DDA talks bikes on sidewalks

Jenny Lancour | Daily Press Ron Micheau, of Escanaba, rides his skateboard in downtown Escanaba while passing a bicycle in a bike rack Wednesday ­afternoon.

ESCANABA — Bicycle and skateboard traffic on the sidewalks in downtown Escanaba was the topic of discussion during a work session of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Wednesday morning.

DDA members openly discussed the pros and cons of non-motorized means of transportation sharing the walkways with pedestrians in response to a request from the Escanaba City Council seeking input on the issue.

Concerns about bicycle traffic on the sidewalks downtown was heightened last December when a customer walked out of a business and was struck by a bicyclist who fled the scene. The pedestrian sought medical attention for her injuries.

During council’s Sept. 7 meeting, concerns were discussed in depth by council members, the Public Safety director, the city attorney, and DDA Director Ed Legault. A motion was unanimously passed to have the DDA look at the issue and offer input to council.

DDA members discussed the issue further at its regular meeting on Sept. 28 and scheduled Wednesday’s work session to come to a consensus on what to recommend to council.

While concerned about the injured customer, DDA members agreed downtown Escanaba should be both pedestrian-friendly and bicycle/skateboard-friendly.

DDA members also agreed to recommend council amend the city ordinance, which actually prohibits bicycles and skateboards from being on sidewalks in business districts. The ordinance has been on the books for years, but is not enforced because Public Safety does not want bikes and skateboards on the roadway.

The DDA also plans to recommend some form of signage be displayed reminding customers exiting businesses to watch out for bicyclists outside and/or signs reminding bicyclists that pedestrians have the right-of-way on sidewalks.

Legault noted the DDA’s final recommendations to council will focus on a safe downtown, common sense, and pedestrians having the right-of-way.

Wednesday’s discussion included possibly painting lines on the sidewalks to designate separate lanes for pedestrians and bicyclists, but that option was not approved by DDA board members.

According to city policy, businesses are allowed to display their wares within four feet in front of their buildings. The next six feet of sidewalk is for pedestrians, while the remaining sidewalk to the curb is also space businesses are allowed to use.

Comments were also made Wednesday that downtown customers include bicyclists, “accidents” do happen, and any ordinance changes should be enforced.

Legault said he will create a draft of recommendations to be reviewed by DDA members before final recommendations are submitted to council to discuss next month.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, jlancour@dailypress.net