Valatie law would put brakes on sidewalk bike riders

VALATIE–The Village Board reviewed a proposed law last week to regulate the use of bicycles and wheeled devices, like skate boards and roller blades, on Main Street.

Village Attorney Rob Fitzsimmons said at the August 13 meeting that he looked at the laws other municipalities have to keep bike riders off the sidewalks. There is no state law about riding bikes on sidewalks; the state leaves the regulation of bike riding on sidewalks to individual municipalities.

At the last few Village Board meetings, Randall Schmitt, a Main Street resident and president of VERA (Valatie Economic Redevelopment Association) has talked about bicyclists riding down the street. At an earlier meeting Mr. Schmitt said he was hit by one rider. At a meeting in July, Lisa Hill, a business owner on Main Street, was quoted in the minutes saying that bike riders on Main Street are “a huge problem.” Both Mr. Schmitt and Ms. Hill said they had called sheriff’s deputies about this issue, mostly about kids riding bikes.

The board asked Mr. Fitzsimmons to draft a local law and the proposal he presented to the board at the August meeting says in part, “no person shall ride a bicycle, skateboard, non-motorized scooter, or use roller blades or other wheeled devices upon the sidewalk along Main Street between the intersection of New Street and Main Street and the intersection of Lake Street and Main Street. In such locations, bicycles may be walked along the sidewalk.”

Part of the law also says that no person shall ride a bike or other wheeled device “upon any other public sidewalk within the Village of Valatie in a manner that is unsafe for pedestrians” and that all riders “on a public highway or village roadway shall be equipped, maintained and operated in compliance with the Vehicle and Traffic Law of the State of New York.”

According to Mr. Fitzsimmon, the state law does establish rules and regulations regarding safe operation of bikes and requires the use of helmets by riders at or below a certain age. State law also says that bike riders must follow traffic laws when on the road, which require stopping at stop signs and traffic lights.

As for the village law, if a bicyclist violates the proposed law, fines would be $25 for the first violation within a year, “a sum not to exceed $50 for the second violation within one year” and a sum not to exceed $100 for the third and more violations within one year.

The board will have to hold a public hearing and vote on the proposed law before it could take effect.

Mr. Fitzsimmons did mention in the law that “bicycles are used for recreation and neighborhood transportation; the village acknowledges the Albany-Hudson Electric Trail passes through the Village of Valatie and will bring bicycle traffic.”

The trail is a 35 mile state-funded bike and walking trail that runs through part of the village and is now under construction.

One resident asked about having an age limit on the law, using his young granddaughter riding her tricycle on Main Street as an example. Mr. Fitzsimmons said that if the law has an age limit it could be considered age discrimination. He said giving out tickets to violators “boils down to police discretion.”

“I think we should table it until next month when the business community can comment on it,” Mayor Diane Argyle said of the proposed law. The board did not set a public hearing date.

Also at the August 13 meeting the board had a long discussion with members of the Valatie Community Theatre Board about the building on Main Street. The village owns the structure but the theater board runs the performances and has been working on upgrades to the building.

Peter Bujanow, a candidate for Town of Kinderhook supervisor, recommended the theater board meet with Mark Thaler, an architect who works in historic preservation. Theater board members told the Village Board that Mr. Thaler toured the theater and in a letter sent to Mr. Bujanow said that while he was asked to look into a leak in one wall, “while on-site I noticed a number of issues that should be addressed with the building.”

Mr, Thaler recommended a “complete existing conditions survey… to identify all the building’s problems of repair which should be addressed in the coming years. Such a report could be funded in large part through grant programs administered through the Preservation League of New York State.”

Mr. Bujanow presented the letter to the board and said he would help with the grant process. He also said there might be at least two grants to consider.

The mayor asked Mr. Bujanow to work with the theater board on the grant process. Mr. Bujanow said that the grant application would most likely have to come from the village, since it is a village building.

There was more discussion on maintaining the landscaping in front of the theater. Theater board member Tom Barber asked if the village could add the theater to the general landscaping maintenance the village contracts for.

Trustee Frank Bevens said the board should maintain the landscaping since it’s a village building. Trustee David Williams talked about supporting the theater, but he said funding for the theater through the village would be an issue.

“Some encouragement and support would mean a lot,” said Craig Hancock, a theater board member.

The next Village Board meeting will be Tuesday, September 10 at 7 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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