People who endanger others by riding on sidewalks should take heed of the many reasons why they will get nailed eventually. Even though it’s easy to presume that other people already share a sense of self-preservation when traveling on public roads, this isn’t the case on sidewalks.
On the road, we subconsciously trust in everyone else’s basic instincts to avoid damages and personal harm, with cyclists being especially vulnerable and acutely aware of this implicit agreement to avoid catastrophe. This basic and unspoken agreement leaves us feeling optimistic enough to venture about in traffic on 2-wheels, knowing that only the most careless of people (or the rare sociopath) might willingly endanger us while we’re on our merry way. Never thinking for a moment that it would be better to risk harming others, in exchange for a false sense of added-security on the sidewalk.
Yet deep down, most of us will admit that chaos still reigns supreme. So we’re left to trust in each others best intentions, while keeping an eye out for the effects of ignorance, accidents, or most of the time, just self-absorbed carelessness…And that’s out on the open roadways! Where we all expect stupid things to happen sooner or later!
What’s entirely unexpected are people who’re willing to take such selfish liberties with their vehicle on busy downtown walkways, where NOBODY but pedestrians hold rights to travel freely. Where the only wheeled vehicles you should EVER come across should be ridden by children, infants, or the disabled. Obviously, there’s still a gap between what is, and what should be…and it takes an especially self-absorbed person not to see the differences around them.
It can be argued (below), that there are indeed some unique circumstances where someone could (and possibly SHOULD) ride on a walkway, but these are few and far between. If there are indeed safe circumstance, or necessarily valid allowances for riding a walkway, how are pedestrians supposed to grant you ‘trust’ in their safety which they rightfully should expect on their own ‘roadway’? More importantly, how could cyclists demonstrate their own honor in such a trust?
In a kinder gentler day, perhaps it would have just been improper to pass someone without a proper greeting, without demarcating yourself as rude and unworthy of inclusion in ‘Civil Society’
Could reviving such basic social protocols be the key to sidewalk safety in a more civilised city?
Meanwhile, in a more boorish version of Reality…
There are all sorts of self-serving reasons why people feel justified to ride a bike on a sidewalk, but ultimately none of them are for the benefit of the traffic around them. Nor do they hold up against the real risks that they create, and the rules they break. There’s more on these ‘rules of the game’ below… but first we need to pause for a Sports Update…
This classic old Nike commercial springs to mind when I see someone weaving a bike at speed down a busy sidewalk…I realize that bikes and Rollerblades don’t compare (ie. the ‘blades aren’t illegal), but the risks are at least as bad if not worse when you consider the damage that your rigid, sharp-edged bike can do to human flesh, especially when factoring in your own weight/momentum behind it….and that’s only where the risks begin!
So in the spirit of playoff hockey, here’s a classic clip of Mats. Not just to console the Toronto Fans (again), and not to promote some distorted sense of ‘vigilante justice’. But rather, to show how the greatest physical sport on earth can restores order, through the self-governance of hard-checking play.
Back to Biking
For whatever reasons though, we’re seeing an increasing trend where grown adults see fit to ride the sidewalks of downtown Toronto with not only a carefree abandon, but also with a peculiar sense of entitlement as well, as they presume upon others to make way for them!
Now I’m not talking about just hoping up on a walkway to avoid dangerous obstacles, but literally riding along entire lengths of busy sidewalks along our city’s downtown streets.
Yet, before we consider what type of un-managed fear, cowardice, ineptitude, or just plain ignorance would cause someone to endanger the safety of Pedestrians, let’s quickly review some basic RULES, for any self-righteous types out there who are already presuming that this transgression is somehow within their rights, or deemed acceptable under some self-satisfying circumstances.
A bicycle is a vehicle. Under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, a vehicle is defined as: “anything drawn, propelled, or driven by any type of power including muscular power.”
Under the Metropolitan Toronto By-Law 32/92 Section 17(1)
The fine for riding a Bicycle on sidewalk with wheels over 61 cm (24″) diameter is $90.00
Here’s a list of other cycling fines that you should be aware of here in Toronto
At this point, no matter how “safe” you think you’re being, any oblivious sidewalk riders out there should probably be reconsidering the potential effects of their dangerous habits, before wondering what would also happen to them if they were to actually injure someone as a result of their foolishness. At the very least you’re looking at “careless driving” charges getting tacked on automatically for the slightest injury. From there you’ll be left to your fate at the hands of accident/injury claims Lawyers.
If you haven’t already figured this out…Unlike cars and bikes, that generally move in predictably straight lines up and down roadways, Pedestrians are free to suddenly turn and or move laterally (sideways) if they so choose. So just because you see someone ahead of you, it’s entirely ignorant and selfish of you to presume that they will walk ‘defensively’ if they can even hear you coming, unless you’re also arrogant enough to announce your fear of urban cycling with by ringing a bell as you bulldoze your way down a walkway.
Essentially this means that Pedestrians have all the rights on a sidewalk. They can and will suddenly turn or walk out in front of you, and YOU will be the aggressor in such a case of vehicular assault, and a highly prejudiced Defendant in any resulting injury claims. Not to mention having to explain to your friends and family how you injured an innocent child or so easily startled a senior citizen into stepping in front of you (due to poor sight/vision) that they fell and need medical attention, just because you were afraid to ride on the road where you belonged!
Many cyclists claim that they ride on the sidewalk because they are afraid of the cars. But choosing to ride on the sidewalk doesn’t actually eliminate the risk of a car and bike collision. Cycling on the sidewalk is actually a contributing factor in 30 per cent of car and bike collisions! These collisions occur when cyclists ride off the sidewalk into the roadway (at obstacles, or intersections), or when motorists are exiting a lane-way or driveway.
A group of scholars at the University of British Columbia conducted a literature review, looking at all available studies linking bicycle safety with infrastructure. Their conclusions will be counter-intuitive for some. The studies surveyed found that riding on the sidewalk resulted in risks 1.8 to 16 times the risk of cycling on the road. One study found that sidewalk-riding crashes (the study’s authors purposefully do not use the word “accident”) were even higher when riding against the flow of traffic on the adjacent road where the rider actually belonged.
Of course there are countless desolate stretches of empty sidewalks out in Suburbia that present easy and much safer options. Where bikes can enjoy the safety of their own “lane” on the walkways, while just about everyone else speeds by in their version of a car driven culture. City planning leaves all sorts off structural reasons why the walkway is the only safe way. So there are certainly some unique cases for ‘reasonable use’. However just leaving things open to interpretation, will only aggravate an already highly disproportionate rate of sidewalk crashes, without clear protocols, and restricted allowances.
Finally, it bears mentioning that like all small minorities who can ruin things for the majority, sidewalk riders (who can only be called Cyclists once they’re on the road where they belong), are giving real Cyclists everywhere a bad name, and risk becoming visible pariahs to everyone, especially other Cyclists.
So if you are having issue with urban cycling, remember that you can’t avoid reality just by getting on the sidewalk. Because all you’re doing is kidding yourself about reducing risks, while introducing new and very real dangers to innocent pedestrians (and yourself).
Essentially, and like everyone else, you need to earn to ride safely and securely. Otherwise, please start considering your more assuredly secure options as a Pedestrian with access to transit, or perhaps just moving out to a nice sleepy little Suburb somewhere…Where the sidewalks are just way over-sized curbs anyhow.
Finally…For anyone who might still be missing Mats abit, here’s another funny clip about traffic flow and hockey temperaments 😉