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Sidewalk Biking Illegal; Signs May be Posted Downtown

Cyclists on West Main Street on Wednesday, July 24, 2013. Credit: Matt Fredmonsky
Cyclists on West Main Street on Wednesday, July 24, 2013. Credit: Matt Fredmonsky

Kent may soon add signs to sidewalks downtown reminding bicycle riders that it’s illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalk.

Downtown business owner John Simon asked Kent City Council Wednesday to consider posting signs to remind people that it is in fact illegal to ride a bike on sidewalks in Kent.

“I don’t think a lot of people know that,” Simon said. “I think signs would really help before somebody does get injured.”

Simon runs a business at 300 N. Water St. in a building owned by Councilman John Kuhar, who agreed with the idea.

“I know when I step out of my building down there … we usually stick our head out a few inches first and look both ways,” Kuhar said.

Section 373.10 of Kent’s Codified Ordinances prohibits riding bicycles on sidewalks in business districts or on sidewalks where signs are posted prohibiting riding.

Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer, whose Ward 5 includes downtown, agreed with Kuhar and Simon and suggested signs might be posted near bike trail entrances.

“Because that may be part of the issue,” she said.

Council voted Wednesday to consider posting signs downtown about bicycling being prohibited on sidewalks. The issue and possible placement of signs will likely be handled by the city’s administration.

“That just sounds like a housekeeping thing to me,” Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala said.

Rosemerry Rudesal July 26, 2013 at 11:07 AM
I agree that we need bike lanes. I have just returned from a trip to Austin where bike lanes are everywhere and many people use their bikes instead of their cars. We want to encourage, not discourage, bike use.
Chris (Kit) Myers July 26, 2013 at 02:01 PM
With consideration for parking and pedestrians, and the width of streets and sidewalks, where, exactly, would you put the bike lanes in the downtown area.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 26, 2013 at 02:58 PM
I know Chris, you don't like bikes. I know. I know. We've been down this road before. Maybe one day we'll be down this bike path, but until then...
John Gwinn July 26, 2013 at 03:57 PM
The current prohibition of bicycles on sidewalks does not consider the location of the sidewalks nor the age of the cyclist. Clearly there is more risk to pedestrians for cycling on sidewalks in front of downtown businesses than on typical sidewalks in residential areas. Similarly, designated bike routes (eg. North Mantua) are risky for all but the most experienced cyclists. On many streets sidewalks are safer for cyclists. This whole issue should be reviewed.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 26, 2013 at 05:33 PM
Why does the new hike and bike trail bridge spit people out onto the sidewalk if it is illegal? Hike and Bike Trail means bicycles. Lots of them. Lots of them. Right onto the sidewalk.
Rosemerry Rudesal July 26, 2013 at 06:31 PM
I agree that it might be difficult to find room for bike lanes in downtown. But, what about the idea to make Water and DePeyster one way streets? That would leave room for a bike lane. I live on Hudson Road where there are no sidewalks past the Middle School and no room for bikes, either. Much of that road is in Franklin Township, but there are neighborhoods inside of Kent that don't have sidewalks or room to ride a bike. And public transportation in Kent is difficult to reach from some places. I would just like to see the city, in general, be more favorable to pedestrian and bike traffic. And, now that we are discussing traffic downtown, are they going to eliminate parking on the bridge (which has ruined the look of the bridge) now that we have the parking garage?
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 26, 2013 at 06:48 PM
One way streets drive me insane. Ever try to get in or out of Mansfield? Don't bother. One way streets and stop lights galore. The last thing Kent needs is one way streets. They already love adding lights. Hello Beryl/Water intersection. I love wasting gas and time at the gem of a light!
Chris (Kit) Myers July 26, 2013 at 07:25 PM
I do like bikes, Mary. What have I ever said that makes you think otherwise. Be specific. Do not read something into my comments that isn't there. All I asked was where the lanes could be put. I was hoping someone would come up with some ideas on how it could be done. That may be too much to ask of some people but there are many in Kent who could discuss the issue in a reasonable manner. I'm sorry that one way streets drive you insane. You might want to separate yourself from your prejudicial outlook regarding them and look at the issue from the standpoint of an outsider.
h July 26, 2013 at 08:02 PM
I ride my bike as much as I can. I actually am changing job on Monday with the intent of riding my bike to work, rather than driving 60+ miles round trip daily. I ride all over Kent and the bike paths, regularly. When I was a preteen, I had to learn the rules of riding my bike. I seem to recall a booklet at the DMV. We also had to have bike licenses. How about doing that again? I still follow all rules of the road, but I must say that car traffic often makes it unsafe to be on the street. Every once in a while, I will opt for the sidewalk, assuring I am not riding in the path of any walkers. For instance, during rush hour traffic or when trying to get out of the neighborhood north of the triangle project, over to Crane Ave. I appreciate the bike lanes, but they are often covered in gravel and trash that has been pushed off the street by cars, especially on W Main (old 59). I think that signs will be like locks, they will only keep the law abiding people in line. The kids in the video will still be doing what they do...ride wherever, nearly run pedestrians over, jump out into traffic, destroy property, etc. Signs will be a waste of money. Spend that money on better bike lanes and more racks. Even if there isnt room for lanes on the roads, figure out pathways through town. Making bike riding convenient will keep the bikes off the sidewalks (except for the brats) and will improve the city as a whole.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 26, 2013 at 08:09 PM
Chris, you hate the hike and bike trail and stated you DO NOT ride your bike. You believe those who enjoy the trails should be forced to buy a license and plate to ride the trails. I am aware of your previous comments. You are anti-bike. I know. And the "brats" you speak of must be children. I'd rather see those not old enough to drive vehicles to ride their bikes on the sidewalks (WITH HELMETS!).
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 26, 2013 at 08:11 PM
I hate one way streets and useless stop lights. I love circles and round-a-bouts but don't believe the general public has the intelligence/patience/ability to properly use a circle. I also think those states that don't allow left turn lanes and their subsequent turning signals are smart. Jersey isn't my state of choice but the way they handle left turners are great.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 26, 2013 at 08:13 PM
On that note, I don't think very highly of the general public. Bikes aren't safe on the roads. Those texting and getting stupid using their smart phones aren't making the roads any safer. Nor are the drunks. Or the ladies applying useless loads of makeup. Vehicles don't share the road with bicycles. It's a shame. Europe is above and beyond us on such endeavors. Shame.
Chris (Kit) Myers July 26, 2013 at 09:19 PM
Well, Mary, I do have a bike and I ride it. I never said I hated the hike and bike trails and I have no problem whatsoever with having them. The fact that you think that I hate bikes because I think that recreational users of trails should have to pay for maintenance and upkeep has nothing whatsoever to do with my feeling about bikes. They are extremely expensive and I would happily pay a user fee when I use them, and I DO use them. Regarding traffic circles, I must say that it is amazing the amount of traffic they handle without a lot of pile-ups. I understand your frustration with a lot of the motoring public, but a little Vivaldi in your CD player helps smooth the bumps in the road. Cheers! By the way, it was someone else who spoke of the "brats."
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 27, 2013 at 01:04 PM
And all my comments aren't directed to you, Chris.
BBangs July 30, 2013 at 11:30 AM
I'm certainly no lawyer but it seems that Code 331.37 implies that riding a bicycle on a sidewalk is legal in most areas throughout Kent: [331.37 DRIVING UPON SIDEWALKS, STREET LAWNS OR CURBS; (a) No person shall drive any vehicle, other than a bicycle, upon a sidewalk or sidewalk area except upon a permanent or duly authorized temporary driveway. (ORC 4511.711)]
BBangs July 30, 2013 at 11:30 AM
But then Code 373.10 does state that no person shall operate a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district. [373.10  BICYCLE OR SKATEBOARD RIDING ON SIDEWALK; (a) No person shall operate a bicycle, skateboard or other wheeled vehicle designed as a toy or for amusement of the rider, upon a sidewalk within a business district or upon a sidewalk where signs are erected prohibiting such operation. No person shall operate a bicycle or other vehicle as described above, on any sidewalk in a reckless manner which endangers pedestrian users of the sidewalk.]
BBangs July 30, 2013 at 11:30 AM
Yet Code 373.10 also says that no person under 14 years old shall ride upon a street when sidewalks are available – except within a business district or where signs prohibit such operation. [373.10 continued – No person under fourteen years of age shall ride upon the street when sidewalks are available, outside a business district or upon a sidewalk where signs are erected prohibiting such operation. (Ord. 1987-24. Passed 3-18-87.)]
BBangs July 30, 2013 at 11:31 AM
What's a 'Business District'? Kent's Codified Ordinance defines a business district as: "the territory fronting upon a street or highway, including the street or highway, between successive intersections where fifty percent or more of the frontage between such successive intersections is occupied by buildings in use for business, or where fifty percent or more of the frontage for a distance of 300 feet or more is occupied by buildings in use for business, and the character of such territory is indicated by official traffic control devices. (ORC 4511.01(NN))" [301.06]
Frederick John Kluth July 30, 2013 at 03:53 PM
Making N. Water St. one way ( and Depeyster the other) would allow for a badly needed bike lane on N. Water St. It would also allow for needed diagonal parking.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 31, 2013 at 12:02 PM
In small towns, the conversion of Main Street to one-way was usually the first harbinger of urban blight. Since they encourage higher speeds, one-ways have consistently been found to be hot spots for pedestrian fatalities. In a 2000 paper examining pedestrian safety on one-ways, researchers analyzed traffic statistics in Hamilton from 1978 to 1994 and concluded that a child was 2.5 times more likely to be hit by a car on a one-way street.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 31, 2013 at 12:03 PM
Planning cities in a way that privileges automobiles is now considered more problematic than in the past. With the blooming of movements like New Urbanism, more places and planners are now thinking about others who use the streets including pedestrians, bicyclists, and businesses and residences along the street. While one-way streets may be efficient, they don’t necessarily serve all interested parties well.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 31, 2013 at 12:05 PM
It is also important to remember that a one-way street system always has a greater magnitude of vehicle turning movements compared to a two-way system. Any turning movement, regardless of street configuration as one- or two-way, creates exactly the same potential for vehicle/pedestrian conflict, namely, one legally turning vehicle crossing the path of one legally crossing pedestrian. Thus, aside from the complexity of conflict sequences, there are simply more (typically 30 – 40%) vehicle/pedestrian conflicts within a one-way street network than in a comparable two-way system.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 31, 2013 at 12:06 PM
So, no one way streets, OK!
Frederick John Kluth July 31, 2013 at 08:02 PM
"Planning cities in a way that privileges automobiles is now considered more problematic than in the past. With the blooming of movements like New Urbanism, more places and planners are now thinking about others who use the streets including pedestrians, bicyclists, and businesses and residences along the street." Turning N. Water into a one-way street does not privilege autos, it privileges bicycles because it allows for bike lanes. The challenge is to privilege bicycles so they will be used.
Mary Lynn Delfino August 01, 2013 at 08:48 AM
Kent would benefit from having some visual reminders for drivers and cyclists, such as Share the Road signs and related pavement markings, two chevrons and a bike, like I've seen in Akron and Cleveland. Biking on the sidewalk might seem like a good idea, but there are plenty of hazards and not a lot of room to maneuver. The reality is in any heavily congested area, whether that's a sidewalk or a street, everyone needs to keep their eyes open and pay attention. It's a matter of attention (and sharing), values our culture does not necessarily encourage. What we need is education on this matter. What group in our area would be responsible for initiating such a campaign?
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! August 01, 2013 at 10:34 AM
Kent is not big on Education. It is Kent, after all...
Laura Barrett Wynn August 01, 2013 at 03:28 PM
I have lived in Kent on and off for over 25 years and was educated by the Kent City Schools system which is "Excellent with Distinction," by the way! As the mother of a 15-month-old, we often stroll, walk and even bike to downtown businesses and area events/happenings. Having a little one in tow has only made me more cautious and aware of how much work Kent has to do on bike safety/education. What are those with bike trailers supposed to do now, in regards to the law?
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! August 01, 2013 at 03:42 PM
They ripped out the recycling bins rather than educating the public of their proper use. Kent likes to make new laws to randomly enforce. Education is not high on the list of priorities.
Frederick John Kluth August 01, 2013 at 05:39 PM
You may want to consider the motto on the current town trash bins. It is "Ex Obscuritate in Lucem" which is a Latin phrase. It means "From Ignorance to Learning". Indeed this is the challenge of Kent. Just because a college is in the town does not mean everyone is well educated.
Chris (Kit) Myers August 02, 2013 at 05:27 AM
1) Some of us walk our bikes on the downtown sidewalks just as we did way back in the 1940s. It's only a matter of a few blocks. Or do people have some sort of divine right to ride anywhere they want no matter the danger to others. 2) Do the bars recycle? Do the apartment complexes have recycling containers for tenants? Are the tenants of each apartment given the little green containers to set out by the street on a weekly basis? Are tenants charged in their water bill for recycling? In other words, is any recycling done at the apartment complexes or is this something that people living in houses pay for?

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