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FW: [Stockton_Bicycle_Club] Limit on Bike Events Unconstitutional

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  • fast14riot@comcast.net
    Published Wednesday, October 18, 2006, by the Menlo Park Almanac
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2006
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      Published Wednesday, October 18, 2006, by the Menlo Park Almanac
      >> Woodside town attorney: Limits on bike events unconstitutional
      >> By Andrea Gemmet
      >> Woodside may have to scrap most of its rules that limit charity bike
      >> rides
      >> and other events, now that the town attorney has declared the
      >> restrictions
      >> legally indefensible and unconstitutional.
      >> A town ordinance requires permits for events of 50 or more people on
      >> public
      >> roads, and limits such events to two per month, unless the Town Council
      >> grants special permission. Although the regulation applies to any
      > special
      >> event, it became a lightening rod in the ongoing tension between
      >> residents
      >> and bicyclists after the council refused to perm
      it two charity bike
      > rides
      >> --
      >> benefiting ALS and the South Peninsula Hebrew Day School -- that wanted
      >> to
      >> pass through town.
      >> Gatherings such as demonstrations, marches and even bike rides are
      >> protected
      >> under the Bill of Rights, which guarantees freedom of speech and of
      >> assembly, said Town Attorney Jean Savaree.
      >> "It's a public road, the public has the right to use the road, and
      > groups
      >> of
      >> the public have the right to use the road without any permit requirement
      >> being imposed on them, if they're not impeding traffic or the use of the
      >> roads," Ms. Savaree told the council at its Oct. 10 meeting.
      >> The town can only impose permit requirements if an event will "unduly
      >> impede, obstruct, impair or interfere" with traffic or emergency vehicle
      >> access, she sa
      >> She recommended that the council eliminate the two-per-month limit on
      >> events
      >> and drastically shorten the application timeframe. Under current rules,
      >> permit applications must be made at least 120 days prior to an event and
      >> the
      >> Town Council has 45 days to review the application. That should be
      >> shortened
      >> to several days, or several weeks at most, Ms. Savaree said.
      >> The Town Council and the Bicycle Committee requested the review of the
      >> ordinance, which was adopted in 1988.
      >> Old La Honda Road
      >> The well-attended meeting was packed with members of the Old La Honda
      >> Road
      >> Association who lobbied to preserve a 12-year-old ban on bicycle events
      >> and
      >> any other activities on their treacherous, winding road.
      >> "Old La Honda Road is the mos
      t dangerous road in Woodside, for two
      >> reasons:
      >> the poor configuration of the road and the extremely high volume of any
      >> type
      >> of traffic," said Mary Zvirblis. "You can only fit so many people on a
      >> road
      >> that's only 12 feet wide."
      >> Five association members gave a PowerPoint presentation about the huge
      >> amount of bicycle traffic, unpermitted bike club time trials, and the
      >> fear
      >> that comes from sharing a road that has 33 blind curves and no bike
      >> lanes.
      >> Several people called for more traffic enforcement by sheriff's
      > deputies,
      >> and complained about loud, aggressive, road-blocking bicyclists.
      >> One contrary opinion came from Old La Honda Road resident Eric Risley.
      >> "I think the greatest asset of the road is the bikers," he said. "They
      >> slow
      >> the traffic do
      wn, they keep through-traffic off the road, and they keep
      >> motorcyclists off the road."
      >> Ms. Savaree told the council that a blanket prohibition for Old La Honda
      >> Road would be hard to defend in court, and recommended against it.
      >> Flout the law?
      >> Robert Susk, a former council member, said the town should do everything
      >> it
      >> can to discourage cyclists from riding through Woodside, such as closing
      >> the
      >> elementary school parking lot frequented by weekend riders.
      >> "We're creating a tourist attraction by allowing more and more bike
      >> activities," he said. "I don't believe now is the time to address a
      >> weakening of our ordinance. There have been no challenges (to it)."
      >> Susan Doherty, one of the members of the Woodside Bicycle Committee at
      >> the
      >> meeting, said she knew
      that one group that was denied a permit for a
      >> charity
      >> bike ride prepared a complaint against the town and was ready to bring
      > it
      >> to
      >> a judge, but backed down because they didn't want their next event to be
      >> denied.
      >> Councilman Dave Tanner appeared unimpressed by the threat of lawsuits.
      >> "What if we said, to heck with lawyers and laws, let's just make rules
      >> and
      >> stick with them?" he said. "Would we not have Woodside any longer? Would
      >> we
      >> be spanked?
      >> Councilman Pete Sinclair told a cautionary tale about the state of the
      >> town
      >> when he was first elected to the council 11 years ago.
      >> "There were seven lawsuits against the town. The attitude then was, the
      >> law
      >> be damned, we'll do what's right for the town," he said. "The result was
      t; $150,000 in annual legal fees, no money for infrastructure and the roads
      >> going to pot."
      >> Mr. Sinclair called for more enforcement of traffic laws and stiffer
      >> penalties for scofflaws, a move supported by his colleagues. Councilman
      >> Paul
      >> Goeld said the bike riders drawing the most complaints are the so-called
      >> pack rides, ad hoc groups that ride through town en masse. Pack riders
      >> are
      >> widely criticized for running stop signs, behaving aggressively and
      >> refusing
      >> to let vehicles pass them.
      >> "At the permitted events, those are probably the best-behaved cyclists
      >> out
      >> there," Mr. Goeld said. "You cannot compare the rogue riders with the
      >> permitted charity rides where people want to do things right."
      >> No change yet
      >> For the time being, the special events ordina
      nce remains unchanged.
      >> Council
      >> members directed town staff to gather more information, hire a traffic
      >> engineer, and to return with a draft of a revised ordinance at a future
      >> meeting. Town Manager Susan George estimated it would take at least a
      >> couple
      >> of months before the issue comes back to the council.
      >> "I'm not sure it's worth it to go back and cure the obvious flaws on an
      >> interim basis," she said. "We won't have any more events until May, and
      > I
      >> think that those are already approved. Nothing is pending."
      >> "It seems our legal authority here is pretty limited," said Councilman
      >> Ron
      >> Romines.

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