Since the 1960s, an Alexandria ordinance has forbidden cyclists riding on sidewalks. Now city leaders are changing the rules. Bicycles are to be allowed on every sidewalk except a few blocks in the heart of Old Town, where signs will be posted.
Mayor Bill Euille explains the new rules this way: "When appropriate, ride in the street. When not appropriate, jump on the sidewalk as long as it's not in the restricted areas."
Councilman Paul Smedberg says the debate has been polarized. "We have people who believe that sidewalks are emphasis on walk, for walking," he says.
Dino Drudi, a resident in the Parker Gray neighborhood of Alexandria, says elected officials made a mistake by changing the rules for sidewalks, especially the narrow sidewalks of Old Town where people and cycles will soon compete for space. He says the sidewalk in front of his house isn't big enough for the both of them.
"Bicyclists don't follow rules," he says. "They don't stop at stop signs. So the city council put all these rules in about what bicyclists are supposed to do. Does anybody expect that they are really going to enforce them?"
Council members are also taking steps to get rid of an outdated and unenforced requirement that all bicycle owners register their wheels with the city and pay a 25-cent registration fee. Police Chief Earl Cook says his department hasn't enforced the ordinance in years.
"When the law doesn't become useful and practical, then we should not enforce it," he explains.
Council members are expected to ditch the outmoded registration requirement later this year.