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Gaining momentum

The Denton Record-Chronicle: Gaining momentum

More than 2,000 people sign petition against Bartonville ordinance

11:13 PM CDT on Wednesday, September 1, 2010
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer

BARTONVILLE — Area bicyclists have launched a statewide petition drive, hoping to keep other cities from adopting rules like Bartonville’s new ordinance, which limits the size of bicycling groups riding through town.

More than 2,000 people have signed the petition denouncing the ordinance, according to Robin Stallings, executive director of Bike Texas. The petition went online Aug. 25. About 20 percent of the signatures were gathered at the Hotter’N Hell Hundred bike races in Wichita Falls last weekend.

“Most of those names are from North Texas,” Stallings said. The group plans to leave the petition up a while longer, since the signatures, so far, have come so quickly.

On the Bike Texas website, www.biketexas.org, the petition says, in part, “We oppose all efforts by any government entity in Texas to pass laws or ordinances that selectively prohibit or constrain operation of a bicycle on Texas roadways.”

After adopting the ordinance in June, Bartonville now requires groups of 10 or more to apply for a $50 rally permit to use Bartonville’s roads, whether it is a group of runners, walkers, bikers or people on motorized or non-motorized vehicles holding or training for an event.

According to Mayor Ron Robertson, no single incident triggered the new ordinance.

“It’s been ongoing abuse,” Robertson said. Local police have observed cyclists running stop signs, urinating behind Town Hall and riding more than two abreast and impeding traffic.

He said he’s a little embarrassed by the attention the town has received because of the ordinance.

“We’ve got a lot of kudos and a lot of people that have cussed us up, but we’ll get by,” Robertson said.

Bartonville has not issued any tickets on the new ordinance, according to Police Chief Dave Howell.

Constitutional questions surround the requirements, which could be challenged on the right of free assembly, Stallings said. In addition, common law has long given everyone the right to use public roadways.

“Whether it’s the royal carriage or a donkey cart, we all have the right to use the public roads,” Stallings said.

Bob Chaplin, a bicycle safety instructor who rides with the Carrollton Cycling Club, said there probably aren’t too many cyclists who want to take the chance of getting a ticket in order to test the ordinance.

“My personal assessment is that I’d lose to the municipal judge, and the county court, and probably go through two or three levels of state court to rule whether it’s constitutional,” Chaplin said. “That’s not in my budget.”

Neither is the rally permit price, he said, though he has applied for one already. Chaplin rides routes that can be between 45 and 65 miles long and traverse five or six cities.

“If you had to get a $50 permit in all of those cities, it would be a real hardship,” he said.

Robertson described Bartonville’s roads, without shoulders and lined by borrow ditches, as unsafe, while Chaplin said cyclists see them as a safe route to get from places such as Lake Grapevine to Robson Ranch or southern Denton.

Most groups of riders form pods of nine or fewer riders and spread out as they approach Bartonville, he said. Meanwhile, bike groups are working on a long-term strategy to address the problem.

Marc Mumby, president of BikeDFW, said the group has been working to get the word out to cycling groups how important it is to follow the rules and “be nice,” even though it’s likely that the cyclists who cause problems don’t ride with local clubs.

They have been holding “interventions” near the town limits, Mumby said, handing out cards to cyclists to remind them of the rules of the road.

Cyclists can ride two abreast, but they cannot impede traffic. Both town officials and cyclists agree that Bartonville’s roads have blind hills and curves that make it challenging for vehicles to pass.

Bob Pinard of Infinity Cycling Club in Flower Mound said there’s a flaw in the logic of the new rule.

“Most of these problems they’ve described have nothing to do with the size of the group,” Pinard said, adding that riding two abreast makes it safer for everyone on the road.

He finds most drivers are respectful and pass with care. Cyclists can go a long way to foster good feelings by doing such things as motioning when it’s safe to pass, he said.

“The bottom line is, that motorist is going to pass — whether it’s a safe pass or an unsafe pass, that’s the question,” Pinard said.