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Bicyclists bemoan 'car town' attitude at meeting

The Wichita Eagle: Bicyclists bemoan 'car town' attitude at meeting

BY TIM POTTER
The Wichita Eagle

The specific purpose of a gathering Tuesday night was to gain public comment on proposed changes in Wichita's bicycle ordinance.

But one of the clearest sentiments centered on a more general opinion: that Wichita remains a "car town" that behaves meanly toward bicyclists.

The opinion was not surprising considering that many of the 25 or so people who gathered at the Wichita Water Center appeared to be regular bicyclists, judging from their comments and, in a number of cases, based on their sinewy legs, exposed by shorts.

They complained about a lack of bicycle racks, about bike paths "that go nowhere" and about motorists who don't considerately share the road.

When someone said that bicyclists and motorists should cooperate, one bicyclist responded, "But they don't like to cooperate with us."

Echoing similar comments, City Council member Janet Miller said, "There are still bicycle haters."

Miller and fellow council member Lavonta Williams said the city is working step by step to make Wichita streets and paths more inviting to bicyclists, with more bike lanes as one planned step.

"I think we've come a long way" toward making way for more walkable and bikeable streets, Williams said.

The proposed ordinance changes, which could be voted on next month, are less restrictive than what is in place now, Miller said.

For example, bicyclists would no longer have to ride within 5 feet of the right curb, bicycle licenses wouldn't be required and a bicyclist wouldn't get in trouble for not using a bike rack as long as he isn't blocking pedestrians.

The new law would require bicyclists on a normal two-way road to stay as close to the right side of the street "as practicable," said police Lt. Darras Delamaide.

Police officers seldom write bicycle-related tickets now, and officers aren't likely to write many more under the proposals, Delamaide said. Still, he said later, officers would still enforce the law when they could.

One man attending the meeting, Larry Ross, read a statement saying, in part: "Fatal bicycle accidents are a major concern to everyone in this room.... These proposed bicycle ordinance changes do not resolve this problem."

There needs to be more public comment gathered before the council votes on the changes, Ross said.