Latrobe City Council is still considering updating a couple of ordinances, but what those updates will be is still being discussed.
On March 28, Latrobe officials continued discussing the addition of motorized wheelchairs, e-scooters and e-bicycles and Segways to the ordinance, which oversees the use of regular bikes and skateboards, especially in the core downtown area.
The revisions would update the ordinance by adding provisions for wheeled devices that aren’t mentioned in the ordinance, while eliminating an outdated requirement for licensing and registering bicycles in the city.
The state already has guidelines in effect for special vehicles, like motorized wheelchairs. City Manager Michael Gray told council he would like to take the language in the state guidelines and add it to the local ordinance.
Those guidelines include the provision that motorized wheelchairs are not considered vehicles and therefore, are not required to be licensed or inspected. Motorists are required to treat people in wheelchairs just like pedestrians.
Some council members debated whether or not Latrobe should set its own guidelines for motorized wheelchairs because they are already covered under state guidelines and concerns over Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.
The city recently partnered with PennDOT to update several key intersections in the downtown area to include curbed sidewalk ramps with improved handicapped accessibility, but solicitor John Greiner was concerned that not every street has a sidewalk.
“Not every street in the city may have a sidewalk. There are areas where (they) may have to go on the street.”
Scott Wajdic, public works director, noted that Lincoln Avenue is the only major street that does not have a sidewalk the entire length, but that the rails-to-trails walking path does run alongside Lincoln and could provide a safer options for wheelchair users.
Police Chief John Sleasman said his preference would be that wheelchairs stick to the sidewalks in downtown.
“My main concern is safety,” said Sleasman. “The safest place for them to be is on the sidewalk when one is available.”
Council is scheduled to consider the ordinance language when it meets April 11, but Gray admitted that some additional debate may be necessary.
The update would not change existing rules for where bicycles and skateboards can be used. They are not permitted to be ridden in the city parking garage. Skateboards are not to be used on any streets or alleys, or on sidewalks within the city’s downtown business district.
Because of some ambiguity of the boundaries spelled out in the ordinance, Greiner said council may want to update those. Currently, the restrictions exist from the west curb line of Alexandria Street on the east, Jefferson Street on the west, the railroad tracks on the north and the north curb line of Walnut Street on the south.
Ralph Jenko, deputy mayor/council member, also would like council to not only consider revisions to the sign ordinance just recently approved, but to authorize a 6-month moratorium on sign requests until the language of the ordinance is altered to reflect stricter restrictions guided by PennDOT’s own regulations.
While council seemed open to reconsidering language in the sign ordinance, the idea of a moratorium on sign requests and the negative impact that would have on business development in Latrobe was met with skepticism.
Council will further discuss Jenko’s suggestions when it meets on April 11.
“It’s a valuable discussion,” said Latrobe Mayor Eric Bartelss. “We don’t want this to turn in to Times Square.”