Enforcing no bikes on sidewalks reduces riders

I had a chat with one of our traffic planners who lives in Guelph.  Guelph police are inforcing the no bicycles on sidewalks by-law. The result. Less people riding bikes.

Instead of riding on the road, people are going back to cars.  Her question to me: Do I want less people riding bikes and more riding cars?

Darn. Well of course I want more people riding bikes. 

Apparently 60 percent of riders ride on sidewalks at some point. Having had  trucks blow by me, I understand that riders just feel safer.

In fact, bicyclists are no safer on the sidewalk than on the road. Why? Most collisions occur at driveways and at corners.

We next discussed whether the no bikes on sidewalks is a by-law that should be removed since it isn’t enforced.  I suspect though that it would be enforced on complaint.  I’m not prepared to remove the by-law as I worry that even more bicyclists would be on the sidewalks.

The region is presently looking at multi-use trails by the road (so cars can see cyclists at those corners, not have them pop out from nowhere) instead of sidewalks for some regional roads. Road warriors could still ride on the road and in bike lanes.

Since our planner is on a provincial committee on pedestrian safety, I pointed out that bridges going over the 401 and other highways often don’t have sidewalks or bike lanes as these are usually provincial bridges. Or should we build more pedestrian/cycling overpasses?  I like to point out that  you can cross a river with a boat but you can’t cross  a 401  or expressway when you are a pedestrian or cyclist. So how do you get across the highway?

Our planner would like trails to be 3 meters not 5 as proposed. I suggest everyone get out a meter stick and measure how wide that is. 5 meters is much wider than a traffic lane. I find from GRCA where people worry about a house 120 meters from a wet land (approx half a mile) that perhaps we don’t know the real distances with measures.


4 responses to “Enforcing no bikes on sidewalks reduces riders

  1. Love the idea of mindful walking. (That’s what roundabouts encourage, BTW. Also mindful biking and driving! Re driving, I wish!!!

  2. Hi Jane,

    I hope they go for a 4-5 metre pathway over a 3 metre pathway (assuming these are two-way pathways). In my experience in Ottawa the three metre wide multi-use pathways are too narrow when you have so many different types of users.

    Something like these two examples would be perfect (including the pedestrian/cyclist crosswalk lines and the signals which are key for safety at intersections)


    you also may find this link about cycling safety to be very informative. It talks about three measures of cycling safety: actual, subjective, and social… statistics and reducing accidents are very important, but to get more people on their bikes they have to *feel* safe.


  3. i have worked for many years at a large university in west los angeles and have stgruggled with the issue of bicycles on sidewalks as i am a frequent pedestrian. Recently I have developed a strategy that I have found works for me. I call it “Defensive Walking”. The Buddhist Thich Naht Hahn might refer to it as mindful walking, and in the military they might refer to it as situational awareness.

    I think pedestrians have to realize and accept that with the advant of the bicycle,not to mention skateboarders, roller bladers, motorized and un-motorized scooters, and the segway, the sidewalk has become a defacto roadway. It is no longer a sidewalk, but a sideway. And one should act accordingly.

    The eight parts of Defensive Walking are:

    1. Before entering the sidewalk watch for on coming bicycles.
    2. When walking on a wide sidewalk keep to the right.
    3. Before moving laterally check you six o’clock position.
    4. When a bicycle approaches clear out of the way.
    5. Never take more than five or ten paces without checking your six o’clock position.
    6. Before entering the intersection of two sidewalks, check for on coming bicycles.
    7. Before crossing the intersection check for on coming bicycles going with and against the flow of motor vehicles.
    8. Before crossing the intersection check for on coming bicycles using the crosswalk.

  4. So the choices are:
    1. Do nothing. Danger to pedestrians remains.
    2. Crack down on sidewalk cycling. Many cyclists switch to driving (which is perhaps even more dangerous to pedestrians).
    3. Do something else.

    I support option 3. What might that involve? I will make a couple of suggestions below.

    One, aggressively add bike lanes and separated cycling paths, not just where it’s easy to add them, but where cyclists actually want to travel. I noticed that the regional cycling master plan doesn’t show bike lanes on King Street, presumably because there’s not a lot of room to add them without removing traffic lanes or on-street parking. To that, I say so what? It’s an important route, and it’s terribly unsafe to ride on the street. The cycling network needs to be built now, not in 10 or 20 years.

    Two, instead of handing out tickets, start a harm-reduction campaign. Recognize that some cyclists will ride on sidewalks, and educate them about how to do this without injuring pedestrians. Distribute free bike bells. Remind cyclists that accidents tend to happen at driveways and intersections, and help them avoid these accidents. Improve signage. Educate motorists too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s