Pedestrian Killed by Cyclist

August 15th, 2009 by Potato

The recent news that a pedestrian was killed by a cyclist riding on the sidewalk was shocking. For some, it’s lead to a refiring of the debate over whether bikes belong on the sidewalk or the road. Of course, this freak incident is so shocking because it is so rare, and unfortunately some people aren’t taking that the right way: cyclists on sidewalks hardly ever seriously hurt pedestrians, that’s why this is news. Cyclists are frequently hurt by cars (though throwing a monkey wrench into the whole argument is that overwhelmingly more accidents are between cars and pedestrians, which are generally separated!). Not helping matters in this debate is that despite the death that did occur, it was a case where the bike belonged on the sidewalk: it was a 15-year old boy on a bike with tires small enough that the law says he should have been on the sidewalk, in an area of the city with few pedestrians, and cars that regularly zip by at 80 (the limit is 60 km/h).

The answer is that cyclists don’t quite belong with either group, so the best solution is dedicated bike lanes with physical barriers to cars. But that’s a fantasy, not something that’s going to happen in a city that’s already built up. Ignoring that solution I fall back on the one I use myself when riding my bike: when I’m going fast, and/or when there are lots of people on the sidewalk, and when the cars are going slow, I ride on the street (like in downtown areas). When the cars are fast and the pedestrians are missing (such as suburban areas), I ride on the sidewalk (though on sidestreets where there is no appreciable traffic, I’ll stay on the road).

Unfortunately, we can’t rely on common sense alone, otherwise we wouldn’t need laws in the first place, and the law doesn’t seem to like taking a “wherever they damned well please, according to the conditions” stance, so we get the rules that cyclists belong on the street.

The heated debate also seems to be stirring up some motorist anger towards other bending of the rules by cyclists, especially not stopping at stop signs. Heck, I’m guilty of this myself on my bike: it takes effort to get back up to speed from a full stop, and in side-street riding you can hit a stop sign every block! Plus it’s not nearly the same issue with a bike rolling through than a car: a bike will have more manoeuvrability and can stop faster, and is going slow enough that they can check for oncoming traffic safely without having to stop (or for that matter, slow significantly).

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