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Councillor Stintz Wants to Target 5% of Cyclists Who Use Sidewalks

From CBC News:

A Toronto city councillor wants the city to enforce a bylaw barring bicycles from the sidewalks.

Coun. Karen Stintz says there’s already a bylaw on the books, but it’s never enforced.

She says in her midtown ward she hears lots of complaints from pedestrians who are upset they have to battle for the sidewalk with cyclists.

“The bicycles go quite quickly,” said Stintz, adding that this can be dangerous when the pedestrians are seniors or people with strollers.

“It does create an unsafe environment.”

Many Torontonians have complained of near misses and minor collisions on city streets, she said.

Sister Mary Sibbald, a Toronto nun, likes the idea of cracking down.

“They are a menace sometimes on the sidewalk,” she said of sidewalk cyclists. “They come behind you so quietly and so surreptitiously.”

Read the full article: Toronto cyclists get sidewalk warning

According to the most recent Bicycle Count [PDF], only 5% of cyclists counted were using the sidewalk instead of the road.
  • Joshua

    Good for her. As an avid cyclist, when I see others on sidewalks it makes me think they ruin things for everyone and I am quite vocal in telling them to get on the bloody road. Want to bike in the city? Use the road. Want to walk in the city? Use the sidewalk. End of story. People have DIED and suffered life-long, debilitating injuries as a result of the morons biking on sidewalks.

  • I wonder if she has ideas about how to enforce this. Seems impossible, really.

    Joshua – you’re being a little extreme – yes, maybe 1 or 2 people have DIED after being hit by a bike, but 50+ people DIE every YEAR in Toronto after being hit by cars.

    They’ve been trying to enforce safe driving for… oh… 100+ years.

  • Joshua

    Joe T. This has nothing to do with Bikes versus Cars. Yes, people die getting hit by cars. Surely you’re not arguing that biking on the sidewalks is A-OK?

  • duncan

    We need to look at the people who are riding bicycles on sidewalks. Are they speed demon roadies? Are they daredevil mountain bikers?

    In the neighbourhoods I frequent (Annex, Koreatown, Chinatown, Parkdale, West Queen West) the people I most often see on bicycles on sidewalks are older, are moving only slightly faster than walking traffic and are more often than not being passed by joggers.

    These people have rusted old bikes loaded with groceries or empty bottles that they’re collecting. Sure, there are many exceptions to this, but the most common sidewalk riders that I see are possibly doing so because they don’t feel safe on the roads moving at such a slow pace.

    Joshua, hyperbole only makes you sound angry.

  • Joshua

    Hyperbole where? I’m talking about cycling. I’m not calling it the worst in the world. I don’t want my kid getting hit by a cyclist using the sidewalk. I don’t want my elderly parents getting hit by a cyclist using the sidewalk. That’s it… and as if speed has anything to do with it! All it takes is an unfortunate trip/fall and your head hits the sidewalk. Cyclist traveling at 5km or 25km makes absolutely no difference to the way your head impacts cement.

    Cyclists have no place on the sidewalk! End of story! If Old Man Joe or even Regular Sally has an overloaded bike and doesn’t feel comfortable being on the road, then it’s time to lock up the bike, bring your groceries home by taxi/transit/walking and come back to get your bike.

    I guess suggesting that cyclists could be at fault for anything on a biking bulletin board is just silly. But all I’m reading is “biking on the sidewalks isnt that big a deal”. Sure, it might be unenforceable, but if you’ve never been on a sidewalk and thought ‘holy shit, if i just moved to the left one second ago, i would have been on the pavement thanks to that douche riding on the sidewalk’ then I guess you’re lucky. I’m not advocating bylaw officers or anything… all I’m saying is that cycling on the sidewalk is dangerous. If you can’t see that, well….

  • Bicyclists use sidewalks because the roads are built for fast car traffic, and are extrememly dangerous for cycling. The freeway style arterial roads in the councillor’s ward are not enabled for cyclists. The off arterials on the other hand are perfect for Bikeways (bike enabled thoroughfares) yet no bicycle infrastructure has been invested to this end.

    Instead of targeting cyclists – who are choosing a progressive transportation alternative, and thus reducing car and truck grid-lock through their choice – and demonizing them with-in what seems to be a insincere and populist ‘War on the Car’ mythos, the councilor should be advocating for safe infrastructure for cycling – like Bikeways on parallel non-arterial roads, Bike lanes where possible – and as Mayor Ford has said in reference to the more outlying wards – bike lanes beside the sidewalks on those freeway type arterial roads that connect the “Squiggly Grid” network of housing sub divisions in the 519.

  • andymacd

    Sidewalk cycling is more dangerous than riding on the street – http://onelesscar.wordpress.com/2008/06/11/risks-of-sidewalk-versus-road-bicycling/

    I’m not convinced that focusing on a small group of wrong do-ers has any benefits to cycling in the city overall though.

  • andymacd, thanks for the better wording of my over-all point.

    “..focusing on a small group of wrong do-ers has any benefits to cycling in the city overall though.”

    I read you article on the study. To me it seems like the bottom line is that cyclists have more *inertia* than their counterparts on the sidewalk, so they’re less likely to be injured in a collision with a pedestrian. On the other hand the pedestrian is at high risk of getting injured in any contact. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with your over-all point, bikes don’t belong on the sidewalk – although the idea that someone would do a study about the self interest of not endangering pedestrians reflects rather badly on this hedonistic society.

    Rather than thinking about our own self interest constantly, perhaps for a moment about the safety of, as Joshua says, our children and our aging parents, the “Weakerthans” in society. I would expect that I could never forgive myself after I injured someone while riding a bike on the sidewalk. Whenever I used to, as a bike courier several years ago – before I learned better, as soon as I hoped up on the sidewalk I’d have this vision flash into my brain of running over a 2 year old, and the social consequences of that. I think I’d have to give up cycling (that I love) for the rest of my life as a penance for that.

  • mizzlara

    @andymacd and michael holloway –

    Both well said! The story of the woman who died in Scarborborough after getting hit by a cyclist was mentioned in the CBC story as some sort of example but that is not the norm. Again, definitely not advocating for riding on sidewalks but the dangers are exaggerated and you can’t run with one example as being the norm. Is it unfortunate? Absolutely. Is it annoying to see people ride on the sidewalk? For sure. But like Duncan H pointed out, 95% of the people I see riding on sidewalks in my neighbourhood are elderly and anyone who has experienced near misses from douche bags – well, they’re douche bags regardless of where they are riding.

    Bottom line is that people who ride on sidewalks don’t *want* to hit pedestrians but clearly they see it as a better option than riding on the road. So the main focus should be answering why people are still riding on sidewalks when there are bike lanes, which will bring us back to the ol’ “unsafe conditions for cyclists, better/more bike lanes” plea. People like Karen Stintz do not want to address this issue, so instead they focus on “cracking down” on sidewalk cyclists.

  • Joshua – tone down your comments please. You may want to check out our Code of Conduct. Be polite, or don’t participate.

  • This story sounds so familiar. Sidewalks want protection, but cyclists get pushed off roads and people killed on a consistent basis. I don’t ride on the sidewalks for many reasons. Those reasons should also pertain to motorists.

  • Antony

    I propose a simple solution: the City should distribute umbrellas to all pedestrians that feel threatened by sidewalk cyclists.

    Of course, the arms race would continue as old Chinese men would start outfitting their sidewalk cruisers with bike polo spoke-guards.

    This is exactly the kind of tiny-stakes pet-peeve annoyance that rules municipal politics. I can’t believe we’re debating this in 2011.

  • The simple solution would be to just set a speed limit on all sidewalks for all traffic including pedestrians (runners) skateboards and rollerblades and… everybuddy. A 400lb rider/vehicle at 10kmh has half the kinetic energy of a 200lb rider/vehicle at 20kmh. It’s not the weight that is the problem but the speed.

    And if there are fines already in place, why are the police not handing out tickets? It’s not their job to be interpreting the laws.

  • “Many Torontonians have complained of near misses and minor collisions on city streets, she said.”

    How many *exactly*? Personally I thank the Gawds for everybuddy I see on two wheels instead of in four wheels… On two wheels they bear some more of the risk, and make our streets a little safer for everybuddy else.

    As noted already, the real issue is the lack of safe cycling infrastructure.

  • DT

    Antony, don’t advocate violence. Even if someone is breaking a bylaw, you have no right to intentionally injure them. It is stupid to push a person of a bike – they could get a head injury and then you are liable for assault charges and a civil suit.

    Do you think it would be okay for driver to run down jaywalkers?

    Enjoy prison…

  • Antony

    DT, I’m not seriously advocating violence (I just need to learn to write better). All I’m trying to point out is that there’s little power imbalance between pedestrians and sidewalk cyclists.

    Taking your example of drivers and jaywalkers, there is a huge power imbalance, 2000lb and 350hp of it. The car always wins, there is nothing a pedestrian can do except jump out of the way. The laws that try and remedy that natural power imbalance only work if the pedestrian can get the license place and survive to be a witness.

    When an old lady with a cane has the power to maim a young man sidewalk cycling, it seems to me there’s a less clear-cut need for laws to protect public safety.

  • Antony

    Another example of power imbalances: Notice that drivers will fold in their mirrors when parked on a narrow street. It’s accepted, that if a passing driver rips your mirror off, that you were stupid to park there. However, parking in a bike lane is no problem, since what is a cyclist going do to? Key your car?

    It’s cynical, but imagine if a breakthrough in auto body nanomaterials made cars dent and scratch-proof. Scary thought.

  • DT

    Sorry Anothny,

    I see your sarcasm, got carried away.

  • DT


    I think about 1 person has been killed by a cyclist riding on the sidewalk in three years. Compare that to 29 people killed by cars last year alone.

    I think it is kind of obvious what is really the most lethal threat

  • scanner

    I would get behind Ms. Stintz proposal if she would also guarantee the drivers parked in bicycle lanes would receive the maximum ticket for their infraction. Especially Fedex and UPS trucks that are wide and force a cyclist way out into traffic. Oh, and cop cars who pull over drivers then block the cycle lane for 1/2 an hour giving a ticket. Pull around the corner, man.
    And Joshua? http://www.copenhagenize.com/2010/07/vehicular-cyclists-secret-sect.html

  • Joshua

    Again, its not about speed. You can be moving at 2km/h, and if you don’t see Old Lady Munson in time because she *just* stepped out of a store that opens onto the sidewalk, you’ve run her down and caused her serious injury.

  • duncan

    Here’s a fun fact. Ward 16 (Karen Stintz’s ward), bordered by Bathurst to the west, Eglinton to the south, Yonge to the east and the 401 to the north has not one single piece of cycling infrastructure. Sure, there are a couple of “shared roadways” with little blue signs with numbers on them, but that’s it.

  • Jo

    I for one think that adults on bikes have no business riding (at speed) on sidewalks…For the following basic reasons, that I’d be happy to update according to any logical rationale that get’s presented….Here’s where I’m at so far:


    PS: Keep in mind that I’m approaching the question from a view of busy downtown sidewalks…not desolate stretched of suburban walksways

    Just Sayin

  • Duncan H said:

    “Karen Stintz’s ward […] has not one single piece of cycling infrastructure.”

    So, comes a call to action – for Toronto Police Services to “target” cyclists – from the “conservative” who won her seat by opposing the condominium development Minto Midtown project. In that case, conservative seems to be spelt “what’s in it for me” or NIMBY; now, in this her second term at City Hall, this councillor apparently runs the ‘demonize the other’ department of the Mayor’s Office.

    The problem as I said above (http://bit.ly/hDCXfr) is not cyclists too afraid to cycle on the road riding on sidewalks, the problem is lack if safe-cycling infrastructure; and ironically as Duncan points out, Karen Stintz’s ward takes the mid-town prize for that.


    From the Era of the dinosaurs (65 million years ago) comes a call to crack down on the new comers:

    ‘ “These Mammals have got to be punished” said the Tyrannosaurus Rex from Ward 16, “..some of the residents of my rain forest have seen them killing and eating our small animals *AND* eating the leaves that some members of the ward like; it’s disgusting!! These omnivores should be exiled from the forest! I don’t mind them personally, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a species-ist, just as long as they don’t come around here. They should go back to where they came from – those holes in the ground, what do they call them, “Burrows?” – where they muliiply their disgusting, furry little offspring with out eggs. Oh gawd, it’s makes me sick just thinking about it!” ‘


  • “Again, its not about speed. You can be moving at 2km/h, and if you don’t see Old Lady Munson in time because she *just* stepped out of a store”

    Actually it is all about speed. I tried earlier to explain the natural law about kenetic energy, how it increases at the SQUARE of velocity. This is what makes a .22 caliber bullet weighing less than four grams so deadly?

    If kenetic energy is too difficult for some, think about human reaction times. The truth is that these sorts of 2kmh “meetings” happen on Toronto sidewalks millions of times every day. Thinking of the mobility scooter folks for example, there are no persistant reports of injuries to pedestrians caused by these scooters.

    Perhaps Toronto only needs a by-law banning the blind from operating any vehicles.

  • Larry

    The law should be enforced. Riding on the sidewalk is dangerous to pedestrians, dangerous to drivers (bikes leaving the sidewalk when crossing at corners) and makes other cyclists look bad.

  • It’s interesting to see folks quoting the recent Bicycle Count Report “95% of cyclists rode on the street rather than on the sidewalk”… where only the downtown core was surveyed.
    When I scoot through the exurbs like Downview and Scarborough, it appears to me that 95% of cyclists are on the sidewalks… often half the folks I see on the sidewalks are on wheels. Often they are seniors, and bikes are laden with groceries. And the pedestrians aren’t really “walkers”… they tend to just accumulate around the bus stops.

    I would be interested to see a map of where Toronto cycling advocates live and work and play. My guess is that their geographic distribution and their perceptions are both very skewed.

  • Last year on Chesswood Drive in Downsview I saw a whole “troop” of Toronto bike cops go by. Kinda unusual to see our cycling Finest in Downsview!

    All six of them were on the sidewalk…

  • If I cycle on a sidewalk, I’ll startle someone’s Dachsund.
    If I cycle on the road, I’ll get killed by a car.
    Hmmmm???? Let me ponder this one, & I’ll get back to you.
    In the meantime, if they built more bike paths, we wouldn’t have these tough decisions and unfortunate run-ins so often.
    Trails rule, roads… kill. (Sorry it doesn’t rhyme, but it’s true nonetheless.)

  • Murray Lumley

    Leave it up to the Cyclists
    Perhaps where cyclists travel – whether in cycle lanes if available, on the road in the right lane, or on the sidewalk should be left up to the sense the cyclist has of how safe it is and how crowded is the sidewalk. This is what I do. Where it feels safe to me – usually low traffic side streets – I ride on the road; where it doesn’t feel safe and if the sidewalk is free of pedestrians at the moment (and there are vast stretches of the city and especially the more outlying areas where this is true), I ride on the sidewalk. Where sidewalks are crowded with pedestrians, I dismount and walk my bike for that stretch. The problem I see is when a cyclist just barrels along the sidewalk which is full of pedestrians without regard for anyone’s safety. These are the people I yell at – I say nothing to a sidewalk cyclist who moves carefully at a safe speed for all. The law and police enforcement should distinguish between the safe use of a bicycle on the sidewalk and a reckless one.

  • misslynx

    Obviously this is something that varies a lot depending on what part of the city you’re in. The vast majority of people I see riding on the sidewalks in my area (St. Clair West) are not elderly – they’re teens or 20-somethings, almost invariably male, and usually riding at breakneck speed with zero concern for anyone else who may happen to be on the sidewalk. It seems to be some kind of juvenile macho thing: “I’m too cool to actually learn decent cycling skills or pay attention to traffic! I’m just going to blast down the sidewalk and force everyone to dive out of my way, because having people fear me is further proof of my awesome coolness!”

    And the speed they typically ride it at is enough to do a lot worse than just “startle a dachsund” – they could easily seriously injure an adult or kill a child. As a parent, I don’t know if I can adequately convey just how chilling it is to have some testosterone-fuelled yahoo coasting down a hill faster than the nearby cars are going miss your three-year-old by barely an inch. Small children are unpredictable – no matter how tightly a parent holds their hand, sometimes they’ll suddenly pull to the side because something caught their attention, and since most sidewalk cyclists (that I’ve seen, anyway) allow barely any clearance at all when slaloming around pedestrians, all it would take is one wrong step…

    I see a lot of things going on in this discussion that are disturbing to me, and I don’t just mean the fact that things seem to be getting heated on both sides. Some people seem to be convinced that there has to be just one single answer as to how to improve things – that you can either have enforcement of cycling laws and require cyclists to behave like grownups, or you can have better cycling infrastructure. But I don’t see why it should be an either/or – as I see it, they go together. If we want to be taken seriously as legitimate road users and a viable means of transportation in the city, we have the responsibility to actually act accordingly. Because who’s going to take us seriously otherwise? Riding recklessly, or defending others who do, stirs up negative feeling against cyclists and makes it much harder to get any kind of concessions at all.

    Also, I find it kind of appalling that even here, on a city cycling site, there are apparently people who are convinced that if they ever ride in traffic at all they’re going to die. This despite the fact that there are probably thousands of regular commuter cyclists in the city who are, mysteriously, not dead. There have been tons of articles posted here on how to ride safely on the city streets, and there are also the city’s CAN-BIKE courses and other similar resources – seriously, people, it’s not that hard.

    I do understand that it can be nerve-wracking at first – when I first started cycling regularly, a few years ago, I was afraid of busy streets. So I started with side streets until I gained more confidence, then eventually ventured onto busy streets that had bike lanes, and eventually reached the point where I was pretty comfortable even on busy streets without bike lanes. And I’m not some 20-year-old guy who thinks he’s indestructible – I’m an over 40, not-particularly-athletic female, so really, if I can ride in traffic, anyone can!

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