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Brainerd City Council: City changes rules regulating bicycles

Bicycle riders now may share Brainerd’s sidewalks legally with pedestrians after the Brainerd City Council changed its rules Monday.

The ordinance regulating bicycles came before the council on a night when the room was full to standing room only with students taking in local government. The motion passed 5-1 with Council President Mary Koep opposed. Council member Kevin Goedker was absent from the council meeting but was present for the personnel and finance committee meeting.

Jeff Hulsether, city engineer, said the city’s old ordinance was outdated and outlawed the riding of bikes on city sidewalks unless the bike rider was younger than 12 or delivering a newspaper.

Monday’s vote eliminated the existing ordinance and replaced it with a new one allowing bike riding on sidewalks. However, the new ordinance states bike riders are to give the right of way to the pedestrian. Violating the city ordinance is a petty misdemeanor.

Special note was made of the city’s downtown district where bike riders would be required to walk their bikes instead of riding on the sidewalk. Participants at a Feb. 2 Brainerd Main Street Committee meeting supported the change and requested signs to mark the policy in the district.

Hulsether reported it would cost about $150 plus labor for five signs in the downtown district.

The Central Business District runs from Front Street to the north to the west side of South Eighth Street on the east to Maple Street on the south and the east side of South Sixth Street on the west.

Koep said it was unfair for people who are handicapped and older residents who have almost no other place to walk than a sidewalk. While the ordinance calls for the bike to give way to the pedestrian, Koep said after the walker is knocked down and the bike has passed it will be difficult to catch them. She said the ordinance will be impossible to enforce and the change represents favoritism to bicycles.

“I just think this is a terribly, poorly thought-out ordinance,” Koep said, adding it doesn’t recognize an aging population and it absolutely gives them no respect to use the sidewalk safely. “I think it’s only a matter of time until there will be a bad accident.”

Council member Bob Olson said staff took the task seriously and explored ordinances in other cities. While this ordinance may not be perfect it is better than what the city had before, Olson said. He said he was sympathetic to senior citizens and the youths, noting it can be dangerous at times to ride a bicycle on the streets, too.

Council member Lucy Nesheim said as a practice pedestrians and bicyclists have shared the sidewalks in the city for years. The new ordinance now makes what has been going on already legal and looks out for both walkers and bikers.

In other business, the council:

Learned four individuals successfully completed their one-year probationary period with the Brainerd Fire Department. Greg Amundson, Matt Cordes, Chris Groenwold and Jonathon LeMieur were hired as paid on-call firefighters on Feb. 4.

Approved a joint powers agreement with the state related to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Brainerd Police Investigator Craig Katzenberger was accepted to join the Minnesota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Police Chief Corky McQuiston reported in writing that more than 80 other law enforcement agencies in the state joined the task force aimed at protecting children from online predators. On the task force, Katzenberger will receive specialized training. A federal grant comes with the agreement to pay for equipment, training and overtime that may come with investigations.

Heard the park board awarded Sawyer Timber, Backus, the contract for a selective tree cutting on 41 acres in Trailside Park, which is north and west of the Paul Bunyan Trail by the park. Sawyer Timber’s bid was $21,840. Trailside Park is off Beaver Dam Road.

The timber is expected to be cut next winter. The DNR will receive 13 percent of the timber sale for developing the selective tree cutting plan. A second selective tree cutting is planned later south of the trail. The park board also voted not to allow canopies larger than 12 feet by 12 feet in any of the city’s parks.

Learned the Brainerd Fire Department responded to 46 calls in January with an approximate dollar loss of $450,000.

Called for applicants to the transportation committee with two positions with terms to expire Dec. 31, 2013 and one position on the library board with a term to expire Dec. 31, 2017.

Adjourned to a 4:30 p.m. Tuesday meeting at the County Land Services Meeting Room Number One and to a joint meeting of the council and Housing and Redevelopment Authority Board at 6 p.m. Feb. 13 at city hall.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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