Anna Hewlett Bicycle Safety Ordinance Councilman Bob Norman put the brakes on bringing the Bicycle Safe Passing Ordinance up for a vote at the Tuesday night City Council meeting. The vote on the proposed ordinance that would require motorists to stay at least 3 feet away when passing cyclists on the road has been delayed until the council’s next meeting on Oct. 4. The council also approved updates for the city flood damage plan and accepted a contract to purchase a new street sweeper. The Auburn Bicycle Committee has been continuously fighting to get a law passed that will bring the importance of bicycle safety to the public’s attention, but because the law will not be easily enforceable, Norman does not see the point. “I’m just not so sure it is the common sense thing to do to pass an ordinance that’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce,” said Norman. Norman’s biggest worry is that all the different types of roads within the city limits, which include state roads, county roads and city streets, will further complicate enforcement of the ordinance. The councilman’s strong opposition to the law seems to mainly stem from personal experience. “My wife has particularly had problems with bicyclists out on the highway three or four abreast holding up traffic,” Norman stated. “Also, my daughter owns a house on Gay Street, and she can’t park out in front of her house at certain times of day because of the bike lanes.”
While Norman believes the bicycle issue should be handled on the state level, Councilman Dick Phelan feels differently. “I agree that it’s going to be hard to enforce this ordinance,” Phelan explained. “On the other hand, when you’re riding a bike and somebody comes up right behind you and honks and passes you by no more than 6 or 12 inches…that is not pleasant.” Phelan pointed out that Auburn has already made progress in bicycle safety and that the ordinance would not need to be enforced on roads that already have bike lanes, like Analue Drive, Samford Avenue and Gay Street. “I don’t see us ever bringing anybody to the municipal judge or city attorney unless there’s an accident, but at least it alerts the public,” Phelan stated. According to an article in the Opelika-Auburn News, the push for bicycle safety began after local cyclist Ty Garner was struck by a car in 2009 on Shug Jordan Parkway, which does not have bike lanes. In other business, the council voted unanimously to adopt an update to the city flood prevention and damage plan. According to a city press release, the City of Auburn has worked closely with Lee County and FEMA to update the flood insurance rate map and revise flood plan measures. Councilwoman Shelia Eckman suggested a public relations effort to let citizens know they only have a certain amount of time left to purchase flood insurance at a lower rate. Councilman Gene Dulaney was also concerned about public awareness of the issue. “We do need to make every effort we can to make sure everyone knows,” Dulaney said.
The council also approved the purchase of a new Schwarze M6000 street sweeper for $178,834.