Law would ban bikes from Sharpsburg's sidewalks

May 06, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

SHARPSBURG - Several Sharpsburg youths said town officials and residents complaining about reckless bicyclists on sidewalks could come up with a better solution than banning bikes from all town sidewalks.

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"They should make something at the baseball field so we can jump," said Jeremy Stotler, 8.

Mayor George Kesler said a park area for bikes is a possibility. There may be room between the Little League field and the pavilion where some kids have already been digging and building ramps, he said.

"It's a shame that a few kids are making life miserable for the bicycle riders," Kesler said.

Reacting to complaints of bicyclists playing chicken with vehicles by jumping on and off sidewalks, some Town Council members asked the town attorney on Monday to draft a tougher bike law.

"Eventually one of them will lose and pay the price," said Councilman Ralph Hammond, who prefers better enforcement rather than tightening the law and stiffening penalties to include impounding bicycles.


Town officials said a bicyclist was struck by a vehicle about two weeks ago, but details about the accident were not available.

"I'm going to get the deputy to crack down on the bike crowd because they are getting out of hand. They're very rude to people. They ride on the sidewalk as close to people as they can," Kesler said earlier this week.

The town's current law forbids bikes on sidewalks within 200 feet of Town Square or the post office. Violators can be fined up to $1,000.

Town Attorney Charles Wagaman is drafting a proposal for the council to consider during its June 7 meeting that would expand the sidewalk prohibition town-wide and allow deputies to impound violators' bikes.

Wagaman said the council could vote to introduce and adopt the proposed law during the same meeting. It could take effect 20 days after adoption.

Vice Mayor Sidney Gale agreed with Hammond that the bike ban doesn't need to be expanded, but said the law should give police the option of impounding the bike.

"We've got a real problem and people are really upset about it," Councilwoman Denise Troxell said. Short of installing a deputy on Town Square, Troxell said she wasn't sure what the town could do.

Troxell said she does want to give the deputy power to impound bikes if riders break the law.

"I think once they did it a few times they wouldn't have to," Troxell said. Word would spread, people would start paying attention to their kids and really bad kids would lose their bikes, she said.

Washington County Sheriff Charles F. Mades said if "we really want to be nasty about it," deputies could impound bikes, but that decision is up to the deputy's discretion.

If the council gives deputies the impoundment option, Mades said he would prefer to have a place in town where bikes could be kept so parents don't have to drive to Hagerstown to pick them up.

To impound a bike, deputies would have to catch youths violating the bike law. Some council members said the kids just leave when they see the deputy coming and return later.

Michael Galvin, 15, thinks council members should give area youths another chance before banning bikes from sidewalks.

"I think they shouldn't do it because we'll be more careful," Galvin said.

If the town does change the law, many youths will have to walk everywhere, he said.

The intent isn't to ban younger children on tricycles and Big Wheels from sidewalks.

The older youths could ride in the street, obeying traffic laws, Kesler said.

"I think they should be allowed to ride on sidewalks. It's better than getting hit by a car," said Adam Trovinger, 14.

"If we get hit, it'll be their fault because they banned us from the sidewalk," said Luke Turner, 12.

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-- Bike problems have plagued other towns

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