Concerns about liability surround proposed bike trail signage

By Angela Simmons

LEBANON – Gateway East Trails (GET) has requested that the City of Lebanon place signs that guide cyclists coming into and leaving the city by way of the Trestle Trail. The bike trail sits outside of city limits but is inside Lebanon Township. Dr. George Fero represented the group in a presentation to the Lebanon Streets and Alleys Committee. 

A letter from GET to the Lebanon city council notes that the signs will not cost anything for the city. Fero added that the funds would come from a Metro East Parks grant. The letter continues to state that the group fears for the safety of daily riders and riders coming into town for events like the upcoming Tour de Stooges and the 2020 Grand Illinois Bike Trek. The trek is expected to route as many as 300 riders through the area. 

The proposed east to west path, with signage along it, is “north on Strack Street to East Third Street, then west to Oak Street, then north on Oak Street to Schuetz Street. The route then heads west to Madison Street.” The letter further stated that riders would, if needed, be guided down Cherry Street to the new bathroom and drinking fountain facilities at McAllister Park. 

Alderwoman Cheri Wright reminded Fero that the council had previously voted to not approve the bike trail. “When we voted against the bike path, our attorney said we as a city cannot take that liability at all,” Wright said, asking why the city should consider taking responsibility now. 

Fero said that Attorney John Long was citing the example of a man that sued a township after a crash, and said “now that the attorney has voted against it, their liability is even higher.”

The condition of the bike path was brought up by audience members and Wright, who said that she had gone to the path just that afternoon to examine it. The path has 90 feet of damage due to flooding, which Fero said will be remedied “before May 4” with concrete. 

JD Beil, which owns property adjacent to the bike trail, said that hygiene is an issue along with the current damage to the trail. “With each flood, it brings mud and sediment. There’s toilet paper and feminine hygiene products and all this other stuff coming up down there. I don’t know why the city would entertain anything to do with the bike trail,” he said, citing continued flooding to his property and to nearby city-owned property. 

The committee, which includes Wright and Aldermen Frank Almeter, Landall Mack and Al Gerdes, didn’t feel comfortable making a recommendation of approval to the full council, but said they will bring it up for discussion at the full council meeting on March 25.