Pedantic Pedestrians

Graham keeps up with lots of local blogs from the KW area. He sent a post from the blog ‘Perspectives from King and Ottawa’. I think the title is ‘Don’t startle pedantic middle aged pedestrians while riding or you might get a snippy blog post written about you’.

I personally don’t read the blog. It’s kinda neat that he cares about liveable cities like we do at waterloobikes.ca, but I think his perspective is quite narrow and to me he seems pretty disconnected from the realities of suburban living in this area. Which is a real shame because I bet that’s where the majority of us K-dubs live.

Anyway, I ride on the sidewalk every day that I commute by bike. As a commuter, I have two reasons why that’s not going to change any time soon no matter how many pedestrians I startle.

When I’m commuting, I’m not out for a jaunt or looking to take in any scenery. Taking my bike is not about stopping to smell the roses. I’m interested in the most direct route to my destination.  This means I travel some very busy roads to get where I need to go. The busiest roads have no cycling infrastructure. They also have a decent share of maniacal tank pilots. The roads are ideally 60’s (kilometers per hour), some 50’s, but you can bet your bottom dollar there will be several motorists travelling 80 and sometimes I see drivers going over 100 on these roads. It’s extremely unpleasant to get passed by a car doing 80 kph. Not something I want to subject myself to every day. So, up on the sidewalk I go.

Second, there is no good way to cross Conestoga Parkway other than on heavily trafficked main roads. My route has a two lane overpass across the Parkway. I sometimes ride center of the rightmost lane so that cars don’t pass two at a time. There is not enough room for two cars and a bike across those two lanes, but most drivers don’t know that. Some mornings, the battle is too much. A big line-up of angry motorists behind you as you assert your right to the lane takes a toll especially if you feel you have to watch your ass constantly. Those days I ride across on the sidewalk.

I don’t see anything wrong with using the sidewalk when it’s appropriate, more safe, or even if it just makes you feel more like biking. One thing though, you definitely have to slow down and become more ‘pedestrianish’ if you want to be safe there. There is plenty of danger travelling at high speed and crossing intersections from the sidewalk as you would if you were on the road. Expected sidewalk traffic moves much slower and always look both ways before crossing even if they technically have the right of way.

I normally wouldn’t care what one pedantic pedestrian has to say to me about my habits. I’ve startled my share, sometimes while just jogging. But blanket statements like ‘Adult cyclists don’t belong on the sidewalk’ need to be met with the alternative view from an actual cyclist. I worry that without it someone toying with the idea of bike commuting might read his and think this downtown blogger knows anything about cycling and thus be scared into his automobile forever.

18 thoughts on “Pedantic Pedestrians

  1. After being hit a total of 4 times, with once resulting in a very long healing time after, I am all for cautious sidewalk riding, especially in the kind of terrible and busy roads we have in Waterloo Region. I agree, there is no narrow focus on this and it shouldn’t be thought of in such simple terms. Sorry, another issue where black and white don’t work. Even bike lanes: Who thought Carolina, Erb and Bridgeport was a good idea? That is a tragedy waiting to happen.

    1. Cautious being the key word. I’m thinking about doing a series of posts called ‘How to ride on the sidewalk’.

      It’s time to yank this stigma.

  2. I have never responded to a blog post until today and I have now responded to two! Look at me! This topic has caused me to want to speak up….I ride on the sidewalk for a short section of my ride to work because it is my safest option. As a mother of two young children, I feel that it is my responsibility to balance out my need for exercising myself and my social conscience with their needs of having a mother. I practice caution and yield to pedestrians and vehicles but who yields for me? So far no one! People walk straight out in front of me, even while looking me in the eye and cars cut me off. I have been lucky and have yet not had an accident but I believe that is because I am cautious and yield first. I do feel that taking to my bike does reduces me to a second-class citizen….I have no right to be on the road or sidewalk…where is a biker to go?

    1. Thanks Jean
      I think there’s a good deal of freedom being commuter non-grata. It doesn’t matter what you do, someone’s going to be upset.

      Therefore, you don’t have to worry about it. Manage your risk, bike where it’s comfortable and let everyone else have a problem with it.

  3. I don’t see how attacking me or pedestrians helps cyclists. One important issue is the need to be respectedjust like cyclists deserve respect. Both groups should be helping the other to thrive. And drivers should be respectful of cyclists. My point was that sidewalks weren’t built for cyclists. If you think cyclists need better infrastructure put your energy towards that cause but don’t treat pedestrians with disrepect because you don’t like how drivers treat you. We’re stronger together.

    1. Sorry that you are feeling attacked. It’s not personal there’s lots of pedantics out there, but you voiced up.

      I would like to point out that your earlier comments are much less conciliatory.

      I also think you are underqualified to make statements like ‘Adult cyclists don’t belong on the sidewalk’.

  4. I can understand not wanting to fight with traffic – I have a tendancy to hop and walk on my bike a lot. But you’re in a minority in recognising that if you’re going to move your bike to the sidewalk that you need to act like a pedestrian. A majority of the cyclists I’ve encountered (not downtown, around the university, and there’s even bike lanes for people who aren’t comfortable with cycling), deal with being bullied by cars by pretending that there’s nothing wrong with what they do. I have had cyclists ask me to move to the side so that they have more room on the sidewalk. I have had cyclists whiz past at full speed. And I consider myself lucky to have only been hit once. But frankly, if I didn’t assume that any cyclist on the sidewalk could, at any time, do something really stupid, I’d have had more collisions than that to my name. It’s terrifying to have traffic on the sidewalk.

  5. Whenever I talk to my Dad about how cycling was back when we lived their (1970’s-1987), he always said it was fairly enjoyable, however that’s only because the population was different compared to today.

    We lived in the Pioneer Drive area and my Dad would occasionally ride downtown K-W or to Cambridge for work without issue.
    If I were to move back to K-W now, although I’d want to ride on the road, I honestly can’t see riding on a street such as Homer Watson.

    I can’t believe any city would allow speed limits of over 60km/h without a safe place for cyclists — so although I am against sidewalk cycling, I can’t say I blame people for doing so…Just do so in a responsible manor!

    1. There are routes around it though. I also live in the Pioneer Drive area, but have figured out a way around Homer Watson without adding any additional time. The sidewalks on Homer Watson are perfect for sidewalk cycling too, though. There are little pedestrians and no cross streets or driveways.

  6. I bike from Doon to the University of Waterloo daily. I go under the parkway on Courtland everyday. Yes it’s pretty scary, but I’m a confident cyclist. I haven’t had any problems with motorists going under the highway, even though I have to straddle the on/off ramp lane. The majority of cyclists that I see on Courtland go on the sidewalk or on the rock trail beside it (near the golf course). The only accident I’ve had was hitting another cyclist on this trail near the intersection at Mill.

    On roads like Courtland, Ottawa, and Homer Watson, I can understand why you want to ride on the sidewalk. And I’m fine with that. But you need to understand that pedestrians get the right of way. This means slowing to a crawl when you pass them, or riding off the sidewalk. If you’re riding on the sidewalk on streets with lots of cross streets and driveways, you are being more dangerous by reducing your visibility. People backing out of their driveways, turning off the street, or turning onto it will not check the sidewalk for cyclists. Drivers don’t want to hit cyclists, but they’re not given that option if you are not visible. Also, you will most likely lose a law suit if you injure a pedestrian or get injured yourself while riding on the sidewalk.

    1. Laws regarding cycling in this country were never made with cyclists in mind. That list is in serious need of updating.

      $85 for not signalling, yet on a pamphlet I got from the library on safe cycling in Ontario (put out by the MTO), it indicates both hands much be on the handlebars at all time.

      Also $85 for not having a bell? Motorists can’t hear them and pedestrians ignore them (or can’t hear them with their mp3 players on full blast).

      I also wish cities would look into the one-way street issue. Many European cities and Montréal provide a bike lane going against traffic on one-way streets.

      I find it odd they say you must have rear brakes. If I had to choose between having front or rear brakes, I’ll take my front brakes hands down!

  7. “I don’t see anything wrong with using the sidewalk when it’s appropriate, more safe, or even if it just makes you feel more like biking.”

    So, you see nothing at all wrong with breaking the law?

    1. The glib response is that I don’t see anything wrong with breaking asinine laws – no.

      A more involved one is that sidewalk cycling is actually not covered by the highway traffic act. It’s a municipal issue and is therefore relegated to the status of bylaw. Similar to overnight street parking or summer lawn watering. I find it reasonable to disobey the bylaw when it’s appropriate.

      My observation is that perceived safety of in-traffic cycling is the biggest obstacle for beginning riders. Why try to convince them otherwise?

  8. K-W and Cambridge bylaws prohibit bikes with wheels larger than 50cm (20 inches) from riding on the sidewalk. So; just go to Canadian Tire and buy a folding bike with 20 inch wheels , that will solve the problem, now you can bike ride on the sidewalks LEGALLY.

    Just be forewarned; those bikes are really, really slow, so don’t expect to go fast with them, you WON’T. and get off the sidewalk when there is a pedestrian, ride onto the grass to get around them or just get off and walk the bike around them, that’s what I do.

    And when there is an intersection / side road: get off your bike and walk across, that way you are classified as a pedestrian not a bicyclist, and if you get hit by a car while crossing the intersection then that car driver won’t be angry at you for breaking the law. And yes, pedestrians get hit by cars all the time, it just happens by mistake, we are simply human and humans make mistakes.

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