Riding a bicycle is not only a great form of exercise, but an environmentally-friendly form of transportation, which in an era of increasing gas prices with no end in sight, can hardly be faulted.
But where one rides their bicycle is another matter entirely, and it appears more than a few cyclists within Fort Frances need a reminder that they cannot travel on local sidewalks.
Bicycles are governed by the rules of the road as outlined in the Highway Traffic Act. As such, bicyclists are required to travel on the roadway, with the flow of traffic, must signal their intentions and must wear a bike helmet if under the age of 18.
Bicyclists are also governed by Municipal Traffic Control by-laws, specifically By-Law 38/96 which states: “No person shall drive a bicycle within any sidewalk area or on a curb.”
It’s understandable that local police and bylaw officers can’t spend all their time monitoring whether bicyclists are riding on or off sidewalks and writing them tickets. Certainly they have many other important things to do.
But that’s beside the point—laws exist for a reason, quite often to ensure public safety, which in this case also happens to be correlated to common courtesy.
Picture this: You’re walking down a local sidewalk, and an oncoming cyclist rides towards you. You see each other and make way. No problem, right?
Now, let’s multiply the number of people on bikes (let’s face it—children and adults are equally guilty here) by two or three. Coordinating who steps to which side of the ever-narrowing sidewalk becomes something more of a toss-up.
To complicate the scenario, let’s have a pedestrian walking a dog on a leash going in the opposite direction of a cyclist, also with a dog on a leash (or not). While we’re at it, why not have the cyclist coming up behind the pedestrian. It’s a potential recipe for disaster, with a good chance of even minor injury (not to mention embarrassment) for somebody involved (be it with two legs or four).
Now, those who regularly ride their bikes on sidewalks may argue that in some parts of town, it’s too dangerous to ride on the street. One location where cyclists riding on sidewalk are a near constant is along Third Street West.
Understandably, riding a bike along that high-traffic stretch is hazardous (and can hold up vehicular traffic). But to take up the sidewalk there makes no sense unless you plan on stopping at a residence actually located on that block. Otherwise, peddle down Fourth Street West.
The ride is smoother, there’s little traffic during most times of the day, and it runs parallel to Third Street West for several blocks, so you can get to where you were probably going while you were driving on the sidewalk along the highway.
The bottom line is that, just as they do with other vehicular traffic, pedestrians should have the right-of-way, especially considering sidewalks are made for them, not wheeled conveyances.
After all, just imagine the uproar from motorists if one day pedestrians decided to take to the streets en masse to use it as their walkway—possibly because the sidewalks were taken over by cyclists.