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Panel to consider bicyclists versus pedestrians on Sparks Marina path
by Nathan Orme - Tribune editor
Apr 25, 2012 | 1291 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Nathan Orme - Walkers use the Sparks Marina path on Tuesday.
Tribune/Nathan Orme - Walkers use the Sparks Marina path on Tuesday.
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SPARKS — Troublesome bikers are usually thought of as being dressed in lots of leather with tattoos and roaring engines. The bikers in spandex whooshing by on pedal-powered two-wheelers don’t typically get the bad rap.

But they will be the topic of a conversation today at a meeting of the Sparks Parks & Recreation Commission. In response to two specific complaints, city leaders will discuss whether the issue is a problem along the trail surrounding the Sparks Marina and, if so, what to do about it.

The concern about bicyclists posing a threat to pedestrians arose from a letter sent to the Reno Gazette-Journal, according to city Parks & Recreation Director Tracy Domingues, from a woman who claimed that a bicyclist caused her to fall and break a hip. The issue was then brought up again in an opinion column written by Sparks resident David Farside and published Feb. 14 in the Sparks Tribune. (Farside is a weekly columnist on the Tribune’s opinion page.)

“I believe that bicycles should be prohibited,” Farside said Tuesday. “The walkways should be pedestrian-friendly.”

Domingues said the two-mile path was built with the intent of being for multiple types of users. Recreation supervisor Tony Pehle, who has been with the city for 19 years and has been in charge of the marina for the last two, said these are the first complaints he has heard about the issue. To this point, he said, all kinds of users — whether on foot or on bicycle, walking dogs or pushing strollers — have occupied the trail in harmony with only occasional individual complaints.

Farside said his main safety concern stems from bicycle riders who use the Sparks Marina Park as a “training ground” and pedestrians like “orange cones.” Even yelling “behind you” or “to your right” is inadequate for safety since so many pedestrians use headphones to listen to music and can’t hear the bicyclists’ warning, he said.

Domingues will present a variety of options at today’s meeting for discussion, but she said Tuesday that each of them has enforcement difficulties. Eliminate all wheeled vehicles? What about parents with children in strollers or people in wheelchairs, Domingues said. Enact a speed limit or an age limit? How can those be enforced?

Currently, Pehle said, one park ranger is on patrol at the marina during daylight hours all year. He said he asked the rangers to give a gauge of the bicyclist issue, and they estimated about 5 percent of all users at the marina are on bicycles. During the summer months, Pehle said, bicyclists all but disappear because the trail is too crowded with walkers for them.

As a compromise to prohibiting all bicyclists, Farside said he would support creating a lane for bicyclists and skateboarders. Anyone caught in the wrong lane would be ticketed, he said.

Domingues said the trail is wide enough for all users and that her goal is to let the public to know that pedestrians have the right of way.

“I don’t think any user on a multi-user path follows all the rules,” Domingues said. “Not everyone picks up after their dog, not everyone can ride their bike in a straight line. That is a very heavily used park so I think it is time to re-educate public that it is multi-use and who has priority.”

“Situations like this always seem to wait until someone gets killed or hurt,” Farside said. “I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Today’s meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at 745 Fourth St.
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