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More Sidewalk Conflicts in the ‘Burbs

Yet another article from the ‘burbs about pedestrians being unhappy with cyclists using the sidewalk:

Oshawa bylaws only prohibit cyclists on downtown sidewalks. But Atkinson and her husband Thomas, 74, want that changed to include all areas so they can feel safe on their five-kilometre fitness walks.

“It’s gotten worse,” Atkinson says of the road rage that’s veered onto sidewalks in their Rossland Rd. E. and Harmony Rd. neighbourhood. “It appears people are taking out their aggression on bikes.”

When the retired couple politely ask cyclists to use the road, they say they’re sworn at and verbally abused. The culprits range from teenagers to people in their 50s and 60s.

It’s unforgivable that this elderly couple has been sworn at and verbally abused – pedestrians have a right to use sidewalks, and if a cyclist feels unsafe enough on the street to use the sidewalk, the sidewalk should be used respectfully.

A City of Oshawa Councillor (Roger Bouma) notes:

 “My question is, if we ban cyclists from the sidewalks are we moving them to the street with more deadly consequences?”

What about that huge stretch of grass between the sidewalk and road, Oshawa?  There’s room to expand the road to accomodate bikelanes, or even a bikepath on that grassy median.

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Crackdown on Sidewalk Cycling ignores Cause of Problem

This is another case of treating the symptoms rather than the cause of a problem.

According to the Star, there are plans to “crack down” on cyclists riding on sidewalks:

Cycling on the sidewalk has become “a huge issue” in cities across the province within the last five years. But the laws governing it are inconsistent and moves to update them have been slow.

“There isn’t enough teeth in the law,” said Sgt. Angelo Costa, the traffic sergeant in 31 Division where the incident occurred. “All I can do is stop a cyclist, he has to identify himself to me and I can give him a ticket. There isn’t anything else . . . that’s going to change his behaviour.”

In January, Toronto’s public works committee recommended that council work on a strategy to get cyclists off the sidewalks.

The police services board then discussed the issue in July and sent a report on harmonizing and enforcing sidewalk cycling bylaws back to the committee.

This is all fine and good… let’s increase the fines for sidewalk cycling.

However, this entire Star article (plus most discussions of this issue) ignores the cause of sidewalk cycling… that cyclists (especially in the old boroughs and suburbs of Toronto) do not feel safe on the road because:

  1. there is NO cycling infrastructure
  2. posted speed limits for cars are often 80 km/h… and most cars do far above that, usually close to 100 km/h.

As a result, most cyclists in these areas take the sidewalk because it’s safer, and the sidewalks are mostly deserted because hardly anyone actually uses the sidewalks in the old boroughs and suburbs.

If you’re going to crack down on sidewalk cyclists, at least give them a safe alternative.

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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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Inconsistencies in Antiquated Bicycle Bylaws

Via TheStar.com

In downtown Toronto, cyclists caught zipping down sidewalks can get slapped with a $90 fine.

The same offence elsewhere will only cost you lunch money: In Scarborough and North York, a ticket for riding on the sidewalk is $3.75.

That odd gap, which has remained since the city’s amalgamation, highlights a problem with the bylaws that govern how we share our streets. The rules are antiquated.

“These are decade-old bylaws that were enacted when bicycles were just pedal bikes,” said Const. Hugh Smith, of Toronto police traffic services. “We need some clarification,” said the avid cyclist, who founded the Toronto police bicycle units in 1989.

THE RULES NOW

Bicycles: Drivers are expected to use bike lanes or roads. Only bicycles with tires less than 61 cm in diameter are legally allowed to use the sidewalk. Cyclists have the right to take up a whole lane if it is not wide enough to share.

Electric bicycles: The province has deemed them bicycles, not motorized vehicles. Drivers are expected to follow the same rules as a cyclist.

Motorized wheelchairs: Drivers are expected to follow the same rules as pedestrians and travel at a walking pace. Drivers are not permitted to travel on roads unless the sidewalk is unsafe, due to snow or some other obstruction. If they must use the road, they are expected to keep to the side. Drivers are not permitted to use bike lanes.

Mopeds: Drivers are expected to follow the same rules as cars. Mopeds are not allowed on sidewalks or in bike lanes.

Segways: In pilot-test phase until October 2011. They are allowed on sidewalks and roads when driven by Canada Post workers, police officers and those aged 14 or older with mobility issues.

Read the full article Antiquated bike bylaws need updating: police

Const. Hugh Smith photo via LUCAS OLENIUK/TORONTO STAR

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