by Logan Gruber
Joan Skroch, St. Joseph, was leaving Bo Diddley’s in the afternoon on Saturday, Oct. 3. Her granddaughter, Abigail Swanson of Buffalo, 13, left first to hold the door for Skroch. That’s when the bike clipped Swanson.
“If it would’ve been me or a small child, it could’ve broken a bone,” Skroch said in a Newsleader interview. “Abigail didn’t hit her head, but her thigh hit the ground and she couldn’t participate in cross country for about two weeks.”
Skroch said the biker, a young woman, did stop to check on Swanson.
“I don’t want to torment the girl. She was nice, she said ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” Skroch said. “Abigail was crying and I wasn’t thinking so I didn’t get her name . . . but I’m not blaming anybody.”
Skroch doesn’t want to find the biker who clipped Swanson. She just wants to make sure bikes aren’t on the sidewalks outside downtown shops.
“I want people to know bicycles on the downtown sidewalks are a concern…. With the boutique shops and restaurants, it can be pretty busy,” Skroch added.
So Skroch attended the Oct. 5 St. Joseph City Council meeting and was directed to speak to Police Chief Joel Klein.
“I get it,” Klein said in a Newsleader interview. “I’ve heard of it happening, and this is a good time to revisit our ordinances.”
Currently, according to St. Joseph City Ordinance 809, activities involving bicycles, roller skates and skateboards are restricted in certain ways in the downtown area, which is defined as College Avenue between Birch Street and the alley just south of Minnesota Street; Minnesota Street between Second Avenue W. and First Avenue E.; First and Second Avenues NW south of Ash Street; and Ash Street between College Avenue and Second Avenue NW [see map.]
Prohibited activities include riding a bicycle on the sidewalk on the north side of Minnesota Street between College Avenue and First Avenue NW; traveling on roller skates on any street within the defined area, except for the purpose of crossing a street in a crosswalk; riding a skateboard on any street or sidewalk within the defined area.
So, at the moment, people are only legally restricted from riding a bicycle on the sidewalk in one very particular area of this downtown area.
“I’m interested in keeping bicycles off sidewalks in that entire restricted area,” Klein said. “The buildings are very tight together, and there is a lot of vehicle and pedestrian traffic. It’s dangerous.”
Klein said state law permits people to ride bicycles on sidewalks unless a city forbids it directly. But, no matter what, bicyclists do have to yield to pedestrians and follow traffic laws.
Klein said he will make a recommendation to the city council regarding the bicycle issue.