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Cyclists on sidewalks

September 06, 2011 @ 08:30 By: gordon Category: Cycling, Out and about

IMG00050-20110902-1206It seems like there are more and more cyclists riding on the sidewalks rather than in the streets where they belong.

Aside from being illegal, it can be dangerous for the people walking on the sidewalk (where they belong).

I was out at lunch with some people from work one day last week and we were approached from behind by three cyclists – two women and a man – while walking along Parkdale. When I pointed out to them that they weren’t supposed to be on the sidewalk they responded that there “wasn’t room” on the street. Me and my friends responded that there was room and that regardless they shouldn’t be on the sidewalk.

The guy on the bike decided to respect the law and rode off the sidewalk and off in to the distance on Parkdale. The two women, however, continued to ride on the sidewalk behind us, so we eventually stepped aside to they could go past us. The picture above is them riding off into the distance.

The fact of the matter is that if you’re riding a bike, you belong on the road, either in the bike lane if it exists, or at the side if it doesn’t. It is illegal for you to ride on the sidewalk. If your comfort level is such that you don’t feel comfortable riding on streets that have traffic then you shouldn’t be riding on those streets. You, like the women I encountered, should be taking side streets and bicycle paths where you won’t have to deal with traffic.

7 Responses to “Cyclists on sidewalks”


  1. Since most cyclists can’t be arsed to follow the traffic laws anyway, I’d rather they ride on the sidewalk, out of harm’s way.

    A bicycle/pedestrian collision is certain to be less likely to result in serious injury than a bicycle/car collision, and with the bikes off the roads, it would help alleviate congestion and make everyone safer.

    However, until someone steals a clue and gets bikes off the roads, yes, the bicycles should be in the street and following the rule and statutes that apply to them.

    • gordon says:

      A cyclist who is injured while riding on the road because they weren’t following the traffic laws gets very little sympathy from me.

      A pedestrian who is injured by a cyclist riding on the sidewalk, however, gets a lot of sympathy from me. Bicycle/pedestrian collisions can result in serious injuries, which are 100% preventable because the laws are written to protect the pedestrians in this case.

      Dedicated bicycle lanes, like the ones painted green in downtown Ottawa, are one way to encourage cyclists to ride on the roads where they belong. However, to drive the point home to cyclists to stay off the sidewalks there needs to be some no tolerance enforcement.

      • I don’t care about the cyclist so much as the car driver who has to live with the fact that someone was injured or killed because he ran over them. It’s little consolation that it was the cyclist’s fault. Add to that the fact that automobile drivers are usually unfairly blamed when a cyclist (or pedestrian for that matter) is hit, and it really adds up to “cyclists off the road” to me.

        Yes, cyclists can hurt pedestrians, but I am quite certain that such collisions are far less dangerous than car/bicycle collisions.

        Dedicated bicycle lanes works, but they should be paid for via bicycle licencing, not out of general tax revenue.

  2. gordon says:

    Did you see this editorial in the Globe and Mail? I didn’t realize that there are exemptions in some places for “small” bikes on sidewalks.

    • I didn’t know about exemptions either. It’s a pretty rare accident between a pedestrian and a cyclist where someone is seriously* hurt, let alone killed, and without understanding the circumstances of that one, I am reluctant to generalize that incident to a general condemnation of bikes on the sidewalk. I counter that with a search on “cyclists injured by cars”.

      *seriously: breaking a major bone (spine, leg, etc.), bleeding requiring hospitalization, loss of a limb, that sort of thing.

      If I had to start sorting out bicycles, I’d ban them when there is snow on the ground… not on the sidewalk, not on the road, nowhere except tracks and other private riding areas. Then I’d crack down on enforcing the traffic laws when they’re on the road.

      And when people are tired of paying all the taxes to do that, I’d put them on the sidewalk and tell pedestrians to pay attention.

  3. Barry says:

    There’s another problem when cyclists ride on the sidewalk. Some bicyclists tend to ride on sidewalks a speeds more appropriate for the roadway and often continue at high speed through the crosswalks across intersecting streets. Drivers who may be looking for pedestrians walking at normal speeds may not react to the fast moving cyclists in places where they don’t belong. This may also be a problem at driveways, particularly where the visibility for the drivers is barely adequate for pedestrians, but totally inadequate for cycling speeds. For example a cyclist proceeding towards you on the sidewalk in your picture would suddenly emerge behind the hedge obstructing the visibility for a driver attempting to enter the roadway from the driveway in the foreground.

  4. You’re over-reaching now.

    A million things could emerge from behind the hedge, including other cars and jogging pedestrians. If hedge visibility obstruction is an issue, then the solution would be to ban hedges/walls/obstructions within 20 feet of the roadway to ensure good visibility, not keep cyclists off the sidewalk.


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  1. gordon.dewis.ca | Cyclists on sidewalks in the news (September 10, 2013 @ 16:40)

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