City develops interim plan to deal with pocket bikes

by Jenn Wiant

Herald Staff Writer

August 5, 2004


Two hours of discussion between city council, city officials and citizens about whether to make pocket motorcycles legal or illegal in Leadville resulted in the formation of a committee to study the issue and an interim enforcement plan based on state statutes for motorized bicycles and local ordinances for off-highway vehicles.

The discussion dominated the Aug. 3 city council meeting. In the end, council voted to form a committee composed of council members Carol Hill and Scott Marcella, a representative from the police department, a representative from the community and the city attorney to come up with an ordinance addressing the use of pocket motorcycles on city streets.

State statute says motorized bicycles, as pocket motorcycles have been defined, are not allowed on state highways. It also says the operator of a motorized bicycle must have a valid driver’s license.

A local ordinance addressing off-highway vehicles, which includes pocket motorcycles, also specifies that operators must have a valid driver’s license to operate them in Leadville.

Until an ordinance is passed with additional restrictions, city police officers will be enforcing the laws that require a driver’s license and prohibit the vehicles from being operated on state highways.

Several local kids who own pocket bikes were upset with the driver’s license law.

“By the time we get a license we’re going to want to drive cars, not little bikes,” said 14-year-old Brandon Snider, who will now only be allowed to ride his pocket bike on private property in Leadville. Chris Koucherik added, “If I can have something with 600 CCs (an ATV or snowmobile), why can’t I have a 50 CC bike?”

Mayor Bud Elliott said council will probably have to address the issue of other motorized vehicles in the near future.

According to those who have complained to Police Chief Jim Zoller about the bikes, the biggest issues they create are their visibility to other vehicles and their noise. Zoller said other communities around the country are also struggling with what to do about the mini-motorcycles. Some have banned them completely, some have allowed them with restrictions, and some have done nothing, Zoller said. For Zoller, the best option would be to ban them from Leadville city streets.

Rohn Bertolas, whose business sells the pocket bikes locally, suggested requiring a whip flag attached to the back of the bike that would stick up high enough for cars to see. Council Member Carol Hill suggested only allowing the bikes between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to prevent noise complaints and not allowing them on busier streets like 6th Street. Council Member Scott Marcella suggested making pocket bike riders pay the same fines as other vehicle operators for breaking traffic laws. Others suggested requiring helmets and eye protection when riding the motorcycles. The committee charged with studying the issue will take these suggestions into consideration before making a recommendation to council at the Sept. 7 meeting.

“I think we can reach an agreement with less than a total ban,” said Council Member Rhonda Huggins.

Piping proposed to mediate Yak blockage

by Renee Davis

Herald Intern

August 26, 2004


Newmont and Asarco are planning to pipe water from the Black Cloud to the Yak treatment plant as a means of circumventing a blockage in the Yak tunnel. The blockage in the Yak tunnel has backed up ground water throughout the superfund site.

At the Aug. 16 Lake County Commissioners meeting, Bill Wile of Newmont presented the plan for piping water from the Black Cloud. Water would be pumped into the ten-inch-diameter pipe which would run four miles along roads maintained by the county. Ken Olsen, the commissioner overseeing road and bridge, raised concerns that the pipe could be damaged during road maintenance and snow removal. Burying the pipe was suggested as a possible alternative. When the commissioners raised concerns that water in the pipe would freeze, Wile said that maintaining a high flow rate of water in the pipe would prevent it from freezing. Asarco, Newmont and the commissioners will meet to determine how the piping project will be carried out.

According to Stan Christianson of the EPA, the intent of the piping project is to reduce the level of the ground water. It is hoped that removing the ground water will allow Asarco and Newmont to investigate and perhaps remove the blockage. Depending on what is discovered about the blockage, the Black Cloud circumvention might become a long-term solution.

Another benefit of removing water would be relieving pressure from the blockage, reducing the possibility of a blowout.

Asarco site manager Bob Litle said that they plan to install the pipe “in the construction season of this year.”

Christianson, when discussing the construction time-line, chuckled and said that working late into the fall is not without precedent.

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