Despite an ordinance that restricts skateboards and bicycles from being on sidewalks in downtown Eau Claire, the city continues to receive calls related to speeding skateboarders and bicyclists in high-pedestrian areas.
“That’s a big, big issue,” said Councilman Dave Strobel.
The concern over safety on sidewalks was brought up by Strobel as the Eau Claire City Council voted to approve the city’s site plan for Haymarket Plaza, which will be built between Pablo Center at the Confluence and Haymarket Landing at the intersection of Eau Claire Street and Graham Avenue.
Because much of the site will be concrete, city engineer Dave Solberg said, heexpects more skateboard and bicycle traffic at Haymarket Plaza once it’s constructed.
“Haymarket Plaza will appear to be much more skateboard friendly (than Phoenix Park),” he said. “It’ll have less grass with more concrete features and be flatter.”
That could become an issue as pedestrian traffic mingles with skateboarders and bicyclists, which Solberg said is an issue in other parts of the city.
“I’ve taken a lot of comments with Barstow Street, Water Street and Madison Street with bikes and skateboards,” Solberg said. “The issue was speed on wheels for both of those on sidewalks — they’re going down a busy street and run the risk of hitting somebody.”
That already happened to Strobel, who said he “almost got run over” by a skateboarder as he left his insurance agency at 130 S. Barstow St. He said his staff member was knocked into a wall by a bicyclist.
But Strobel said speed is a nonfactor, maintaining the bicyclists and skateboarders shouldn’t be on the sidewalks at all.
According to a city ordinance, skateboards and similar equipment are prohibited on sidewalks in a primarily commercial area, and skateboarders and other skaters are required to yield to other pedestrians.
Bicycling on sidewalks is generally allowed except in most downtown and Water Street areas, which the ordinance says is “in an effort to protect public safety and enhance walkability in certain areas.”
Those areas include parts of the Central Business District areas, most of the Water Street district and the Madison Street to Bellinger Street district.
Solberg said the city would likely work with the city’s bicycle/pedestrian advisory committee and the Waterways and Parks Commission to solve the problem, whether it’s signs enforcing regulations or speed zones.
Strobel said he would like to see signs for no skateboarding and bike dismount zones at Haymarket Plaza site to discourage use in those high-pedestrian areas.
“Someone’s got to enforce it,” he added. “I don’t know who that is. Everybody has other things to do.”
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