Athens City Council has created an ordinance that would amend the City of Athens traffic code pertaining, making the penalty for riding a bicycle or skateboard on sidewalks Uptown to an administrative offense and the fine to $30 from the current $20. 

If the offender does not pay the fine, they would be charged with a minor misdemeanor, Councilwoman Michele Papai, D-3rd Ward, said. 

To raise awareness of the new ordinance, the city has put up signage along Court Street. The blue signs reading “walk your wheels” on the sidewalks serve as a reminder of the new changes and repercussions of riding bicycles and skateboards. The signs were placed on Court Street because that is where the safety issues are most prevalent, Papai said.

The ordinance was introduced to council by Councilwoman Chris Fahl, D-4th Ward, and she said implementing those signs did not cost the city any new money. 

“This sort of thing is like a maintenance cost and comes out of the street fund,” Fahl said. “Compared to a person getting plowed over by a bike, it is cheap.”

Papa said accidents have occurred because of people riding bikes or skateboards Uptown.

“This ordinance encompasses Court Street because of heavy pedestrian traffic and complaints from pedestrians, business owners and accidents that have occurred,” Papai said.

The ordinance would also allow non-law enforcement personnel, namely parking enforcement and other city staff, to enforce the code and issue tickets.

At Athens City Council’s Oct. 23 meeting, when it discussed those changes, Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said the city plans to hold an “educational awareness campaign” and issue warnings before charging people.

Fahl said council also plans to spread awareness of those changes through The City of Athens Government Channel.

The code currently bans bicycle and skateboard use on sidewalks Uptown, including Union and Mill streets. The amendments to that ordinance deal with the rules governing the sidewalks, changing violations to an administrative offense and making the fine more expensive. The changes would become effective Jan. 1, 2018.

“It is clearly a safety measure,” Papai said.

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