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Letter of law blurry on bike lanes

Published on -8/4/2014, 7:44 AM

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By Amy Bickel

The Hutchinson News

To park or not to park -- it is one of this week's Ask Hutch questions.

Or, for this gentleman, I think he just wanted to see if our law enforcement was breaking the law. Last month, when a Reno County Sheriff's car was parked in a bicycle lane along 23rd Avenue, he took a photo and posted it to our column on Facebook.

His looming question, I'm presuming, is this:

Q: Can you park in a bicycle lane?

Well, that really depends. And no, said Hutchinson Police Capt. Troy Hoover, his department doesn't make a habit of parking in bicycle lanes.

The city has a few bicycle lanes across Hutchinson. Hoover said after doing some research, there are no standard traffic ordinances or city ordinances prohibiting someone from parking in a bicycle lane.

A new bike lane that runs along Avenue A isn't necessarily an issue because, as Hoover noted, this bicycle lane runs between the traffic lanes and space for curbside parking. He notes one could park along a bicycle lane on Severance, although it doesn't seem ideal since there is a frontage road along the street where most people park.

However, along 23rd between Rambler and Lorraine, there are "no no-parking signs," Hoover said. "There are bike lanes on either side of the road and parking is permitted."

So, if you own a house or business on 23rd with a bicycle lane in front of it, you could lawfully park in front and not receive ticket, he said.

On Avenue A, however, if someone parks in the bicycle lane and not the parking lane, "we could do something about that," he said. Parking in a bicycle lane along this street would mean the vehicle is in excess of 12 inches from the curb.

Hoover said the only time an officer might park in a bicycle lane is for "an emergency type of deal -- then we would put flashers on and warn oncoming motorists."

Extenuating factors, he added.

So far, this hasn't been much of an issue, and we both figured cyclists probably just go around any parked cars in their lane of travel.

{strong style="font-size: 10px;"}Q: Are there any plans to fix Halstead Road from Avenue G to Fourth Avenue? The road is awful!{/strong}

Only in the past few years did this become a city road, said Reg Jones, the city's director of Public Works.

"It's a city street, but short of doing any pothole repair -- it's not in the plan for any major work," Jones said.

At least, beginning an overlay project on this road isn't scheduled to happen in the next few years.

He noted it does get a lot of truck traffic, which causes wear and tear.

And now -- for a more taxing question.

Q: In light of the fact they are talking about raising taxes "again" -- what happens with all the building permit fees that the city collects? In particular the thousands of $$$ dollars $$$ that have been collected in the past year because of the horrific hail, rain and wind storm we had last July. Are there building permit fees collected on commercial work, such as the new proposed sports place and the Wiley Building? -- Just wondering ... ???

Dear Just Wondering: Of course the Wiley Building has a building permit, our city reporter Ken Stephens tells me. Moreover, he added, the new "bowling alley" hasn't even been built. And sure, there has been a record amount of money received from building permits in 2013, which go into the general fund -- but without that increase the taxes might be raised even higher.

But I did call Finance Director Frank Edwards -- who basically reiterated what Ken said.

"Those fees go into our general fund," Edwards said. "They help offset the city. Without those fees, our general fund would have dropped where we would have a higher mill rate increase."

He noted that the amount of money sales taxes generated was higher because of the storms and building material purchases. And that helped the mill levy not go up as much.

Meanwhile, there also was a spike in building permits. Funds raised from building permits in 2012 totaled roughly $265,000, he said. In 2013 with the storms, the city generated about $790,000 from building permits.

Edwards said a public hearing on the 2015 budget is slated for Tuesday. He said the city has estimated building permits closer to the 2011 and 2012 levels, or about $250,000.

He noted a big part of the higher mill levy has to do with the cost of maintaining roads.

Have a question for us? Send it to askhutch@hutchnews.com

(c)2014 The Hutchinson News

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