COLUMBIA — Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade said Monday he thinks the City Council "made a mistake" with its approval last month of an ordinance protecting cyclists from harassment.
Wade started off the council comments portion of Monday night's meeting with a reversal from his stance in June. At the June 15 meeting, the council unanimously approved the cyclists ordinance.
"We should have explored whether the ordinance was even necessary or if there were better options, such as amending existing ordinances, but didn't," Wade said.
Wade prepared a two-sided handout detailing his present opposition to the ordinance. He said the council should vote to suspend the ordinance for at least six months while staff evaluates whether or not amendments to current city ordinances can provide broader harassment protection.
"The ordinance does not make it better, it makes it worse. It is not* good for bicyclists. It is not good for motorists," Wade said. "It does not contribute to the vision of creating a biking- and walking-friendly community."
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe disagreed, saying, "The bicyclists need the protection now."
Hoppe doesn't believe suspending the ordinance is the solution. She said improved education about both the ordinance and bicycle signals will mend the growing divide between cyclists and motorists.
Hoppe said the Columbia Police Department will add information to its Web site by the end of July regarding rules of the road for motorists and cyclists. Hoppe said this is one way to improve community awareness and relations between the two travelers.
"I think this ordinance has spurred the education process," she said. "It would set a bad precedent to backtrack on something we've already passed."
Hoppe's biggest concern with a suspension is the ramifications for the council.
"I voted this way, and I want the public to have confidence that when I come back in two weeks that I'm not going to change my vote and take the ordinance back immediately," she said.
Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill disagreed with Hoppe's statement that a suspension would set a bad precedent.
Like Wade, Thornhill said he was unsure of the hastiness in which the ordinance passed.
"I left here wondering what I'd done as well because I had similar feelings," Thornhill said. "Singling out a group is not the right thing to have done or continue to do."
Thornhill related a recent experience in which he had to lock his brakes at a four-way intersection where he had the right-of-way to avoid hitting a bicyclist breaking the law.
"I've seen a couple bicyclists testing the boundaries," he said.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser also said she agreed with Wade.
"There's an animosity that exists in Columbia between motorists and bicyclists," she said.
Nauser said she wished there was more input during the public hearing from both sides.
"We haven't taken the time to hear all the testimony," she said.
Karl Skala, Paul Sturtz and Mayor Darwin Hindman were not at Monday's meeting.
City staff will introduce a first-read recommendation to the council for a suggested suspension at the next meeting on Aug. 3.
Missourian reporter Ben Hansen contributed to this report