Temecula City Council votes to allow bicycles on sidewalks

Temecula City Councilmember Zak Schwank discusses an amendment to the city’s municipal code allowing bicycles on sidewalks.

Riding bicycles on sidewalks is now allowed in the city of Temecula.

The Temecula City Council voted Aug. 25 to adopt a resolution changing the city’s municipal code to allow bicyclists to use city sidewalks unless prohibited by signage. Previously, the city’s municipal code mandated the opposite – that bicycles were not allowed on sidewalks unless otherwise said.

The rule change came at the request of the council’s Trails and Open Space ad hoc subcommittee, which consists of councilmembers Mike Naggar and Zak Schwank.

Schwank said at the Aug. 25 meeting that the purpose for the proposed change was to help create a safer environment for families and children riding bicycles recreationally in the city.

“Essentially what this is doing is taking the onus off the person riding a bike if they are riding on the sidewalk, and this has happened in our neighborhood. This has happened in Harveston; this has happened on Meadows Parkway, where someone’s riding on the sidewalk and they ride out into the street and they’re a collision, they’re immediately at fault because riding on the sidewalk is illegal,” Schwank said.

The two councilmembers made the request late last year, and the municipal code amendment was reviewed in July by the city’s Public/Traffic Safety Commission, which recommended approval with the stipulation that cyclists must ride on sidewalks in the same direction as vehicle traffic.

Schwank suggested removing that stipulation, but after a brief discussion with city staff at the meeting, he agreed to let it remain.

“Often we have some of our trails that will put you out onto a sidewalk, which is really the impetus for bringing this forward, is the trail system connects many of our sidewalks,” Schwank said. “If we go where you’re only allowed to ride in the direction of the traffic, that sort of would hinder that a little bit in my opinion.”

Pat Thomas, director of Temecula Public Works, said the reason for the restriction is because of the narrowness of some city sidewalks and the desire to keep pedestrians from having to worry about bicycle traffic from multiple directions.

Schwank said while he wished the rule change provided more wiggle room, he understood the need for the traffic direction restriction.

“The idea behind this was to create flexibility that if a child is riding their bike to middle school and they’re riding on, let’s say on the west side of Meadows Parkway because (Temecula Middle School) is on that side of the road, they’re going against the flow of traffic that they’re not inherently breaking the law and that they would be protected by the law and hopefully they would be safe as well,” Schwank said.

The council approved the municipal code change unanimously.

Will Fritz can be reached by email at wfritz@reedermedia.com.