Council votes to vacate Right-of-Way, hears public comment on bike ban repeal
The De Soto City Council approved three motions last night: vacating the public Right-of-Way of Tract A on 87th Street and removing its designation of "open space"; granting a noise permit and road closure for a neighborhood block party on 82nd Street and approving the request for audit services by Lowenthal, Webb and Odermann.
In addition to these items of business, the council also heard nearly an hour's worth of feedback from De Soto citizens regarding the council's decision to life the bicycle ban on 83rd Street.
Several members of the public came forward during the call to the public to voice complaints with the decision the council made, many citing their opinion that opening the road to cyclists will make an already dangerous road even more so.
"This is a major public safety issue now," said former city councilman Tim Maniez. "There's no room on that road for vehicles and bicycles, there's no place to go if something goes wrong."
The council also heard concerns from school bus drivers who use 83rd Street multiple times a day to travel between schools in the district.
De Soto resident and member of the Planning Commission Bob Garrett also spoke before the council during the regular meeting regarding his concern for public safety and his belief that the council did not act in the community's best interest when repealing the ban.
"By lifting this ban you didn't represent De Soto like you're supposed to, you represented people outside this town," Garrett said. "There was no public hearing about lifting this and you didn't let the people have a chance to talk."
Councilman Rick Walker answered Garrett's complaints regarding the lack of a public hearing by pointing out that a hearing didn't take place when the ban was put into effect more than 10 years ago so he felt there was no need for one now.
Council members Randy Johnson and Lori Murdock also defended the council's decision by outlining what they saw as the benefits to the community now that the road is open to cyclists.
"First off I'll say that if you are a cyclist and you ride [on 83rd Street] at certain times then you're an idiot," said Johnson. "But there are economic benefits, most cyclists will come through town and spend money at [gas stations], also there are some people who will just outright not spend money in a town that has a ban like this just on principle, so it is an economic benefit."
Councilwoman Murdock agreed with Johnson's opinion that lifting the ban will be of economic benefit and also declared it a matter of personal rights.
"Lifting this ban is giving a right back to the people that was taken away from them," she said. "Maybe it isn't the safest road to ride but it is the right of any cyclist to do so. The responsibility for safety must be in the hands of every rider and driver, I drive that road every day and I'm careful, just like I am on every road in Kansas. I keep my eyes open and follow the laws."
City Attorney Patrick Reavey answered questions regarding the city's liability should an accident occur by assuring the council and the public that because the city has not identified the road as a bicycle route that the city cannot be held responsible for any accidents.
Discussion of the matter ended with former councilman Maniez inquiring about the possibility of the citizens repealing the council's decision or at least requesting a public hearing to discuss the matter further. Both are possibilites, according to Reavey, so long as Maniez and anyone else interested can collect a petition with the signatures of at least 10 percent of the residents who voted in the last election.