revisit the issue at its April 23 meeting. A public hearing is scheduled, to be followed by a potential final vote.

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