Bus v. Bike v. (Human) Being

I know that the law classifies bicycles as vehicles and that's why they have to ride on the road rather than the sidewalk.  But to me, that's never made sense.  Except in the busiest areas (downtown, Richmond Row, at the University), sidewalks tend to have a lot less people on them than the number of cars on the same stretch of road. 

Bikes and walkers are roughly moving at the same speed and have roughly the same weight, at least when compared to bikes versus cars.  If there is to be an accident, I'd rather be a walker hit by a bike rider than a bike rider hit by a car.  I don't have a horse in this race either way – I don't have a bike here or a car.  But this thought came into my head as a bus crawled behind a bike rider on Richmond today just past the University gates for nearly a block, unable to pass because the other lane had a constant stream of cars.  The danger of the situation was obvious and I couldn't help but look at the block long stretch of sidewalk with a single person walking on it as an obvious solution to the problem. 

Maybe if bikes were allowed to move freely between both options as needed/preferred, that would be a decent compromise?  Requiring bicyclists to have horns on their bikes would be an improvement too, especially if the law was changed to allow them to ride on the sidewalk more frequently. 

Comments 9

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    Jason, I hope you get a lot of comments on this. Bikes on side walks are neither safe nor legal. Bikes generally go much faster than pedestrians. Pedestrians are not expecting to be overtaken, and there often is not enough room to do so.
    Cars do not look for bicycles to be streamming across the end of a side street and the cyclist can get seriously hurt. The more cyclist that are on the street the more cars will get accustomed to interacting with them.
    However, I do agree that Richmond Rd is hellish for bikes, there are a lot of potholes and lots of traffic. I suggest St. George St. for going between the University and Oxford St.
    For more safe cycling info
    The Citizens for Safe Cycling Related Policies (incliding cycling on the sidewalk)
    http://www.safecycling.ca/policies/policies.html
    Cycling Crashes and Legal Issues, Cycle Ontario Alliance
    http://www.cycleontario.ca/accident/index.html
    Study done by Toronto on bike accidents
    http://www.toronto.ca/transportation/publications/bicycle_motor-vehicle/index.htm

    Posted 16 Aug 2006 at 1:38 pm
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    one of the main reasons I sold my last bike (when I was in London) was because I wasn't comfortable riding on the road, but didn't want to “break the law” by going on the sidewalk (except when I was riding in areas like Oxford past Platt's Lane – no pedestrians there)
    I've also “hit” a car once when I was going straight (on a sidewalk) and it was turning right…so that just showed the sidewalk really wasn't any safer.
    I like bike lanes – give me bike lanes, I'll use them 🙂

    Posted 16 Aug 2006 at 2:30 pm
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    Yeah, bikes are not really safe on the sidewalk. I don't think that there is much of an issue of a bicycle hitting a pedestrian (even if it did happen, there would be minimal injuries), but bikes are very vulnerable to being struck by cars while on the sidewalk. Having been hit by cars four, half of the accidents occured when I was riding on the sidewalk. Ideally, they would ban cars from the inner-city, and use entire lanes for bicycle lanes, then no passing of cyclists would be necessary.

    Posted 16 Aug 2006 at 2:31 pm
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    Not that this is the reason I wrote this post but Shea had recently observed, “You're not getting a lot of comments on your blog since the semester ended.” Then I go and write something “controversial” and look what happens – three comments in one morning. Plus I can't even imagine what I'm going to hear when some of the “activist bikers” I know see this! Tomorrow's post? “Why libraries should have corporate sponsors – discuss!”
    I should've mentioned the idea of bike lanes in the original post as I think that would actually be the best compromise. Again, I'm not very aware of the current climate, especially in London, but my impression is that the powers-that-bray aren't too sympathetic to the idea. (Ella, thanks for the links by the way.)
    Even more radical is Quinn's idea (aren't they always?
    ) and for that reason, probably even less realistic. But can you imagine how different this city (and others) that would be if cars were banned from the downtown core? Segways would take off for sure!
    Wow – that's also crazy that two of the three respondents have been hit by cars after having been riding on the sidewalk. Maybe it's not the safer, better compromise I thought it would be?
    Yeah, I think dedicated bike lanes would be best. Cars, bikes and pedestrians are all very unique, very different forms of moving objects and each deserve their own dedicated pathways.
    Thanks for the comments everyone!

    Posted 16 Aug 2006 at 2:54 pm
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    I cycle almost every single day — to and from UWO for classes, around town (library, grocery store etc) and my husband Brian has cycled to his job at UWO for eight years — all four seasons. We have three kids who cycle everywhere too. We own a car, but prefer to cycle (environment, our bodies etc.). We've all struggled with the battle to take ownership of the roads, and wished for bicycle paths in the city, and more cycle paths on campus (for instance safe travel from main campus to Althouse!).
    I've often thought there ought to be a cycle path going north on Colborne from Dundas to Huron, and then south on Waterloo from Huron to Dundas. There is already no parking on one side of the street on these corridors, and while bicycles frequent this route to UWO, it would be nice to remind cars VISUALLY through MARKED CYCLE PATHS that they share the road with cyclists.
    This summer I've been passed on the UWO narrow bridge countless times. I've reported this to UWO Police who have been trying to cut down on this practice by cars, though there are signs reminding them NOT TO PASS CYCLISTS ON THE BRIDGE.
    As for riding on the sidewalk — I”m afraid we share Jen and Quinn's experiences — it is much more of a danger as cars do not expect cyclists to burst out from sidewalks at intersections. My daughter Lucy has been broadsided twice — once at Colborne and Central, once at Oxford and Wellington. LIke Jen, I suggest avoiding Oxford and Richmond Streets altogether.
    ADDED ANNOYANCE: The multi-use path along the river is not cleared through the winter. This path makes cycling safe and a pleasure, but its use it limited to April/May through Nov/Dec. Well, I suppose first I should support clearing of the sidewalks through the winter months. Montreal, with more snow and more cold, had better clearance! By not clearing the sidewalks we make shut-ins of those who use canes, wheelchairs and strollers/prams. SHAME!
    To all the cyclists out there — don't give up! We need you on the road — for the sake of the AIR QUALITY at least. I've yet to join one, but the first Friday of the month is the CRitical Mass Bicycle Ride — they meet in Victoria Park I think. Alex H. knows. There IS strength in numbers!!!
    NEXT UP: Free public transportation in London, ONT. Chapel Hill, North Carolina has free bus transportation to increase ridership and decrease the number of cars on the road (wear & tear on city streets, bad air quality etc). We would be wise to follow suit.

    Posted 16 Aug 2006 at 7:34 pm
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    Just to provide a perspective from the other side, as someone who (horrors!) drives everywhere, I don't think that allowing bikes on sidewalks is the solution, either. I'm definitely in support of bike lanes. London is full of crazy drivers (heck, I get passed and glared at for doing the speed limit and coming to full stops at yellow lights) and I agree that it's pretty dangerous for bikers in London, even on the roads. But at least when bikers are on the roads it is easier to treat them as “cars” and drive accordingly.
    Of course, it is also up to cyclists to be responsible. It is extremely helpful when people give arm signals before they turn (or cut across a road to make a turn that a car would not be able to make). You'd be surprised at how few people do this while on bikes. And I'm more than happy to slow down and take my time passing a biker – safely – when he or she is on the road … but it's annoying when a cyclist is so far into the lane that it is not possible to pass them. A little closer to the curb would be in everyone's best interests.
    And, like a previous poster noted, drivers don't usually look for cyclists on sidewalks at crossings. This is a timely conversation because it was just last night that I almost had a run-in with someone on a bike. I was stopped at a red light (T intersection) coming out of campus onto Western road. It was night time, which made things harder to see. There were no cars on Western road, so I could make the right turn. I had been sitting there for a few minutes at the red before having the opportunity to turn, and had been scanning back and forth and knew that there were no pedestrians around. However, just as I was about to make the turn, I noticed some movement and heard a shout, and hit the brakes. A cyclist was trying to make the cross at the intersection. A few things to note, here: he was not wearing a helmet or using any lighting. He may have had a bell or noise device, but he didn't use it (although I did hear his voice so I guess that counts as a noise device). I felt so guilty afterwards, for having come close to being in an accident, but then wondered – had I really done anything wrong? He had been on the sidewalk, not the road. Whereas pedestrians are moving slowly enough to see them coming and wait for them, this cyclist came out of nowhere for me because there was no sign of him before I started to make the turn. (In fairness to both of us, he came from a bit of a curve and hill which blocked my vision and which he had no control over). It really would have been easier to see him if he'd had a light on. For example, there were 2 cyclists stopped at the side of the road, near the trees on the Middlesex Hill, just minutes before. I might not have seen them had it not been for the reflective tape around their ankles. And, just to assuage my guilt a bit more, at least I was paying enough attention that I was able to stop in time, and was slowly moving into the turn. Still, the close call shook me up.
    I guess this ramble is just to illustrate that even with an unideal situation, as we have here in London, everyone needs to be responsible for what they can control. For my part, I'll put up with the glares of other drivers (and people cutting me off) because I'm going too slow in my car, if it means that I have that much more reaction time when cyclists are around. And cyclists should be sure to wear helmets, use lights at night, and make arm signals when turning.
    Ultimately, things won't change until there's a shift in attitudes towards cars and bikes and their value. It needs to be a lot more convenient to use a bike and a lot less convenient to use a car, before things will change in Canada. I lived in Japan for a few months and let me tell you, bikes rule the road. Foreigners enjoy telling the tales of the times they almost got run over by bicyles. But bikes are so frequently used because there are places to park the bikes – everywhere – and there are lanes and drivers treat the cyclists with respect. It's part of the culture.
    I don't know where that leaves pedestrians, though. 🙂

    Posted 17 Aug 2006 at 3:16 pm
  7. Anonymous wrote:

    In Europe, there are bike lanes in the streets. If you are caught walking, driving, or parking in a bicycle lane, you get a fine. If you get caught driving in bike lanes more than once in some places, you can have your license suspended. Riding a bike in Germany was the most pleasant thing in the world. You are treated as a form of street traffic, you don't have to worry too too much about cars, and as long as you respect pedestrians, they respect you. What a treat!
    I have been hit by a car while riding my bike. Twice. I have also been hit by a bike as a pedestrian (just once). I have also been hit by another bike rider while on my bike. My worst injuries were when I was a pedestrian hit by a bike.
    Yes, traffic can be crazy. And it is dangerous to ride your bike on some streets. There is, I'm assuming, more than one street in London, though. Maybe if you're riding your bike, you can take less busy routes?
    I have never ridden my bike on the sidewalk (except when I was wee, I guess), and people who do that really REALLY piss me off. Both as a pedestrian (because, at least in Saskatoon, bike riders never yield to pedestrians, even though they're supposed to (on the bridges, you may ride your bike on the sidewalk), and they very rarely even make noises before they hit you or blow past you swearing at you) and as a driver, and as a bicyclist. Riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is illegal for a very good reason, and should be illegal.
    Then again, riding a bicycle like an idiot should be illegal too, and so should driving like an idiot and walking like an idiot, but it'll be a cold day in hell before you get written up for “walking stupid”, I'm sure.

    Posted 17 Aug 2006 at 11:07 pm
  8. Anonymous wrote:

    Barb, thanks for the comments from the perspective of a driver. I think you've hit the nail on the head (echoing Quinn and Linda's thoughts) that society needs to change its entire car focus – by limiting access to downtown cores for vehicles and by offering cheap (or free!) transit before bikes have a stonger presence on our roads.
    This is another hugely controversial issue but the idea of Peak Oil (which suggests that the world's oil supplies will run out in 10 or 50 or 100 years) may be the thing that finally makes society change in a major way.

    Posted 22 Aug 2006 at 4:47 am
  9. Anonymous wrote:

    Hey Jill,
    Your experience notwithstanding, I'd still rather take my chances with a bike hitting me (as a pedestrian) than a car!
    Of course there are other streets in London but as some others have pointed out, bikes have as much of a right to the busy streets as cars do. But until bikes are treated as equal to cars (by everyone, not just bylaw enforcement officers), bikers are forced to take alternate routes which can make their journey longer, be more dangerous in some ways (narrower streets with less room for vehicles to pass) or be problematic in other ways (ie. secondary streets don't get cleared first in winter)
    Anyhew, this has been fun and I think we've all managed to come up with a solution – bike lanes are the way to go!
    New question (that probably no one will see) – which Canadian (or North American) city has the best bike lanes?

    Posted 24 Aug 2006 at 5:50 am

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