By NANCY HICKS
The Lincoln City Council officially banned smoking and vaping and simulating smoking at bus shelters and bus stops — and within 15 feet of those places — at its Monday afternoon meeting.
The ban does not carry a criminal penalty and will be enforced by bus drivers, not police. But a person who refuses to comply can be temporarily banned from riding a bus.
Several people who spoke at a public hearing said they thought portions of the resolution were overkill.
The resolution prohibits smoking, vaping or “simulated activities.”
So Richard Schmeling, a Lincoln resident who promotes alternatives to cars, pantomimed getting a cigarette out, putting it in his mouth, lighting it, then smoking it.
“Have I simulated smoking? I think I have. If vaping is the problem, why include the ‘simulating’ language,” he said. “Just say vaping.”
If a woman pulls up to a bus stop and she is smoking in her car, technically she is violating this policy, added Schmeling, who suggested doing some fine tuning.
Schmeling said he has seen bus riders twice refer to the policy in asking people who were smoking at the downtown shelter to stop. Both times the person smoking moved, he said.
These are people who don’t have the money to own a car, then you are going to take away their only means of transportation because they smoke or vape in an area that they weren’t aware was off limits, said Kathy Siefken.
But others pointed out that the new rule simply extends the areas where people cannot smoke.
If you are a smoker in modern American you have become accustomed to being told where you can or cannot smoke, said Jeff Kirkpatrick, city attorney.
The council first agreed to ban smoking at bus stops and shelters during a public hearing on StarTran planning and budget issues in mid-March, a last minute suggestion of Councilman Roy Christensen.
Monday’s resolution provides a framework: who would enforce the ban, what would be the punishment for failing to comply.
It passed unanimously, with Councilwoman Leirion Gaylor Baird absent.
Councilman Jon Camp said he preferred to delay the official resolution for six months. Put no smoking signs up on the shelters but make it voluntary. See how it works for six months, he suggested.
But Councilwoman Cyndi Lamm said the city needs to begin enforcing a no smoking rule before StarTran begins its designated bus stop rule, allowing people to catch a bus only at a designated bus stop.
Now you could stand a block away, to avoid the smoke, if someone is smoking at a bus stop. The bus will pick you up where you are standing.
But when StarTran begins picking up passengers only at bus stops, people will have no way to escape the smoke, she said.
“I think it is a good resolution,” she said.