Sunday, February 3, 2008

Close Encounters of the Pedestrian Kind

Yesterday I spoke with my friend Sue and mentioned to her how many bicyclists I ran into yesterday who are riding on the sidewalk now. She was telling me that there have been a few fatalities as a result of motor vehicle violations of pedestrian laws, and more bike riders are using the sidewalks. And a few of them, she said, seem to be rather angry that they have to share the sidewalk with her because it slows them down. 

Sue told me that she's been out with her guide dog Wonder when  bicyclists come up behind her on the sidewalk - or around her -and she doesn't hear them.  A few have been rude to her . "I can't hear them coming up behind me, " she told me. "They just keep telling me to get out of their way." She's been bumped into, jostled and disoriented by their behavior - and then they ride off.

It's not illegal where I live for people to ride their bikes on the sidewalk (except in certain towns where it's posted.) But still - sidewalks are for pedestrians. When people choose to use a bicycle on the sidewalks, they have to take into account that they're sharing it with  pedestrians on foot,  in wheelchairs, using guide dogs and  slow walkers. Slowing down for other pedestrians is a reality of sharing the sidewalk safely.

On my way home yesterday (right before I spoke to Sue to hear her story) I was behind a woman with arthritis who was walking slowly along. I saw an adult bicyclist careen around her at a high speed. She reached out and clung to a fence near her and as I approached said to me "My balance isn't good and I just had this guy on a bike scare me so badly." I stayed with her for a while until she was more sure of her bearings, but incidents like this can result in serious injuries.