City passes bike ordinance to reign in menacing young cyclists

The Milford Board of Aldermen this week adopted a bike riding ordinance in response to increasing reports of reckless young bike riders in town. Youngsters who ride recklessly may now see their bicycles impounded.

People have been complaining about so called “gangs” of mostly middle school aged bike riders for about a year. Police have said some of the riders are Milford residents and some ride into town from Stratford and West Haven. The young cyclists have been seen pedaling straight into oncoming traffic, forcing cars to stop, doing wheelies in the middle of the road and weaving in and out of traffic. One group of bike riders reportedly followed a woman home and harassed her after she scolded them.

The bike riders became a popular topic on the Facebook page ‘You know you live in Milford CT if …’”

“If any of you are the parents of that kids’ bike ‘gang’,” one resident wrote, “just thought you should know one of them thought it would be funny to try and crash into my child's stroller on our walk downtown today.”

Alderman Nick Veccharelli said he’s heard several incidents “where these gangs of kids are just basically being lawless and they’re frightening the people in our community.”

The ordinance approved Monday night is modeled after a state statute, with some tweaks.

It says that people riding bikes on a road can ride no more than two abreast in a single lane, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside just for bicycles; bicycle riders must ride on the right side of the road, with the flow of traffic, and obey all traffic rules that cars follow. Bicycle riders must use hand signals when turning.

Cyclists are not allowed to put pedestrians or drivers of cars in danger, and they cannot trick ride or ride in a weaving or zigzagging course “unless such irregular course is necessary for safe operation,” the ordinance states.

Riders have to yield to pedestrians on sidewalks and to cars on the road. Riders who break the law can be ticketed.

The aldermen approved the ordinance unanimously Monday night and spent some time talking about the local cyclists who have been garnering attention.

According to Milford Police Capt. John Alexopoulos, the problem grew worse when riders took to social media to compare their antics. He said school resource officers have tried to find the youths involved and talk to them. Officers also reached out to parents.

Creating the ordinance was a last effort, he said.

Alderman Ray Vitali, an avid bicyclist, encouraged officers to visit the middle schools and talk to students and educate them about bike safety.

Alexopoulos said police prefer to work with the youths, and also said that if a young cyclist is cited for reckless bike riding, the department does not want to send them to juvenile court but would rather direct the child to the department’s diversion program, which has them meet with detectives and attend a program with their parents.

City Attorney Jonathan Berchem said the ordinance will not infringe on people who ride their bicycles safely.

Alderman Bill Bevin initially suggested Monday night that the ordinance be amended to ban bicycles from sidewalks, but he later rescinded that.

Mayor Ben Blake said he wouldn’t support a sidewalk ban, pointing out that some of Milford’s streets are not safe for bicycles and that bike riders have to take to the sidewalk.

The father of three young children, Blake said, “As a dad, I only allow [my children] to ride on the sidewalk.”

Alderman Janet Golden said she’s seen the young cyclists and thinks they are trying to tempt fate for exhilaration. She asked what residents should do if they come across the youngsters riding their bikes in and out of traffic.

Alexopoulos said people should call the police and try to provide as much information as possible. Also, if people can pull over and take photos or videos of the offending riders and then share those with police, officers will likely be able to find the bike riders.

Residents responded favorably to news of the ordinance.

One Milford Mirror reader, who read about the new ordinance online, wrote, “It's about time. I've seen these kids on a daily basis weaving in and out of the shopping plaza on River Street, daring motorists to hit them. I just hope this law is enforced.”