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Emiliano Martin is a journalism major at Sacramento State University. He graduated a year early from high school to pursue a career in journalism and was copy editor at his junior college publication, The Connection. He has an interest in entertainment, specifically the impact music and video games have on traditional social norms.
Stronger Fines Proposed For Sidewalk Bicyclists In Downtown Sacramento
By Emiliano Martin
For years, the sidewalks of Downtown Sacramento have been shared by bikers and pedestrians. If you ask some cyclists, they’ll gladly tell you that the sidewalks are wide enough for everyone to share.
Whether that’s true or not Sacramento plans to introduce new laws that could increase fines for those who ride their bike on certain sidewalks in the city’s downtown and midtown areas.
The current $5 fine is rarely enforced, says Sparky Harris, principal planner for the City of Sacramento and developer in charge of the new proposal.
“What prompted it? There was no specific incident,” he says.
Fedolia “Sparky” Harris is planning a new Sacramento law that would raise fines for riding bikes on the sidewalk in the city’s busier areas.
But, several other cities including San Francisco and San Jose have banned cyclists from riding on sidewalks. Cities like San Diego prohibit bicyclists in certain business districts.
“We’ve been working on plans for the downtown for a long time. We recognize there is a lot of new development coming in,” Harris says.
He says the proposal would make the existing bike laws clearer. Law currently allow for bicycles to be ridden on sidewalks throughout Sacramento except for in “resident’s districts” that aren’t clearly defined.
The specific parts of downtown and midtown that would be affected by this law have yet to be decided upon, but streets between Third to Sixteenth and J to N are being considered, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The criteria in the law will be finalized by the end of the year, Harris says.
Sacramento is also creating the Bikeway Master Plan to make cycling more accessible and safe.
“Sometimes you do see [bikers ride on the sidewalk] just because there are no bike lanes,” says Ben Vogt, manager of City Bicycle Works. “On J Street there are a lot of restaurants, bars and whatnot. People ride their bikes there to get dinner and drinks and they resort to the sidewalk because it’s a high-traffic road. There’s no shoulder and no bike lane.”
These J Street bikers are the types that would potentially be affected by fines that could start at $25 and increase to $100, then $250 with repeat incidents.
Although, Harris says he is aware that some bikers may need sidewalks in crowded J Street-like areas.
“We’re not going to push anybody off of sidewalks. That’s part of the evaluation criteria,” Harris says. “Before we put up these signs, we want to make sure that the blocks where we prohibit cycling have facilities that are comfortable for the cyclist.”
Still, Vogt feels that those in Sacramento’s diverse biking community who ride on sidewalks could use better etiquette.
“I think that’s somewhat a lack of education. I’m not sure the best way to educate those people that it’s less safe to be on the sidewalk than in a bike lane,” Vogt says.