|Last updated: 6/25/04 3:32 PM|
|Last updated: 6/25/04 3:32 PM|
Published: Tue, Jun 22, 2004
BOARDMAN Early morning jogs up one of the township's main stretches of road could land a township couple in court.
Allan and Mary Hlebovy have been avid runners for years. The couple don appropriate running attire and shoes and take to the streets at least once a day most often around 4:30 a.m., before the sun comes up.
Allan Hlebovy said he ran along side streets at one time, but an incident several months ago made him rethink his jogging route. He said a group of teens pulled alongside him in the dark one morning and threatened to rob him. One, he said, claimed to have a gun.
The Hlebovys, from that point on, changed their jogging route to Market Street. The busier route, they said, gives them an added sense of security.
"The reason we came to appreciate that route was because of the Boardman police. [The police] are all over the place, it's well-lit and we feel safe," Allan Hlebovy said.
The increased police presence along Market Street had an effect the Hlebovys did not expect police enforcing a state law that requires citizens to use a sidewalk where one is available. Ohio law says, "Where a sidewalk is provided and its use is practicable, it shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon an adjacent roadway."
The Hlebovys have been stopped by township police on several occasions and told to use the sidewalk for jogging. They have received verbal warnings and been told they could be given a minor misdemeanor citation. Mary Hlebovy has been given a written warning.
Police Chief Jeffrey Patterson said the police department is given the charge of enforcing state laws and cannot deviate from that responsibility.
Mary Hlebovy points to the word practicable in the state law and says it is not practicable to use the sidewalks because the concrete is hard on joints and the sidewalks are cracked and uneven, making it easier to fall.
Allan Hlebovy, who has paralysis in one arm from Erb's palsy, said it is very important that he jog in the street to avoid falling. He said a fall could injure his fully functional arm, rendering him helpless. He also said he cannot use his arm to brace himself in the event of a fall.
Patterson said the department is sympathetic to Hlebovy's circumstances but must still uphold the law. He said it comes down to a safety issue.
"Any pedestrian walking or jogging along a state route in traffic lanes at night is definitely putting themselves at risk of being struck by traffic," he said.
Sees it as discrimination
Allan Hlebovy said he and his wife take the proper precautions when running and should be allowed to continue. He said work schedules do not permit him to run at any other time of the day.
"I am not someone who just throws on a pair of shoes and goes out to run. I am an experienced runner, and I know what conditions face me when I go out to run," he said.
Allan Hlebovy said he sees the police action as discrimination against his handicap and said he intends to continue running his usual route. The Hlebovys say the courts ruled in favor of an individual in Akron in 1978 who was cited with running in the road.
Patterson said the department will continue to enforce the law. He said if the Hlebovys continue to jog in the road and are cited, the courts will have to decide if the jogging can continue.
"[Hlebovy] is aware of the law, and our job is to enforce the law," he said. "He perceives the sidewalks to be unsafe; we perceive running down a state route at night to be unsafe."