City Scorecard 2.12.08: Bikes on Sidewalks
by Rene Leon
Posted on February 12, 2008
The El Paso City Council on Tuesday morning discussed the possibility of rescinding a 61-year-old ordinance to give bicyclists more options on where they can pedal.
Rep. Susie Byrd called for discussion on the ordinance, which was passed in 1947 and makes it illegal to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk, to be abolished. She said she was acting in response to a call from a constituent who she said claimed his son had received a ticket from an El Paso Police Officer for riding his bicycle on the sidewalk.
She said that while she would like to encourage more people to ride bicycles, she herself tells her children not to ride them in the street. She added that she does not believe police power is required in an effort to promote bicycle safety.
Tom Christopher, a bicycle safety advocate, questioned whether the city valued the lives of pedestrians more than those of bicyclists and stated he believes the ordinance to be an example of poor legislation.
“Selective enforcement is thus symptomatic of bad law,” he said, adding that receiving a ticket for riding on the sidewalk would be a better option than risking your life while riding on the street.
Christopher suggested the council adopt a law similar to one in Austin, Texas, which allows bicyclists to use the sidewalks except in the city’s business districts.
Upon that suggestion, Rep. Melina Castro questioned City Attorney Charlie McNabb on whether the city would be liable if a cyclist were to injure himself while riding on the sidewalk. McNabb stated the liability assumed for allowing bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk would be the same as that assumed for allowing them to ride on the city streets, but Mayor John Cook stated that property owners are the ones who are liable for sidewalk maintenance.
In an El Paso Times article from Monday Feb. 1, reporter David Crowder wrote that Wayne Hoose, whose son Andrew Hoose was stopped by an officer for riding on the sidewalk, was “outraged that the officer put his son up against the squad car and searched him for drugs without bothering to involve the parents, who were at home eight doors up the street.”
Wayne Hoose said police harassment was not the issue being discussed.
“The officer was polite. He didn’t keep him longer than he had to,” Hoose said in the article, adding that the officer did not issue his son a citation and merely alerted him about the ordinance.
City Clerk Richarda Momsen informed that council that in fact only eight citations were issued in the past year for violation of the ordinance. She later stated that many of those tickets were issued in the Downtown area, which generally sees more pedestrian traffic than other city neighborhoods.
Cook cautioned the council against repealing the ordinance, stating that it would be best if the council considered the issue in a future legislative review committee.
The council took no action on the item.
4. BOARD RE-APPOINTMENTS:
4A. Arne Schonberger to the City Accessibility Advisory Committee by Mayor John F. Cook.
[Mayor’s Office, Sylvia Borunda Firth (915) 541-4550]
4B. Alexander V. Neill to the Ethics Review Commission by Rep. Steve Ortega, District 7.
[Rep. Steve Ortega, (915) 541-4108]
5. BOARD APPOINTMENT:
Tom McCabe to the City-County Animal Shelter Advisory Committee by Rep. Beto O’Rourke, District 8.
[Rep. Beto O’Rourke, (915) 541-4123]
Consent Agenda approved 6 – 0.
REGULAR AGENDA – OTHER BUSINESS
9. MAYOR AND COUNCIL
Discussion and action on deleting an Ordinance that makes it illegal to ride a bicycle on any public sidewalk.
[Rep. Susie Byrd, (915) 541-4416]
No action. Issue will go before a legislative review committee for further discussion.
10. CITY MANAGER
City Manager’s report of current events and issues:
Discussion on issues relating to properties subject to multiple delinquent tax lawsuits and issues related to the enforcement and collection of delinquent taxes.
[Tax Office, Juan Sandoval, (915) 541-4369]
[Delgado, Acosta, Spencer, Carmen Perez, (915) 545-5481]
City Council received a report from Carmen Perez on issues involving delinquent tax lawsuits within the city.
The report was to inform the council on the processes involved in collecting delinquent property taxes. It highlighted several properties fitting the criteria of delinquent payment such as the Caples Building in Downtown El Paso, owned by Billy Abraham. The report singled out11 properties as delinquent in tax payment, including another property owned by Abraham and another for which Abraham is listed as trustee.
Tax Assessor Collector Juan Sandoval said that though there are some who will chronically be delinquent in their tax payments, they compose merely 3 percent of El Paso property tax payers.
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