Bikes, skates declared ‘public nuisances’ and banned inside Lenexa City Center

Bicycles, rollerblades, scooters and skateboards have been declared a “public nuisance” within a portion of Lenexa’s showpiece of walkability and new urbanism, the City Center development.

After a lengthy discussion and much angst on Aug. 15, the eight-member council approved an ordinance that banned the use of such wheels within the sidewalk perimeter of the civic campus because of concerns about youths riding bikes down parking garage ramps and damaging the outdoor plaza with their skateboards. The civic campus is an area that includes the recently opened recreation center, city hall offices and a public market which will have vendors. Those buildings surround an open plaza and fountain. Under the new rule, bikes can be ridden on sidewalks on the outside edge of the area, but must be walked once inside. The vote got the council off to an awkward start with iBike Lenexa, a newly formed group of bicycle advocates who have been pushing for more bike infrastructure and have become active in the city election this year.

Some council members strongly objected to the wording and stressed that cyclists are welcome at the center, but still voted for the ordinance, citing concerns about safety.

The vote disappointed members of the group. They had hoped for a delay so they could have input. They succeeded in getting it removed from the consent agenda of non-controversial items, but the vote went ahead as planned, with no public comments until afterward.

“The council’s actions speak louder than their words,” said Jeff Carroll, who started the group.  “Lenexa already has a reputation across the city as being unfriendly to cyclists. I think this was a missed opportunity to start to change that perception. I also think it’s a missed opportunity to establish City Center as a destination for cyclists. Cyclists will continue to look to other areas of the city that are actively supporting bicycle infrastructure.”

Those in favor of the ordinance insisted the city wants to welcome and encourage bicycling. But city staffers said they’d seen youths riding skateboards and bikes in the garage and damaging some of the plaza fixtures.

City Administrator Eric Wade said bike riding in the plaza is a safety hazard.

“If people walk in with food and someone goes zipping by and distracts them and they spill food out on the concourse, that’s not the experience we’re trying to give them,” he told the council.

Council member Joe Karlin said people discussing the proposal on social media misunderstood the ordinance.

“We want to make Lenexa as bike friendly as we possibly can,” he said. “In no way do we want to limit it. We just want it done in a safe manner.”

(Read more: KC Star Local News)