Council considers lifting restrictions on bicycling, skateboarding

Police would have discretion to cite civil infractions for negligence.

Staff writerJune 25, 2014 

A bicycle ordinance in effect since 1968 that prohibits cycling in three business district zones could be nullified should the Puyallup City Council approve it on second reading at its July 15 meeting.

At the June 17 city council meeting, members of council unanimously approved an ordinance on first reading that would allow bicycling and skateboarding on city sidewalks in the downtown business district zones.

A second option before council allowed bicycling and skateboarding on city sidewalks, except on sidewalks along Meridian from Stewart to Fourth Avenue.

The approved ordinance gives police officers the power to cite a civil infraction starting at a base fine of $50, should an officer feel a cyclist or skateboarder is operating in a negligent manner that would endanger persons or property.

The approved ordinance removes the criminal penalty.

City staff brought the ordinance to council suggesting a base fine of $250. Puyallup Mayor John Knutsen believed it was too harsh for first-time offenders and suggested the $50 base fine. If a person were to commit additional offenses, that base fine would increase and cap at $250, explained Steve Kirkelie, Puyallup’s deputy city attorney.

“This is definitely taking a common sense approach to enforcement and safety,” Councilmember Tom Swanson said. “I don’t think a 10-year-old riding his bicycle on a sidewalk should be sent to cell block ‘D.’”

The suggested change from a $250 to a $50 base fine will be re-worked into the ordinance and brought back to council at the July 15 meeting for final approval, according to Kirkelie.

Though the ordinance does allow skateboarding and bicycling on all downtown city sidewalks, it does however retain the provision prohibiting skateboard riding in city-owned parking lots and garages.

This spring, a “wheels up” campaign was started by city staff to help raise awareness of the existing bicycle and skateboarding ordinances.

Kirkelie said there had been comments from residents of Puyallup addressing concerns about people riding on city sidewalks.

Almost as soon as the “wheels up” signs were put up on sidewalks to discourage people from riding, constituents cried foul and told a number of city council members to remove riding restrictions because they felt more comfortable on the sidewalks, not roadways.

Councilmember Heather Shadko said she favored the no-restrictions ordinance but cautioned that skateboard use in Pioneer Park should be looked at closer.

“Skateboards are more my issue,” she said. “Are officers going to have teeth to make sure skateboards are enforced?”

Kirkelie said there is a provision under parks in the Puyallup Municipal Code that applies when there is damage to park property.

“We certainly could look at that and explore whether there are other options,” Kirkelie told The Herald. “We’ll look to see how this new law works.”

Should city council approve the ordinance on second reading at the July 15 meeting, Kirkelie said it would be enacted within five to 10 business days after adoption.

Andrew Fickes: 253-552-7001 andrew.fickes Twitter: @herald_andrew

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