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City may reduce fines for riding bikes on Aspen sidewalks

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – The Aspen City Council Monday will consider a proposal that would lower fines for people who ride their bicycles on local sidewalks.

The current fine is $100. Under a proposed code amendment, the fines would be $5 for a first offense, $25 for a second offense and $100 for a third offense, according to a Feb. 22 memorandum from Aspen Police Department spokeswoman Blair Weyer to council members. By lowering the fines, the council hopes that police will be more inclined to issue citations to violators, the memo says.

Children younger than 8 would be allowed to ride bikes on sidewalks – but only 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.



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.

“Initial discussions revealed that little documentation existed regarding the potential safety risk that bicyclists create on sidewalks and pedestrian malls,” Weyer wrote. “There was also little knowledge regarding the beliefs and expectations the community had regarding bicycle laws and how they are enforced.”



To obtain more information, city staff conducted a monthlong survey 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.

“Over half of community members surveyed, 57 percent, want to see these laws remain,” Weyer wrote. “Additionally, over 60 percent want moderate to strict enforcement of these laws.”

The survey suggests that residents believe bicyclists aren’t aware of current laws.

“Many individuals shared stories of near misses by bicyclists on walkways,” she wrote. “There was a general sentiment that bicyclists ‘rule the road’ instead of having to follow the rules of the road.”

However, the survey also brought to light concerns from parents with small children. Many respondents feared the prospect of bicycling with their kids on city streets because of the city’s high traffic volume, inattentive drivers and other factors.

In addition to the request to lower the fines, city staffers want the council to approve the creation of a “fill-in-the-blank style ticket,” Weyer wrote, which would cut down the length of time it takes to cite a violator.

Weyer also wrote of the need for an educational outreach program to remind bicyclists of the city’s rules. The effort, likely to begin this year, would be incorporated into events such as National Bike to Work Day, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and the Police Department’s annual bike auction.

Officials of the three departments are open to discussing other alternatives, the memo states.

“As expressed in the community survey completed last fall, there needs to be safer places for young children to ride their bicycles around town,” Weyer wrote.

The code amendment to lower the fines will be introduced at the council’s regular meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. Monday at Aspen City Hall. A public hearing on the issue is set for April 23, when council members will hold a second reading of the amendment and a possible vote.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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