Longmont City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a revised version of an ordinance creating a mandatory downtown bicycle dismount zone.
Under modifications proposed by city staff, the measure now will require people to get off their bicycles, skateboards and scooters and walk when they’re on sidewalks on the east side of Main Street between Second and Longs Peak avenues or on the west side of Main between Third and Longs Peak avenues.
An earlier version of the mandatory dismount measure, one that got initial City Council approval July 14, would have applied to all sidewalks on either side of Main between First and Longs Peak avenues.
Moreover, the final version of the ordinance will now take effect Jan. 1. The earlier version would have taken effect Aug. 10.
City Transportation Planning Manager Phil Greenwald said in a Tuesday afternoon email before Tuesday night’s City Council meeting that the modifications to the originally proposed ordinance were being recommended after the organization Bicycle Longmont asked the Longmont Downtown Development Authority and city staff to reconsider the boundaries of the dismount zone.
Bicycle Longmont argued that part of the dismount zone included a regional bus stop at the west side of Third Avenue and Main Street and part of the city’s current St. Vrain Greenway detour from First to Second avenues, also on the west side of Main.
“We also have a new enhanced multi-use corridor, wider sidewalk for bikes and pedestrians, associated with the new South Main Station on Second Avenue, so there would be a gap in bicycles having to dismount for a one-block section on the east side of Main between First and Second avenues,” Greenwald said in his email.
Greenwald wrote, “The bigger issue was how to keep a dismount zone for the businesses with entrances/exits directly on the Main Street sidewalk, while also providing a ‘bicycle friendly’ downtown area.”
Greenwald said that prior to the Jan. 1 effective date of the downtown sidewalk dismount mandate, Longmont will install bike routing signs, small green signs with arrows, to direct bicyclists around the dismount zone to the alleys behind those Main Street blocks.
When it does take effect, the dismount ordinance will apply only to the sidewalks along its specified blocks on Main Street, not to the alleys. It will also not apply to the mid-block pedestrian breezeways between Main and the alleys.
Greenwald said delaying the ordinance’s effective date “gives the city time to install proper signage, create some education materials, and hopefully have enforcement staff, downtown rangers, in place.”
The final version of the ordinance getting Council approval still carries a possible fine of up to $300 as a penalty for anyone ticketed and convicted of violating it, but Longmont staff has said the city intends to start with warnings and an education outreach program before proceeding to issue summonses.
Councilwoman Polly Christensen objected to the ordinance’s statement of a $300 maximum fine without also stating lesser possible penalties, such as a warning for a first offense and $25 for a second offense. She did not make a motion to amend the measure, however.
Christensen did make what turned out to be an unsuccessful motion to have the dismount zone include the same blocks on both sides of Main, which would have imposed it on both the east and west sides of Main between Second and Longs Peak avenues.
“The dismount zone should be the same on both sides, or it will be confusing to people,” she said.
But Councilman Tim Waters said the modifications to the stretches of Main the staff was recommending in the latest version of the ordinance reflect the wishes of the Longmont cycling community, which he suggested would be most affected by the dismount zone.
If the Council were to depart from the staff recommendations that were reached after staff met with Bicycle Longmont, that would amount to sending a message to the local cycling community “that we know more abut what makes sense for them” than they do, Waters said.
Earlier during the Council meeting, Bicycle Longmont board member Scott Conlin called in during a public-comment opportunity, expressing his support for the compromise version.
Conlin said the delayed implementation date for the measure “will give us time to educate the public” about the new dismount law.
Another calller, though, disagreed with the potential fine, saying it could disproportionately affect low-income residents. He also said the way the measure was being implemented says that “bikes are unwelcome” downtown.
Christensen’s motion to have the same dismount zone length on both sides of Main failed, on a 3-4 vote. Supporting it were Councilwomen Joan Peck and Susie Hidalgo-Fahring. Opposing it were Waters, Councilman Aren Rodriguez, Councilwoman Marcia Martin and Mayor Bryan Bagley.
Christensen then voted, though, with all her colleagues, in voting for the ordinance with the modifications in the compromise reached.
The mandatory dismount zone will replace a voluntary downtown dismount zone the city put in place in 2013 along Main Street between Third and Sixth avenues.