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How To Make Streets and Sidewalks Safer?

Albert Koehl, an environmental lawyer, cycling advocate and adjunct professor of natural resources law at Osgoode has written a great letter to the Star discussing how fuzzy the purposes of sidewalks and bikelanes are.

Thinking about Segways, Motorized Scooters and Wheelchairs, and E-Bikes… what’s allowed on a sidewalk? What’s allowed in a bikelane? What is are the safest practices for people depending on the design of the street?

If a sidewalk is empty beside a 80 km/h 6-lane arterial… why should we blame a cyclist for using the sidewalk to be safer?

Pedestrians have a right to be safe. Forcing cyclists onto unsafe roads, however, discourages cycling and compromises their safety. Fining cyclists for using sidewalks doesn’t address the problem of unsafe roads. Would parents want to see their teenaged children riding on roads with fast-paced traffic? The result is that more parents chauffeur their children in cars, compromising efficiency (not to mention fitness levels) and further congesting roads.

Currently, bylaws allow only small-wheeled bicycles on our sidewalks, on the assumption that the rider is also small and therefore not particularly powerful (or fast). This isn’t always the case. Laws that allow only young cyclists on sidewalks make more sense, providing their speed respects pedestrians. The same applies to motorized wheelchairs.

Indeed, it’s not just the safety of pedestrians that is compromised by cyclists on sidewalks — the cyclists themselves can be at greater risk. The City of Toronto’s 2003 cycling collision study found that one of the most common collision points with cars and trucks is at intersections when cyclists leave the sidewalk to cross a road. This type of collision is especially common for cyclists under 18.

Read the full article at the Star

What do you think? What is the best way to make sure public space is there for all transportation modes to use safely?

  • Tim

    make cars illegal!

  • 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.

  • Safety and efficiency as guiding principals in designing the transportation grid. Worth thinking about. I’m going to apply this idea going forward and see where it takes me.

    I wonder what the guiding principals in planning are now?

    Perhaps: ‘We need more roads, where can we build them for the lowest cost?’

    I expect is close to how we do it currently. An opinion from an expert in the field would be very useful, perhaps Mr. Koehl might add some thoughts?

  • MH>Safety and efficiency as guiding principals in designing the transportation grid.

    I think it was Todd in earlier posts that pointed out the distinction between an “artery” that “cuts through” a neighbourhood versus a road/pathway etc that is *part* of the neighbourhood.

    So to safety and efficiency I might add “humanity”…

    Sorta like the difference between being isolated from the world in a plastic and steel box, communicating by honking horn and flashing light versus being part of the world and communicating using whole phrases like “Good Morning” and “Excuse Me” and “Thank You” ;->

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