Downtown safety risk

By Kelly Ducote, The Observer June 24, 2013 10:54 am

Chris Baxter / The Observer A child rides his bike downtown. Bikes, skates and boards are prohibited on sidewalks in the central business district during the day.
Chris Baxter / The Observer A child rides his bike downtown. Bikes, skates and boards are prohibited on sidewalks in the central business district during the day.

On a given summer Saturday afternoon, one is likely to see one, if not more, skateboarders or bicyclists coming down the sidewalk in front of the Granada Theatre.

For Joe Beans owner Colleen MacLeod, the skateboarders and bicyclists pose a safety hazard.

“Kids do not know that you’re not supposed to ride on the sidewalk,” she said.

MacLeod is referring to La Grande City Ordinance 3077, which prohibits boards, skates and bikes in the central business  district during business hours.

“They shoot by here, I swear, at 20 miles per hour,” she said. “It’s really unsafe.”

MacLeod isn’t the only downtown business owner worried about skateboarders.

“Frankly, it’s the No. 1 complaint from downtown businesses,” said La Grande Police Chief Brian Harvey. 

But it isn’t just businesses complaining. 

“Some of our seniors have talked about some near misses that they’ve experienced,” Harvey said.

MacLeod said an 80-year-old man was nearly “nailed” at one point last year. Just last week, she was delivering a sandwich to a customer sitting outside and almost got hit herself.

Harvey said the problem is individuals on boards or bikes do not always ride cautiously through the historic district.

“That’s the biggest concern — that someone would be injured by one of them,” he said.

The central business district runs about from Greenwood to Fourth Street and from Washington to Jefferson Avenue. Despite signage in the area, the riders still pose a concern.

“Someone will get sued one day,” MacLeod said. “People will go after you if they get hurt.”

For now, MacLeod tells people, oftentimes children, that they are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk. She said their responses are often aggressive, with some of them making rude gestures as they continue down the sidewalk.

Harvey said he is working with other departments to see if anything can be done about signage to cut back on the problem.

“If we can sign it better and educate, there’s going to be a percentage who comply,” he said.

Enforcing the ordinance, however, is more difficult. If an officer were to see someone on the sidewalk illegally, the officer would need to find a parking spot downtown and then find the suspect. There is simply not enough manpower to have someone on the ground there regularly, Harvey said.

“We have to prioritize every single day and every single call,” he said. 

Patrons illegally riding on the sidewalk can be charged, though.

“The actual charge is a mandatory court appearance” joined by a fine, Harvey said.

Harvey said the city is not anti-skateboards or anti-bikes and there are other places to ride.

“Go to an area where it’s not regulated,” he said, with the caveat that no one should trespass on private property. “We have a skatepark in this area.”

Pioneer SK8 Park, located within Pioneer Park, features two spines, a half pipe, pyramid, banks, a vert extension and hips. Bicycles are also allowed at the park, according to its website.

Bicyclists are allowed to legally ride on the road, Harvey added.

MacLeod said she may put up a cheap “Caution” type sign from eBay or find objects to try to slow riders down.

“You don’t want to be the grumpy old woman yelling at kids, but they’re going to hurt someone,” she said. “It’s a sidewalk, not a sideride.”

Contact Kelly Ducote at 541-786-4230 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Kelly on Twitter @lgoDucote.