On Monday night, the Iola City Council voted 8-0 to eliminate mandatory bicycle registration in their community, and to eliminate a ban on riding bicycles on sidewalks.
Previously, the registration ordinance read:
It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a bicycle within the city, without having registered the bicycle and having an unexpired license therefor. Such registration shall be with, and license shall be procured from, the city chief of police. The city shall furnish to every owner whose bicycle shall be registered, one number plate or tag for each bicycle, and the tag or plate shall be displayed on the bicycle to which it is assigned during the current registration year in such a manner as to be clearly visible from the rear of such bicycle.
The problem with the wording of the ordinance was that it applied to both residents and visitors. Presumably, if a bicyclist were to visit Iola (via the Prairie Spirit Trail, perhaps), they’d need to go to the police station to register their bicycle, or be in violation of the law.
In practice, the law was not enforced, but as we’ve discussed previously, simply having the law on the books leaves bicyclists vulnerable to abuse and compromising of legal rights. Plus, it’s a pretty unfriendly and counter-productive policy for a city that is trying to promote tourism and make itself appealing to active travelers.
This issue was particularly acute in Iola, due to its position at the southern end of the Prairie Spirit Trail. The trail brings a lot of visiting cyclists to town, and those visitors would have no idea that they were breaking the law by not registering their bikes.
The new ordinance, which goes into effect upon publication in The Iola Register, amends the city code as follows:
Sec. 90-142. Registration
Any resident of the City of Iola can register their bicycle with the Iola Police Department during normal business hours. Registration is not required but is highly recommended. There are no fees for bicycle registration.
So the mandatory registration is gone!
But it’s certainly not a bad idea to register your bicycle anyway, to aid in recovery in case of theft.
Riding Bicycles on Sidewalks in Iola
The ordinance also updates Iola’s sidewalk bicycling statutes. Previously, the city code (#90-143) read “It shall be unlawful for any person to ride a bicycle on the sidewalks within the corporate limits of the city.”
Many communities ban bicycle riding on sidewalks within their historic downtowns, but Iola was one of only a few cities in the state to ban bicycles on all sidewalks in the city.
The new code reads:
Sec. 90-143. Bicycles and human-powered vehicles on sidewalks.
(a) A person operating a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.
(b) A person operating a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.
(c) Bicycles may be ridden upon sidewalks in the central business district. Riders should exercise special caution to prevent conflicts, avoid areas close to store entrances, yield to pedestrians, and walk bicycles in congested areas.
Sec. 90-144. Parking of bicycles.
It is unlawful for any person to park or leave a bicycle on public property where such bicycle blocks pedestrian travel or presents a traffic hazard.
So, essentially, riding bicycles on sidewalks is now permissible anywhere in the city.
The two kids who were riding on the sidewalk along US-54 Highway in Iola were breaking the law back in 2008, when the Google Streetview camera came through town, but from now on they can ride on sidewalks without being scofflaws!
Other News From Iola
- Volunteers with Thrive Allen County are continuing work on a rail-to-trail project between Iola and Humboldt. The trail will be known as the “Southwind Rail Trail, and they’re aiming for an April grand opening. The Iola and Humboldt Rotary Clubs are hoping to build a shelter at the midway point, pending grant funding.
- The city of Iola is considering bike lanes to connect the Prairie Spirit Trail to downtown, to encourage cyclists to visit shops, restaurants, and museums in the historic square.
- The City of Iola is conducting a public survey to “be used by City leaders to make planning and investment decisions,” and there are several questions relating to walking and bicycling. The survey is not limited to residents, so feel free to voice your opinions: take the Iola survey. The survey closes on January 23rd.
- Thrive Allen County is applying for a grant to help fund a bike-share program in Iola, with approximately 30 bikes to be available initially.
- Iola has a number of running events, including the Mad Bomber Run (the largest race in southeast Kansas, with over 1500 participating last year) and the Portland Alley Marathon, connecting Iola, Humboldt, and Chanute, and commemorating the area’s rich heritage of Portland cement production since the early 20th century. Cycling events are being considered as well.
I’ve been aware of the mandatory bicycle registration law in Iola for some time, and in October, I visited Iola, looking to confirm the law and search for advocates to help overturn it. The trip was a success. I did indeed confirm the law with the Iola Police (though they told me that I didn’t need to register my bike since the law wasn’t enforced). I then met with David Toland, who is the executive director for Thrive Allen County, an organization that is working to improve the health of Iola and other communities in the county.
David wasn’t aware of the bicycle registration law (or the sidewalk cycling ban), but informed me that he’d recently been appointed to the city council, and would take up the issues with the chief of police, city attorney, and the council. And just like that, I’d found my champion. That was easy!
True to his word, David followed through, and had the proposed ordinance ready to go by the end of the year. And now it’s law.
It’s wonderful to see another community in Kansas become more bicycle friendly!
As far as I’m aware, there are now only two Kansas communities with mandatory bicycle registration laws that apply to both residents and visitors: Augusta (see city code 14-402, 14-403) and Great Bend (city code 10.28.010).