Topeka considering changing bike speed ordinance

While the snow does not make for good bike riding conditions, the Topeka City Council could be changing the speed that bicyclists can go on sidewalks.

Riders say an ordinance already in place is just not practical.

“It seems kind of silly unless there are pedestrians and you want to yield to the pedestrians,” said Chris Armstrong, manager of Capp’s Bike Shop.

For years now, the City of Topeka has had a speed limit for how fast you can go with a bicycle on city sidewalks. Only allowing bikes to go 5 miles per hour.

“To almost balance at 5 miles an hour can be tricky for most riders,” said Armstrong.

But now, thanks to a proposed city ordinance that could all change.

“Instead of having the 5 mile per hour, you could ride faster or slower depending on if there were no pedestrians there, or if it were raining, you might be going slower. It doesn’t give you a limit, instead it lets you decide what’s good for these conditions,” said Julie Anderson, City of Topeka Multi-Modal Planner.

Part of the reason for the change, is it is near impossible for anyone to keep track of the speed limit.

“I commute into the downtown areas by bicycle, i use the trails frequently and you know there are just some places where it is really not safe to operate your bicycle on a narrow or crowded street, and a short jaunt on a sidewalk really makes it quite sage,” said Nick Xidis, bike rider.

Most bikers stick to the streets anyways, but there are times that they have to coast off the streets and onto a sidewalk.

“I would say anytime someone is riding on a busy street, like I would obviously stay off 29th street and streets like that, so i am all for someone getting off the traffic and then staying on the sidewalks to be safer for them and safer for the drivers,” said Armstrong.

The new ordinance would include all city sidewalks except for the central business district.

The city’s Public Health and Safety Committee decided to make no changes on the proposed ordinance and send it back to the council for a second discussion. There is no set date on when the ordinance will be back on the agenda, but it could be on April 8th, or anytime after that.

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