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AG Lets Committee Rule on Bikes at the State Cemetery

The Texas State Cemetery Committee asked the Attorney General whether they had the authority to regulate where bikes can travel through the historic site.
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The Texas State Cemetery Committee asked the Attorney General whether they had the authority to regulate where bikes can travel through the historic site.

Authorities at the Texas State Cemetery have become increasingly concerned with bicycles that stray off the paved roadway and onto walking paths or across grave sites. So much so that the cemetery's governing committee asked Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott whether they had the authority to put the kibosh to bikes at the historic site in East Austin.

Officials saw an upswing in bike traffic through the cemetery after road construction started along E. 7th Street and cyclists reportedly started cutting through the cemetery to avoid it.

Finally, State Cemetery Committee Chairman Scott Sayers addressed a letter to the AG's office last summer, describing the situation and asking for a little legal guidance.

Last fall, the Committee acted to address mounting concerns about the increasing recreational use of Cemetery grounds. After discussion in open meeting concerning dual goals of protecting the safety of visitors and the solemn and peaceful nature befitting a cemetery, the Committee decided to ban bicycles in the Cemetery and directed the Cemetery Superintendant to contact the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) to seek its assistance. In particular, the Cemetery Superintendant informed TXDOT of the Committee's decision and requested permission to post associated signage along SH 165.

But TxDOT told the committee that the city of Austin had jurisdiction, because all of SH 165 (the 9/10 of a mile-long road that runs through the cemetery with a posted speed limit of 10 miles per hour) is contained within the city limits.

Sayers told KUT News Thursday afternoon that the central issues are safety for cemetery visitors and decorum consistent with a burial ground. The committee, he said, had no problem with bikes on SH 165, but rather with on sidewalks and walking paths on the cemetery grounds, as well as over some of the graves themselves.

In the end, the Attorney General essentially turned the question back to the committee. In the ruling released Thursday afternoon, General Abbott wrote:

The exact parameters of the Texas State Cemetery Committee's authority over all operations of the State Cemetery are not clearly defined. It is for the Cemetery Committee to determine, in the first instance and subject to judicial review, the exact scope of its operational authority, and whether that authority necessarily includes the power to regulate bicycles on State Highway 165 within the State Cemetery.

Officials have already posted signs at the cemetery, asking cyclists to keep their bikes on the road and off the paths and grassy areas.

Ian Crawford joined KUT as News Editor in 2008, after spending over four years as a reporter/anchor at KLBJ Radio in Austin. He began his broadcasting career while still in high school in Southern Oregon. During high school and college at the University of Oregon, he worked at times as a reporter, news anchor, sports play-by-play reporter, music host and commercial producer before moving to Texas in 2003.