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Topeka ordinance prohibiting wheeled devices expanded to NOTO area

The Topeka City Council recently passed an amendment to an existing ordinance addressing certain wheeled devices used in a specific area of the community. The ordinance becomes effective July 1, 2022.

The new ordinance amendment is to TMC (Topeka Municipal Code) 10.35.030. This ordinance addresses operating bicycles, electric-assisted scooters (such as the Bird scooters), roller skates, skateboards or similar devices on sidewalks within defined areas.

Those defined areas are already defined as downtown between 6th and 10th along Kansas Avenue, and public parking facilities. The amendment adds in the North Topeka District.

The North Topeka District, or NOTO is an area defined as N. Kansas Ave between NE Norris St. and NE Morse St; NE Morse St between NE Quincy St. and NW Central Ave; NE Gordon St. between NE Quincy St. and NW Jackson St.; NE Laurent St. between NE Quincy St. and NW Jackson St; NE Norris St between NE Quincy St and NW Jackson ST; and include Redbud and Breezeway Parks. Below is a map to help visualize the defined area.

The original ordinance states “It shall be unlawful for any person to ride a bicycle, operate an electric-assisted scooter, skate or use roller skates, skateboards, roller blades, or other similar devices” in the designated areas.

It also regulates the use of such devices on other public sidewalks in the city, stating, “Any person who rides a bicycle, operates an electric-assisted scooter, or uses roller skates, skateboards, roller blades, or other similar devices on a public sidewalk shall:

(1) Yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and give an audible signal before overtaking and passing pedestrians; and

(2) Travel at a speed that is reasonable and prudent under existing conditions, except that an operator of an electric-assisted scooter shall not travel at a speed that exceeds 15 miles per hour.

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Other ordinances also state that operators must be at least 16 years of age, and if under the age of 18 “shall wear a helmet while operating an electric-assisted scooter.”

It is also unlawful to operate an electric-assisted scooter on a street with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or more unless the electric-assisted scooter is traveling in a marked bike lane.

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Operators are to “park electric-assisted scooters on hard surfaces in either the frontage zone or amenity zone of the sidewalk; beside bicycle racks, transit stops or bike share stations; or in another area specifically designated for scooter parking, which will not in any way inhibit the pedestrian zone.” However, they may not park “in any street or in any area where parking is prohibited,” or “on a sidewalk in such a manner that inhibits the pedestrian zone.”

“Frontage zone” means the area adjacent to the property line where transitions between public sidewalk and the space within buildings occur. “Amenity zone” means that portion of the sidewalk used for street trees, landscaping, transit stops, and street lights.

These ordinances were written with the Bird scooters in mind, and do not refer to mobility devices such as motorized wheelchairs or scooters. A person on such a device designed for people with a disability is considered a pedestrian.

–Lee Hartman | Metro Voice

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