Bikes Don’t Own the Sidewalk!


I wonder why we call them side “walks”? It seems pedestrians are constantly losing ground to bicycles and other wheeled conveyances on our public sidewalks.
A major reason for my purchasing my house ten years ago was due to the greenbelt across the street that has sidewalks extending around a lake—a great place for exercise for me and my dog. My wonderful dream did not materialize quite the way I imagined it.

I expected to have to carefully select times for walking when the greenbelt is not as busy, but I did not realize that regardless of the time I am walking, I can be suddenly overrun by a bicycle. Don’t get me wrong. I am certainly open to sharing the sidewalk, even with bicyclists, but what I can’t handle is their stealth approaches that leave me no time to get me or my pooch out of the way. All I’m asking for is the kind of courtesy runners give when about to pass one another, “On your left.” What I would prefer them to call out from a safe distance is, “I’m coming up behind you.”

I can’t tell you how many near misses there have been. That in itself is certainly a problem as I am not as agile as I once was. The deeper concern is that my dog does not take well to being startled by a large rolling object bearing down on her. Her usual response is fear and aggressive barking. My hearing is fine, but I think hers may be slightly impaired by age, but the onset of bike riders does not even give time to trigger her amazing sense of smell. We are both jumping while I am simultaneously trying to hold her back from going after the bicyclist.

After these encounters I mention to the riders that having a bell dinging would be very helpful, or just calling out before they get too close. A few seem apologetic, but I have to say that most seem put out that I am on the sidewalk walking my dog when they are trying to ride their bikes.

I have seen these riders go right up to families with little kids in tow and just push through them. Little kids have no clue which way to get out of the way. There have been some very insensitive and even dangerous encounters. I have experienced such myself when taking my little grandkids for a walk on the greenbelt.

When I walk my dog, I am constantly turning to look behind me so I will not be caught unawares. When I see riders coming, I move off the sidewalk just to be safe.
To be safe enough I would have to have eyes in the back of my head as many of these cyclists are traveling at very high speeds. I try to give my dog a little leash room, maybe three or four feet, which means that sometimes we are spanning the sidewalk. Still the bikers do not call ahead.

I would like there to be signs at the beginning of sidewalks through parks telling bicyclists to share the path by alerting pedestrians by bell or word when they are approaching them from behind. I would love to personally buy bike bells for everyone who uses the greenbelt by my house! Obviously, that would be expensive, but otherwise I don’t know how much I can use these sidewalks to get my much-needed exercise.

As I ponder this dilemma, I realize that the predominant attitude of those on bikes is that they are powerful enough to do whatever they please. Granted, I don’t want to tangle with these whirling metal objects. It smacks a bit like bullying. Might makes right. Should it?

A couple of days ago was a perfect example. I had walked my dog about a mile, my head switching back and forth, when I spied a bike angling like it was going to turn and follow on the sidewalk I was on. It did, but to my surprise and joy, I heard a “ding ding” many yards behind me. It was plenty of time to be sure I had my dog under control and with nary a bark both of us were out of the way. Would you believe that is only the second time a person approaching from behind on a bike has sounded a bell in my ten years on this greenbelt. And this one was a policeman on bike patrol! They certainly know how important it is to use those bells.

I wish I could report that made for the perfect walk, but it was about 15 minutes later when I suddenly was approached right at my elbow by a bicyclist that I only knew was there because my dog began barking and lunging at close range. This time I couldn’t reel her in fast enough. Oh, no…

– Shari


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