Bikes will be permitted on Takoma Park’s sidewalks starting this fall if City Council follows the recommendation the Safe Roadways Committee submitted Wednesday.
The committee voted at a meeting Tuesday to make the recommendation, which proposes that City Council remove sections of the existing municipal code that prohibit biking on sidewalks.
City Council is expected to hold a final work session on the proposal in September before voting on the issue, committee chair Kacy Kostiuk said.
The committee first suggested the change in November 2015 as a way to increase residents’ use of Takoma Park’s branch of Capital Bikeshare, and City Council has since held two work sessions on the issue.
“It would help new people who are a little unsure, unfamiliar with biking, to give it a try,” Kostiuk said.
Kostiuk said the issue is receiving new attention, though, ahead of a Maryland law allowing bikes in crosswalks statewide that is set to take effect October 1.
The state law came from the death of Frank Towers, a 19-year-old cyclist who was struck and killed by a vehicle while in a crosswalk in Montgomery County in December 2015, according to the Washington Post. The car’s driver was acquitted of charges because bicycles weren’t allowed in crosswalks.
The new state law will provide those crosswalk protections—but only if local law already allow them in sidewalks, according to the committee’s recommendation.
“The way the state law is written, Takoma Park has to repeal the ban on biking,” committee member Mike Moore said during Tuesday’s meeting.
Kostiuk said the city hopes to adjust its code prior to October 1, enabling the state crosswalk law to take full effect.
If the committee’s recommendation is followed, the change will come by removing sections 13.16.040 and 13.16.050 of the municipal code, which prohibit bikes on sidewalks, along with archaic vehicles like handcarts, wheelbarrows and sleighs.
Without a municipal code regarding sidewalk biking, Kostiuk said jurisdiction will fall to Montgomery County, which allows it in Section 31-5.
In the recommendation, the committee outlined the advantages to removing the code like protecting bikers in crosswalks, providing a safe environment for new riders and aligning the code with the reality that the prohibition is rarely enforced.
“Amending the municipal code to allow bicycling on sidewalks would alleviate confusion and provide new opportunities to increase the number of people biking,” the recommendation states.
At Tuesday’s meeting, committee members also discussed drafting an ordinance for City Council that would create restrictions on LED lights in public spaces, ensuring they’re not impairing eyesight for drivers or pedestrians.
The committee also plans to recruit more members at events like the Takoma Park Street Festival on October 1. Anyone interested should contact the committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.