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Centerville councilman's ‘run ’em off the road’ comment outrages cyclists

Centerville councilman's ‘run ’em off the road’ comment outrages cyclists

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CENTERVILLE — Cyclists and city officials are reeling over a city councilman's joke that motorists should run cyclists off the road.

The comment came from Councilman Bill Ince during a July 19 City Council meeting, when several council members expressed disdain over recent bike lane projects.

According to a YouTube video of the meeting, Centerville Mayor Paul Cutler was questioning how motorists should handle "aggressive" cyclists in traffic when Ince chimed in:

"Run ’em off the road," he said, laughing.

But cyclists and other Centerville leaders aren't amused, calling his comment "ignorant," "disappointing" and "a step backward" from encouraging safety and respect among motorists and cyclists.

"It wasn't funny. It was careless, and it shouldn't have been made by an elected official," said Mark Oligschlaeger, a cyclist and member of Centerville's trails committee.

He added that while cyclists and motorists must respect each other on the road, elected officials should also treat the issue with the same respect in council meetings.

"I understand the frustrations on both sides, but a public official shouldn't make comments like that," Oligschlaeger said.

Ince adamantly denied Monday ever making the joke, but after watching the video of the meeting, he said he regretted every word.

"I do not believe that, I do not endorse that, I would beg people not to do that," he said. "It was just a stupid, flippant reaction. I need to learn to keep my tongue under better control apparently."

"When I heard him say that, I was speechless and in shock," said Councilwoman Tami Fillmore, adding that she was frustrated with the entire bike lanes conversation that day.

That's because the council — made up of several newly elected council members, including Ince — is considering a zoning amendment to remove pedestrian and cycling friendly elements from the city's Main Street Public Space Plan.

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While some other council members expressed concern over bike lane safety issues on Centerville roads, Ince questioned the general purpose of bike lanes.

"As a society, we are spending a ton of money creating bike lanes, and I tell you, nobody uses them," Ince said during the meeting.

But Oligschlaeger pointed out state Route 106 in Centerville is a priority bike route for the city's trails master plan. The Tour of Utah, starting this week, also follows S.R. 106 at certain stages.

Monday, Ince acknowledged that some people do regularly cycle on Centerville roads, so he said that comment was "a poor choice of words" as well.

Still, Ince's comments seemed to reflect a general attitude of disregard toward cyclists within Centerville among the City Council, Fillmore said, even though she said a significant portion of her constituency tells her they care about active transportation.

Cyclist Rob Oakes said Ince's comments "make light of a huge safety issue" and he worries that some members of the City Council "may be letting their own biases lead to ignorant policy."

"Ignorant comments lead to ignorant policy, and ignorant policy leads to people getting hurt," Oaks said. "I want Centerville to be safe, and I don't want to hear about my child, or my neighbors, or my neighbors' children being hurt by a careless motorist."

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Fillmore was optimistic, however, that Ince's comment may propel residents to speak at a public hearing Tuesday at 7 p.m., when the City Council will be considering input on the city's Main Street Public Space Plan.

"People who use (bike lanes) should come speak and let the council know we exist," she said, noting that she, her husband and her children bike frequently.

Centerville Planning Commissioner Becki Wright said she "respects" Ince's opinions, but was disappointed in his comments because they seemed to "take a step backward" in respecting cyclists' safety concerns.

"I would love for this situation to be a catalyst for cyclists and drivers to come together and figure out how to share the road safely," Wright said.

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Katie McKellar

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