Foss: Cooler weather should solve teen bike problem


Some problems solve themselves. 

That’s what I thought Wednesday morning, when I stepped outside. A cool breeze was blowing. Down the street, I could see first-day-of-school traffic. Fall was definitely in the air. 

It warmed up later in the day, but the autumnal weather is a harbinger of things to come. 

And with school back in session and chillier temperatures on the horizon, summertime quality-of-life problems are going to recede and mostly fade away, at least until next year. 

Fireworks, dirt bikes on city streets, reckless bicycle riding — we’re going to be seeing a lot less of these things, and not because of any policy changes or newly passed laws or recently launched programs. 

We’re going to be seeing less of these things, because the weather is changing, and kids are back in school. It’s something that happens every year, and this year is no different. 

Which is why the Schenectady City Council was right to put the brakes on a heavy-handed proposal that aimed to curb reckless cycling by allowing police to seize bicycles from youth doing wheelies in traffic, weaving in and out of traffic and engaging in other stunts.

This behavior is dangerous, but that doesn’t mean empowering police to take bikes away from children and teens is the best way to address it.

A softer approach, emphasizing outreach and education, might be preferable. 

The City Council should consider asking community leaders to speak to the youth about their behavior and discuss how to channel their energy in a more positive way. 

Getting adults who know and care about these kids to convince them to bike more responsibly might go a long way toward solving a problem that’s caused headaches for motorists all summer long. 

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with riding bikes for fun, and if that’s what these teens want to do, well, there are plenty of places to do it. 

The Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail is easy to access from downtown Schenectady, and there are a number of parks, pools and libraries just a short bike ride away. There’s also a local organization, the Electric City Bike Rescue, that teaches people how to fix and maintain bicycles. 

Riding bikes is a time-honored American tradition that ought to be encouraged. 

But problems sometimes arise, and kids riding recklessly in traffic is a public safety issue. 

I encountered a group of teens riding bikes down the middle of Albany Street early in the summer, and the nonchalant disinterest with which they regarded oncoming traffic put everyone at risk. I was afraid I was going to hit them, and though they did eventually veer out of the way, the experience was genuinely unnerving. I enjoy seeing kids on bikes, but not when they engage me in a game of chicken while I’m behind the wheel of a car. 

Now that school’s in session, I doubt we’ll be hearing as much about packs of teen bike riders behaving obnoxiously in the road. 

But it would be good to have a strategy in place for dealing with reckless cycling by next summer, when it crops up again. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.     


Categories: News, Opinion

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