City Council still divided on bicycle harassment

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 3:58 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 5, 2009

COLUMBIA — Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade and Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala disagreed again about the ordinance concerning the harassment of bicyclists during Monday night's City Council meeting.

Wade believes the bicycle harassment ordinance should be suspended and said last month that "we (the council) should have explored whether the ordinance was even necessary or if there were better options."


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Skala issued a statement Monday detailing his position against the suspension.

"If Mr. Wade wants to speak to his own actions on the bike harassment ordinance and as to what he perceives to have happened at the meeting on June 15, he has every right to do so," Skala said. "I would appreciate, however, that he not include me in the 'we'."

Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe supported Skala, saying, "I'm still supportive of keeping it and moving forward." Hoppe cited the positive feedback she's seen from the community.

"I saw a group of people waving at me while I was riding my bike. I guess I was riding on the right side and following the law," she said. "We need more time and education."

The ordinance makes harassment of bicyclists — including throwing objects, verbal assault and other offenses — a misdemeanor offense punishable by a $1,000 fine or one year of jail time.

In his statement, Skala identified three things that should be considered before thinking about suspending the ordinance. First, Skala recommends the ordinance be amended to include pedestrians and wheelchair users.

Second, he asserts the ordinance hasn't been in effect long enough for the results to be seen. Third, like Wade, he acknowledges a polarization exists between bicyclists and motorists. But he believes mitigating harassment against any group is a basic public safety responsibility of the council.

Meanwhile, City Manager Bill Watkins has opted to form a task force to take an in-depth look at Columbia's relations between cyclists and motorists, thus providing more insight to the council on the issue. He plans for the task force to meet later this month.

Wade also issued a proposal on how to create better communication and interaction between cyclists and motorists. His suggestions include a community dialogue session.

The council will vote Aug. 17 on whether or not to suspend the ordinance for six months, and if the ordinance should include pedestrians and wheelchair users.

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Ray Shapiro August 4, 2009 | 1:13 a.m.

("Wade also issued a proposal on how to create better communication and interaction between cyclists and motorists. His suggestions include a community dialogue session.")
Better late then never.
("The council will vote Aug. 17 on whether or not to suspend the ordinance for six months, and if the ordinance should include pedestrians and wheelchair users.")
I think it should be rescinded and just enforce current laws which are all ready on the books. If you must duplicate laws, add to your absurd ordinance: pedestrians, wheelchairs, scooters, joggers, motorists, truckers, soccer moms, rednecks, yuppies, buppies, clerics, vagrants, pogo stickers, roller skaters, motorcyclists, etc, etc. etc. Legal harassment is legal harassment. Don't need a city ordinance to pit a few groups against another.

(Report Comment)
Greg Collins August 4, 2009 | 8:09 a.m.

Honk, yell and be damned with those cyclists who believe themselves above love ... or who are so emotionally crippled they can't believe the would be the objects of having their own groove thrown fof.

(Report Comment)
TR Robertson August 4, 2009 | 8:30 a.m.

"First, Skala recommends the ordinance be amended to include pedestrians and wheelchair users"

I agree completely. But that doesn't go far enough. Lets also include motorists. Why is it illegal to yell at a bisyclist, but drivers can yell at other motorists?

(Report Comment)
David Lynn August 4, 2009 | 9:01 a.m.

The people of Columbia seem to not be the only ones that are conflicted on the issue of motorists and bikers sharing the roads.

(Report Comment)
terry bura August 4, 2009 | 9:42 a.m.

I believe our friends on bikes should really be upset with the city road striping. Current example going on are road striping up to a bridge and the strip just ends and starts again on the other side of the bridge. Who has the right of way on the bridge?

Your article talks about the new law where motor vehicles can be turned by biker, where is the equal right to turn in bikers for same actions as there is no license on the bike. If you would follow the biker to get there name to report a infraction who knows what charges could be leved on you. Do motorized wheel chairs create more of a hazzard on the roads?

(Report Comment)
Chip Cooper August 4, 2009 | 12:39 p.m.

Here are the minutes from the June 15th Council meeting regarding testimony of the Police Chief and the City Attorney. Existing laws may not be sufficient:

Mr. Thornhill asked if Chief Burton felt there was a benefit to the proposed ordinance with regard to enforcement above and beyond the existing assault ordinance. Chief Burton replied yes. He explained the ordinance, as written, addressed activities which would not reach the level of assault. People pushing the envelope and getting as close to assault without assaulting someone would be covered under the ordinance. With regard to prosecutability, the elements of the offense would have to be there for the City Prosecutor to move forward and they would have to wait to see how it would work. Mr. Boeckmann (City Attorney) stated he agreed the proposed ordinance would fill in the gaps.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle August 4, 2009 | 12:47 p.m.

As a hard-core commuting cyclist with 30+ years experience sharing the road with cars, I do not particularly support the ordinance if it is written specifically for cyclists. I catch enough flak from motorists for the questionable actions of other cyclists; I could do without the apparent ill will that motorists are expressing about the ordinance.

That does not mean I think it's OK for motorists to treat cyclists poorly or act aggressive towards cyclists for any reason. That is absolutely NOT OK no matter what else transpires.

I would just prefer to see everyone work a little harder to come up with more positive solutions for sharing the road.

To that end, and to answer those like terry burra who ferret on about bike licensing, I HAVE put plates on my bike. Look for bike plates H4X - that's me. My legal city bike license, for cross-reference, is E-5209. If you see me riding like a knuckehead, you can report me. Otherwise, I'd like a chance to earn motorist's respect.

(Report Comment)
Mary Bryant August 13, 2009 | 8:42 a.m.

The community forum August 12 made clear the need for Jerry Wade's proposal to withdraw the bike ordinance and implement careful planning for further action. Emotions are still raw. The motorists who spoke did not seem ready to step back from their own remedies and the cyclists are feeling too vulnerable in this hostile climate to wait for relief. Let's withdraw the ordinance, give everyone time to cool off and come together to plan reasonable solutions. Meanwhile, everyone needs to remember that there is no contest between a cyclist and several thousand pounds of steel and glass.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 13, 2009 | 9:05 a.m.

The Ordinance is already on the Missouri Law Books so why did we need another one in the first place?

(Report Comment)

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