Bicyclists parking on downtown sidewalks may be taking unexpected walks to the police station soon.
Parking on downtown sidewalks is illegal and city council members are considering an ordinance authorizing police to seize the bikes.
Fines would increase from $10 to $20 and owners would have to pick up their bikes within 90 days of the confiscation or the bikes would be disposed of.
Police currently leave tickets on bikes parked illegally if they cannot find the owners but say they frequently deal with repeat offenders.
Police Sgt. Victor Ortiz told council at July 5 there are often complaints about bikes clogging sidewalks and causing hazards to pedestrians, particularly in the winter.
He said the area outside Slow Train Cafe, 55 East College St., is where illegally parked bikes are most often found. Ortiz said police want safe sidewalks, not to confiscate bikes.
“We will make an effort to try to find the owner before we cut chains, cables, or whatever and take the bicycles to the bike barn,” Ortiz said. “The bike barn is quite full right now and we really don’t want to add to that headache.”
Council members and Oberlin officials said Oberlin College students are the biggest offenders.
They said they want to work with college officials to alert students before passing the ordinance and that signage will be added warning bicyclists not to illegally park. A vote won’t occur until after students return next month and are notified of the policy.
However, councilman Scott Broadwell said confiscations will be necessary before students get the message. He said warnings that sidewalk bike riding is illegal are frequently ignored.
“Educational programs very often reach closed ears,” Broadwell said.
While sidewalk parking is discouraged, Oberlin encourages bicycle riding to reduce congestion and pollution.
Posts have been installed in the last couple of months on downtown streets to discourage sidewalk parking and about 20 parking spaces were recently added behind Slow Train.
Nonetheless, councilman Bryan Burgess said more racks are needed. “If we’re going to say that people can’t park their bike on the sidewalk, then we have to provide somewhere else for them to put it,” said Burgess, adding that he supports the ordinance.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.
Evan Goodenow| Oberlin News-Tribune Police Sgt. Victor Ortiz tells Oberlin city council how bikes impeding pedestrian traffic on downtown sidewalks is a frequent complaint.