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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?

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