Sidewalk Bicycles a Menace

Talking to my neighbour on the sidewalk this morning when a middle aged guy on a bicycle came barrelling down the sidewalk and barely swerved by us onto the boulevard. This on Sunday morning with no cars on Highpoint. I said in a loud voice “Shouldn’t be on the sidewalk” and “A woman was killed in Toronto,” but he ignored us.
My neighbour told me how her little dog had had his lead tangled in bicycle spokes and was dragged along by a sidewalk bicyclist. She managed to untangle him with a lot of angry words but the cyclist just rode away with out an apology or anything. My previous dog was runover by a sidewalk cyclist when he was a puppy and was afraid of bicycles all his life.
My husband when he was walking to the bus stop at WLU used to yell at the cyclists riding on the sidewalk along University.
“My wife had those those bike paths put on the road at great expense, get off the sidewalk!”
I told him not to say that!
I’m the regional rep on the Regional cycling advisory committee. They are all keen cyclists and the committe and staff and myself have worked hard to improve a, frankly, poor cycling network. Bike racks on the front of buses, more bike lanes and trails, cycling facilities (bike racks) at the bus station, etc.
Recently, staff cut the size of bike lanes to .65 of a metre from over a metre. (two feet from three feet basically) to get more lanes on the roads and clean up the patchwork. It’s still a big job, but snowy places like Denmark and Sweden have lots of bike lanes, why can’t we?
The committee just had a look at Franklin Blvd in Cambridge and suggested that an off road multi-use trail be used instead of bike lanes on such a busy street. There are multi-use lanes on Northfield in Waterloo and Fischer-Hallman and I find them very useful.
Actually though, it is no safer on a sidewalk than on the road especially with a bike lane. It just seems safer.

On a multi-use trail or sidewalk along a road, a cyclist by law must stop at each cross road and driveway (Ha! not likely). On a bike lane, the bike is the vehicle it is under the traffic act and can ride along the road without stopping  — like a car. That’s why we have bike lanes along roads.
While I can see people’s concern on busy roads, it seems to me that people are riding on the sidewalks all over the place.
This past week in Toronto, a woman was killed by a cyclist who hit her while she was walking on the sidewalk. The cyclist was also on the sidewalk.
I am going to bring up at Planning and Works this incident and ask that police have a crack down. Except on multi-use trails, cyclists on the road! And ring your bell (you do have one on your bike, right?) so we know you’re coming on trails.


3 responses to “Sidewalk Bicycles a Menace

  1. Sure, it’s illegal with the current laws. Though in more places than not, the enforcement indicates that it’s functionally quite legal. Whether it’s wrong is a separate matter, though lax enforcement suggests it’s not thought to be that wrong.

    Bicycles are pieces of metal that can go fast and can be operated recklessly or carelessly. Bicyclists can do damage to themselves, and yes, to pedestrians and other bicyclists. The more pertinent question isn’t whether they can do damage, but how much damage they cause on average, and whether bicycles being removed from sidewalks would actually be a net positive for the community. It isn’t clear to me that it would be.

    There are hardcore cyclists out there, and these I bet are the ones who will always ride on bike lanes when present, and will ride on the road otherwise. But there are also “choice” cyclists, who use their bicycles because it is pleasant and convenient for them — but who are not committed to it ideologically. They are afraid of riding on the road, and probably also prefer the convenience of being able to easily go from sidewalks to trails and bike-friendly shortcuts.

    If bikes are kicked off sidewalks, few will choose to ride on the road instead. People will either take their chances and ride illegally, or they will just not ride their bicycles. Which means they may get out their much larger piece of metal, and go hurtling down the road in that…. Not a clear improvement in public safety (and certainly an increase in air pollution). In fact, reckless bicyclists probably make even more dangerous drivers.

    (I ride my bike on paths, smaller roads, and on a few bicycle lanes. But the speed and poor visibility on some roads scares me, so I do take refuge on sidewalks, generally at much lower speeds. Pedestrians are very important and also very vulnerable; I slow down to nearly zero when going around them, and avoid making them feel unsafe. On sidewalks, driveways are a source of danger, but I have much more control over that than over the actions of drivers behind me on a road.)

    The reality is complex: Just what is the alternative people would actually choose instead of riding bicycles on sidewalks, and how does it compare in terms of public safety and other factors? Are those who are reckless bicyclists going to heed the laws? And why do people ride their bikes on the sidewalks? Which models of dividing city space between cars, bicycles, and pedestrians have been shown successful? This is really not cut-and-dried.

    I bet that: number of pedestrians killed by cars in Toronto > number of bicyclists killed by cars in Toronto > number of pedestrians killed by bicyclists.

    • First of all, Thanks for the replies!
      And yes I do know that cyclists have it rough with cars. That’s a whole ‘nother topic.
      My daughter was in Montreal for a summer, and I would like to work towards what they have. We have a long way to go with bike lanes.
      In the suburbs, I believe cyclists can ride on quiet streets like other vehicles.
      On a street like Weber, separate multiuse trails would be good. In some cities, they divide cyclists from pedestrians with both having separate lanes separate from the cars.
      Bikes should not be on sidewalks, they are vehicles. One of the regional committee members is showing staff and us what they do in Holland. What a treat, separate roundabouts for cyclists.
      Here’s a link to the regional cycling master plan. Not only are comments welcome but if you are local, Waterloo Region, think about becoming part of one of the cycling advisory committees when an opening comes up. Kitchener has just started one.
      As usual, there are regional bike lanes, city bike lanes, and trails!$file/CYCLING_MASTER_PLAN_2004.pdf?OpenElement

  2. First off, I bike, and I hate biking on sidewalks. But I completely sympathize with cyclists who don’t feel safe on the road in KW, even with bike lanes. It’s scary out there.

    I’m in Montreal right now, and granted, there’s a very different road culture here. But it’s really impressive to see the segregated bike lanes and bike rental network. Bikes are everywhere here, and it’s faster to get around downtown on bike than it is by car.

    By no means do I want to belittle the progress that’s been made. The trail networks in the city are much better than they were when I moved here 15 years ago. But I don’t really understand the urge to put bike lanes on every four-lane, 60kph parkway in the city. Much better to run bike routes through quiet neighbourhoods and parkland where bikes are less likely to interact with busy traffic.

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