No bicycles on mall

Posted: May 10, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Cyclists are welcome to come to the Loudoun Street Mall, but they won’t be allowed to ride on it.

The Old Town Development Board’s (OTDB) Design Committee, which has been weighing whether bicycles should be allowed on the recently renovated pedestrian mall, decided at its Thursday meeting that foot traffic alone is best for the area.

“We plan to keep it as a pedestrian mall,” said Cory Garman, the committee’s chairman. “But we want to have a visible place for people to leave their bikes.”

Garman said the committee is considering bike racks and the creation of signs with rules regarding cycling and the mall.

The committee-level decision comes a month after the idea was discussed at an OTDB meeting.

The topic caught the eye of Irvin Shendow, co-owner of Bell’s Fine Clothing at 122 N. Loudoun and one of the key figures in the mall’s creation in the early 1970s, who attended the meeting to make his sentiments known about bicycles.

He said he was “absolutely opposed” to allowing bikes on the mall, and several of his customers have said the same thing to him.

“The pedestrian mall lends itself to a very carefree atmosphere. You don’t have to be looking over your shoulder,” Shendow said.

Most parents he sees walking along the mall with their children aren’t holding their hands, Shendow said, and a young child easily could dart in front of a bike.

Two downtown business owners also spoke during the public comment session regarding the policy that bans pets from the mall during the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival.

Lanette Orduna and Rebecca Miller said multiple customers bringing their dogs to Posh Pets Boutique at 16 S. Loudoun St. for grooming received mixed messages from Winchester police officers about the policy.

Orduna said some officers said the dogs weren’t allowed to mingle with the crowds at all, while at least one told a client that the dog could be on the mall as long as the owner held the animal.

Andrea Smith, a newly appointed OTDB member, said an officer threatened to escort friends of hers off the mall for having their dog there during the Bloomin’ Wine Fest. The friends were from Richmond and not aware of the policy.

Board member Brenda Adams said she saw a man dining outside a mall restaurant with his dog and no one told him the dog had to go.

At the behest of Police Chief Kevin Sanzenbacher, City Council voted in April 2011 to ban pets from the mall during big festivals. The chief was given the authority to determine when such an action might be appropriate, but public notice had to be given about when the ban was in effect.

The ban was enacted for the safety of animals and attendees in the dense throngs that lined the mall for the Midway. However, because it wasn’t known whether the mall construction project would be completed in time this year, the Midway was moved to Piccadilly and Loudoun streets area.

Downtown Manager Jennifer Bell said festival officials requested that the ban be enforced both weekends of Apple Blossom.

Miller said she spoke with Sanzenbacher this week and was told that lifting the ban might be possible. Though Apple Blossom attendance was high, crowds weren’t as dense on the mall.

Neither festival nor city officials have broached the question of whether the Midway will return to the mall in the future. However, John Rosenberger, the event’s executive director, said Sunday that the new location seemed to work well last weekend.

“Now that things will probably stay this way, the dynamics change,” said Dario Savarese, a contracted events planner for the city who is involved with Apple Blossom planning.

Attending the meeting at Rouss City Hall were Chairman Lauri Bridgeforth, Vice-Chairman Stan Corneal and board members Kim Burke, Scott Dawson, Marilyn Finnemore, Cory Garman and Rick McClendon. Board members Brenda Adams, Mark Lore and Melinda Kramer left early.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com