HIGH SPRINGS – After considerable controversy and debate, High Springs City Commissioners and bicycle enthusiasts seem to have compromised about the downtown area’s decorative bike racks.
Crafted in the likeness of Santa Fe River wildlife, the racks serve as functional art, Tom Hewlett, a member of the Yellow-bellied Sliders Bicycle Society Hewlett said. Six racks were placed throughout the city after the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) received grant funds for the project. Local artist Ted Brock designed and created the racks from stainless steel in the shape of turtles, frogs and herons.
High Springs residents volunteered to install the racks around the community, taking about 25 residents two weeks to finish the project, just in time for Bike Florida in March 2011. The Bike Florida event draws more than 700 visitors into the High Springs area.
Vice-Mayor Bob Barnas recently said that in April he tripped over the bike rack in front of the Chamber of Commerce. Because of the accident, Barnas and some other commissioners believe the racks may pose a potential safety threat to High Springs residents.
Although the rack Barnas tripped over was not one of the six decorative racks created by Brock, Barnas initially called for all the bike racks to be removed from the downtown area. At a May 24 commission meeting, Barnas said he was willing to compromise on the artistic racks. City attorney Raymond Ivey will draft a form for business owners with bicycle racks on their private property to sign, releasing the city from liability should anyone trip over a rack and intend to sue for injury.
The May 24 meeting did not include discussion of bike racks located on public city property, even though a yellow bike rack fashioned into the shape of a turtle located in front of City Hall was removed earlier and given back to the Community Development Corporation (CDC). Hewlett said a local business has already expressed interest in the rack being installed on its property.
“Bob has said now – and others – that they want to have the racks on city property removed, and that the racks, in general, are dangerous,” said Hewlett. “There are a lot of dangerous things out on our sidewalks that people could sue us for, and if we have to worry about all of that, why have sidewalks down our streets in the city?”
On Main Street, next to the Great Outdoors Restaurant, a sign warns bicyclists that no bikes are allowed on the sidewalk. Yet, Barnas said there is a bicycle rack placed in the area. According to Hewlett, in the past, the sign was placed to ward off BMX-bicyclers. In the same ordinance that bans bikes from the sidewalks, the law also states that people are allowed to walk their bikes to the bike rack.
None of the racks were placed on the sidewalk, Hewlett said. Until now, he said he had never heard of a resident tripping over one of the racks.
Hewlett hopes to talk with the city engineer, John Morrison, about how the city could make the bike racks safe for the public. Morrison recently released a report stating the racks were a threat to pedestrians and suggested the racks be taken down.
Barnas and Commissioner Linda Gestrin said they want to public to realize that the city was not against bicycle racks.
Prior to the installation of Brock’s bike racks, the only racks in the city were located by the library and next to the sinkhole.
“We wanted to bring bike racks into town,” Hewlett said. “Instead of bringing the normal, relatively ugly racks, we wanted to bring something unique into the town – something unique to High Springs.”