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Richmond City Council Passes Bike Restrictions, Cyclists Protest

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Richmond bicyclists take notice:

1. It is now illegal to lock a bike to a city-owned tree. Doing so apparently is bad for trees.

2. Police can remove inoperable bikes locked to city poles if they've been left for more than three days. A bike is legally inoperable if it lacks an essential component such as a wheel, chain or a pedal. A missing seat is fine.

3. Police may remove working bikes if they've been locked to city property longer than 10 days. Richmond officers aren't expected to begin vigorous patrols for parked bikes.

City Council approved the new rules at its meeting last week after half an hour of debate and a public comment session dominated by a handful of irate cyclists.

The conflict stemmed from an unfortunately worded summary provided with the ordinance. It indicated that the law would in all cases make it "unlawful for any person to attach a bicycle to a tree, post, sign, or other property" and authorized police to "impound any such illegally attached bicycles."

That wasn't the case, assured Councilman Parker Agelasto, who drafted the changes. He further suggested that members of the public and news media might want to read more than just the summaries that accompany ordinances in the future.

Still, other council members balked. Ellen Robertson, Riva Trammell, Kathy Graziano and Jon Baliles all raised concerns.

The only member of council who spoke in favor of the new legislation was Chris Hilbert, who said he found it too lenient and he couldn't understand why cyclists should be allowed to lock their bikes to city-owned poles and fences for any amount of time. He called the practice disrespectful.

"I don't see anybody attaching their automobile to public property," Hilbert told his fellow council members.

Undeterred, Agelasto opposed a proposal to postpone action for two weeks, telling councilmen he'd withdraw the proposal in its entirety instead. Following some coaxing from Jakob Hemboldt, the city's bicycle, trails and pedestrian coordinator, the majority consented to an up or down vote and the measure passed 5-4, with the aforementioned concerned council members opposing.

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