Some bicyclists will be cited, most will get a lecture on laws and safety
By Don Nelson
Spend any amount of time in Winthrop and you’ll hear the complaints about bicyclists.
They don’t obey the laws, which require that they observe the same rules of the road as motorized vehicles. They blast through the four-way stop, menace pedestrians, clog up narrow Riverside Avenue, and don’t spend any money.
All of which of course is an exaggeration fueled by the bad behavior of a few and the crankiness of some four-wheel vehicle devotees. And since most bicyclists bring their bikes with them rather than ride them through town from somewhere, and are consequently staying in local lodging and paying for meals, the economic argument doesn’t carry much weight.
So how to keep the peace among motorists, downtown businesspeople, town residents and visitors on two wheels?
Winthrop Marshal Rikki Schwab told the Town Council last week that she and her deputies will focus on education and awareness rather than writing an excessive number of tickets this summer. The town’s law enforcement officers will stop violators and ticket egregious behavior, but most wayward bikers will get a pamphlet and a lecture about bicycle safety and courtesy.
“We don’t want to profile people on bikes,” Schwab said. She pointed out that alienating bicyclists could have a negative affect on the town’s business community. But the Marshal’s Office will continue to monitor the situation and be prepared to change tactics if necessary, she said.
Schwab noted that the town doesn’t have a separate code relating to bicycles so will rely on applicable state laws.
Council member Rick Northcott said he’s heard too many stories about bicyclists “zipping through the stop sign,” adding that “we need to make them aware” of the laws.
Council member Vern Herrst said he doesn’t think the town needs its own bicycle-related ordinances. “We can use the laws on the books,” he said. “If they run the stop sign, pull them over.”
“We’re going to remind people that they need to follow the rules of the road,” Schwab said after the meeting.
In other business, the council:
• Learned that the sale of town property next to the shops on Bluff Street to Aero Methow Rescue Service has closed.
• Approved a contract with Shea Carr Jewel Inc. as a consultant on the Bluff Street improvement project.
• Were reassured by Mayor Sue Langdalen that the town is working on a disaster preparedness plan to be better prepared for emergencies such as those caused by last summer’s Carlton Complex Fire.
• Learned that local metal artist Barry Stromberger will be building the new metal shades that will be used to reduce glare from streetlights near the Winthrop Barn.