I live in a city where riding a bike on the sidewalk is a bylaw offence. It also illegal to ride a bike though a cross walk. Cyclists may walk their bike through a pedestrian cross walk or walk their bike on a side walk but they are not allowed to ride it. Cyclists can and have been charged by police for violating these bylaws. But many cyclists still ride on the sidewalks.
In principle sharing the sidewalk with cyclists has never bothered me. I do think pedestrians should always have priority over cyclists on the sidewalk. And really cities should have dedicated bike lanes. (My city is a bit spotty with the bike lanes. Which is one the reasons I choose not to cycle.) I use to think actually charging people for riding on the sidewalk to be on the extreme side. My view is now changing after some negative experiences with rather ill tempered cyclists driving me off the sidewalk and swearing at me for being in their way.
I walk a lot. When I hear the ding of bike bell behind me, I move over to the far most right of the sidewalk so that the illegal cyclist may have plenty of room to pass me on my left. I give them plenty of room to pass me. I know from experience that there is enough room for one pedestrian and one cyclist to pass each other. If I have my dog with me, I direct my dog onto the grass shoulder so that there is still plenty of space on the sidewalk for the other person to pass. Same way that things work on the road. Faster vehicles pass on the left. I don’t look to see who is behind me. I just stay right to allow room for passing. This works just fine most of the time. But every once in a while I encounter a cyclist who seems to not know how to share and acts like they own the sidewalk.
Today I was walking to the gym. I heard a bell ding behind me and as usual I made sure I was on the far right of the sidewalk so whoever was behind me could pass. I continued walking as normal. A lady rides her bike past me then stops dead in front of me. She physically blocked me from continuing to walk. She said “I am trying to let my child pass.” She gave me a dirty look and she held her arm out so I could not go around her. Her child then rides his bike along on my left and passes. Something he could have done just fine while I was still walking. I said nothing, but raised my eyebrow at her. She then called me a “Bitch” giving me another dirty look over her shoulder and rode off with her child. I thought her actions were extremely rude, inappropriate and completely unnecessary. There was plenty of space for her and her boy to pass and the fact remains that she was committing a bylaw offence and simultaneously teaching her child how to break the law. Double fun.
I am not saying a child should be riding their bikes on the road. Child cyclists absolutely do not belong on the road. But they do need to be taught to share the sidewalk and that one day when they are grown they may learn the rules of the road and learn how to ride there.
I do not have my own children, but I have observed plenty of other parents address the sharing of the sidewalk in far far more appropriate ways then what the women above decided to do. I saw a dad awhile back who rode his bike along the road staying parallel with his daughter on the sidewalk. He stayed on residential low traffic streets and kept a careful lookout for cars and pedestrians. He then coached his child on what do to when these challenges presented themselves. He advised her to stay to the right to make room for people to pass her. He told her to stop at every corner and check for cars. I have seen other parents do the same for their kids while riding behind the child. They always yielded to pedestrians and taught their child to do the same. I have no objection to sharing the sidewalk with sensible cyclist like this. Once a small child tired his best to avoid me like his mother told him, but he ended up running his training wheel over my foot. It hurt, but I was not mad at that parent or her child, because I could see a conscientious parent doing their best and young children don’t really have the best motor skills. If my memory serves me right I also remember training wheels making steering bikes more difficult.
The part that really makes me angry about that rude lady, is that I said nothing to her. A corner of my minds tells me “You let her get away with her poor behaviour. She will never learn anything if someone doesn’t call her on her poor behaviour. She has no right to speak to you in that way.” A another part of my brain then points out “This women devolved to name calling in less than 10 seconds without any words being spoken to her. Speaking to a person like this would just be throwing gasoline on a flame. Best to just let her move along without reacting to her.” Yet another side of my brain points out I could have/should have still said something. I could have referenced the city’s bylaws. There are ways I could have responded to her that would have let her know she was out of line without stooping to her level and resorting to name calling. I tend to freeze up and be incapable of responding when confronted by asshole behaviour like this. I suppose there was a small improvement this time because my brain seemed to at least be able to have thought of a response in the moment even if I did not say it. In the past my brain would have been just been blank with shock and I would not be able to even think of any potential response until a good deal later. I still regret not saying anything. Maybe next time I will manage to get some words out of my mouth and stand up for myself.
It is called sharing people. It can be done.