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.