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Police numbers show bike tickets rare in Fargo; commissioner says effort to raise $5 fines has support

Bicycles for rent rest on a rack in Fargo. City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn is pushing for an increase of fines for bicycle infractions. Forum file photo.

FARGO — City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn's idea that Fargo's fines for bicycle infractions are too low may be picking up speed.

Piepkorn said Thursday, Aug. 30, that public reaction to comments he aired this week has been strongly supportive of his belief that current fines of $5 for bike violations aren't tough enough and that raising them would encourage better adherence to rules of the road.

"Overwhelmingly, even bicyclists were supportive," Piepkorn said.

"I don't think this is an opportunity for revenue raising," he added. "I think this is an opportunity for education and increased safety."

Numbers from the Fargo Police Department show that over the past five years officers wrote 24 citations for bicycle violations, an average of about five tickets a year.

The breakdown goes like this: 10 tickets for disobeying things like stop signs and red lights; seven tickets for equipment violations; three tickets for riding on restricted roads or paths; and three tickets for riding on sidewalks where it was prohibited.

In 2014, one person was ticketed for pedaling too fast for conditions. No details were available regarding that situation.

Piepkorn said the number of citations written suggests officers don't see much point in writing $5 tickets.

He's not alone in his belief that bike fines need boosting.

Former Fargo city commissioner Mike Williams, a biking proponent, said fines for things like running stop signs should be higher for bike riders and motor vehicle drivers alike.

"I think it's a good discussion," Williams said, adding that the current fee structure for motor vehicle violations, such as a $20 fine for running a stop sign, is too low to be effective.

Whatever the fine is for moving violations, Williams said, it should be the same for all vehicles on the street, including bikes.

"We need to share the road, but we also all need to follow the rules of the road," Williams said.

Piepkorn said he agrees fines for motor vehicles should be higher. He said Fargo had higher fines in the past, but they couldn't be sustained because they conflicted with state rules.

"Fargo tried to raise traffic fines, but we ended up in a lawsuit because the state has a maximum fine. That was a big mess," Piepkorn said.

Fargo Police Chief David Todd could not be reached for comment Thursday. However, in response to Piepkorn's concerns, Todd recently indicated that he feels a $20 fine might be appropriate for certain bicycle violations, such as going through a stop sign.

For other violations, like one child giving another child a bike ride, it would not be, Todd said.

Piepkorn said it's possible Todd will bring a bike-fine proposal before the City Commission in the near future.

Dave Olson
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