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City locks kids out of BMX track
Manteca staff zeroes in on 2-foot high mini-bumps
Tykes ride Strider BMX bikes without pedals up a two-foot bump. The city staff contends the Strider track at the Speckles Park BMX Park is unsafe. - photo by Photo Contributed

Mayor Willie Weatherford believes it is a classic case of making a mountain out of a molehill.

City of Manteca staff padlocked the Spreckels Park BMX Park track Monday citing in e-mails provided to council members that  a series of mini-bumps that max out at two feet in the track infield set up for youth younger than 5 years of age not to pedal across but to “stride” over using special pedal-less  tyke-size BMX bicycles were dangerous. The tykes – just like the older kids and adults using the main BMX track – all wear helmets.

Staff believes they are too close to the main BMX track and are therefore a safety hazard and a potential liability issue.

Jon Anderson,  who heads up the Anderson 209 BMX organization that not only worked with the American Bicycle Association to design the track but has been under contract  with the city since the complex opened to maintain and operate it, noted the group’s insurance had no issue with the Strider track or its location.

The city’s decision did not sit well with youth who were trying to access the track after school.  None were members of the Anderson BMX team. The track gets extensive use seven days a week with a number of youth not connected with BMX groups using it as well as adults.

It was that use that prompted Anderson and his group to add the Strider track that consists of six humps positioned away from the bigger humps of the main track that can peak at over six feet.

Anderson said they were seeing a number of younger kids coming out with their older brothers and sisters and trying to use the main track. The Strider track solved that problem and potential safety issue.

However the city thinks the Strider humps in themselves are a safety issue due to their proximity to the main track.

Weatherford said he wished that staff had done something else besides padlock the gates.

“They could have easily have put up a temporary fence around (the Strider track) while they worked things out,” Weatherford said.

Under the agreement with the city, Anderson 209 BMX carries the primary liability coverage for the track. They also must keep it maintained and cleaned. Neighbors in the nearby Powers Tract note that the BMX track area is often in better shape in terms of weeds and other issues than Lincoln Park.

Anderson suspects the city staff’s main issue might be the fact they didn’t submit the plans for approval to them first.

The city previously ordered the organization to move a tree that had been planted a year earlier because they felt it was a safety hazard. Anderson noted the positioning of the tree in terms of safety was taken into consideration when it was planted.

The city does not do any maintenance work on the track. However, that didn’t prevent them from removing temporary floral memorials a year ago left to honor an adult BMX rider who had died and dump them in the trash on the same day as his funeral.

Anderson notes the ABA actively promotes and encourages the installation of specially designed Strider tracks for children ages 2 to 5. There are even Strider racing rules complete with the ability to advance to national events.

The sport was developed for the same reason playgrounds have swings for older kids and special ones for the younger kids. Younger kids want to emulate older ones. So the founders of Strider created a situation where younger kids can “BMX race” like the older kids and not deal with the risks of using the standard track.

The BMX track is not on the agenda of tonight’s 7 p.m. City Council meeting taking place at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St. Several individuals, however, have indicated they may bring it up during public comments.