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Nonmotorized vehicles barred from some city sidewalks

July 22, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

With schools out and weather cooperating, Hagerstown City Police officers are seeing more bicycles, skateboards and roller skates on the city's sidewalks.

"In the downtown district, as people walk in and out of stores ... you walk out the door and 'whoosh,' a bicycle flies right by you," said Lt. William C. Wright III, who is in charge of the city's downtown police squad. There's a possibility both rider and customer could get seriously hurt, Wright said.

That street-side cruise may get you in trouble with the law, Wright said.

A city code bans bicycles, skateboards, scooters and roller skates from sidewalks in parts of the city near Public Square, Wright said, and police officers will be looking for people who violate the rules.

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The enforcement area is encircled by East and Church streets, North and South Mulberry streets, East and West Baltimore streets, and North and South Walnut streets.

Wright reminds people that if they are caught violating the rules, their bikes or other non-motorized vehicles can be confiscated by police, and officers reserve the right to issue tickets.

"We're receiving a growing number of complaints," Wright said, noting the most complaints are about bicycles.

Wright said he has not heard of anyone who has been injured during a collision, but "we don't want there to be any."

Wright said when someone is caught violating the code, usually the bike, or other type of vehicle, is confiscated for a month and returned. He said he cannot remember the last time someone was fined, although the code allows a fine of up to $1,000.

This year, police officers have not conducted any sweeps to pick up bikes and other vehicles from offenders, but it's something Wright said he is considering.

The code does not target riding toys used by small children, including tricycles and 'Big Wheel'-style toys, Wright said. Under city rules, no motorized vehicles are allowed on sidewalks.

Those who ride bicycles on the street must follow traffic rules, Wright said. Neither Wright, City Attorney Mark Boyer nor Washington County State's Attorney Charles Strong knew immediately if skateboards and nonmotorized scooters were banned outright from roads.

Wright warned against the idea, however, due to safety.

"I don't think you should be riding your skateboard on the street," Wright said.

He asked parents to advise their children on when to safely ride their bikes.

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