Bellows Falls warns against bikes on sidewalks downtown

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BELLOWS FALLS — Bellows Falls has a little-known ordinance that prohibits people — including children — from riding bicycles on the sidewalks in The Square downtown.

Village President Deborah Wright said a couple of recent near-misses prompted her to call for enforcement to prevent a bicyclist from running into a pedestrian.

"We're still getting a lot of bicyclists riding on sidewalks and we need to be concerned about that," she told fellow members of the Bellows Falls Village Trustees earlier this week.

Village Police Chief Ron Lake said he personally didn't believe children on bicycles should be forced off the sidewalk into the road.

"We don't do enforcement," he said. "A 12-year-old in the street is very dangerous. I'd rather have them on the sidewalk."

The chief offered to organize public service announcements or programs on Falls Area Community TV.

There isn't enough space in The Square for a bike lane, said Trustee Jonathan Wright, who suggested stenciling on the sidewalks to address the problem.

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One alternative is for bicyclists to get off their bikes and walk through the downtown area, Wright said.

Municipal Manager Wendy Harrison said the village and the town of Rockingham will work with the Bellows Falls Bike Project and come up with signs saying to walk bikes through downtown and stay off sidewalks.

"Yes, there's an ordinance. We will work to remedy it," Harrison said. "It's a courtesy and behavior we have to work on."

Signs urging bicyclists to walk their bikes through the Square would be a help, Wright said.

"Here's hoping and praying it does work," said Lake, the police chief. "I don't want to put a child in the street. I'm going to chase adults off the sidewalk."

The first offense of violating the village sidewalk ordinance is $58, Lake said. In the case of the child, the fine would go to the child's parents.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or at 802 254-2311. ext. 154.


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