the recent series of bike accidents both here in Toronto and across major canadian urban centres has re-sparked the perennial urban cyclist versus driver argument. and rightfully so.
the combination of ever-increasing transit fares and growing environmental consciousness has put more commuters and urban dwellers onto their two-wheeled wonders than ever before.
on top of that, the hipster culture has adopted the fixie* as an icon of their identity. unfortunately for others on the road, popular adoption of this mode of transport has drastically increased the number of amateurs out on the road wearing ray bans and insanely tight jeans.
that said, no matter if the number stays the same, doubles, or triples, the onus is on all of us. cyclists and alternate transiters alike, to ensure the streets are safe to travel.
undoubtedly, the majority of the tension in this debate resides between drivers of motor vehicles and those sur bicyclette.
whether it's rooted in flawed urban-planning and the structure of the streets themselves (street car tracks and undivided roadways) or simply the increased number of cyclists on the road, there is no denying that the majority of the action in this debate is between bikes and cars.
although i sympathize with both sides, i will leave the concerns of motorists, scooteratti and the TTC vs. urban cyclists to them to sort out.
but what about the other affected party? the ultimate victims of the growing concerns and perceived dangers of sharing the road.
the 4th (after auto, TTC, bike) fastest way to get around town.
(FYI the 5th being on your hands and knees)
what about the pedestrians?!
has anyone noticed how the sidewalks have been suffering since the media began fueling this anti-cycle fire like cookoo-bananas?
progressively, as the shoulder of the road becomes more densely populated with urban cyclists and headlines spread the horrors of sharing the road, more bikers are jumping the curb and taking to the pavement to get their piece. the pedestrian pavement.
the deal with the sidewalk is pretty self explanatory. it's in the name.
sometimes a bikers search for a lock up spot demands a bisection of a sidewalk - fair. these situations are clear exemptions from whats really yanking my chain here.
let me be specific.
to the amateur cyclist who does not dismount and who is using the sidewalk as a roadway, i have beef with you.
this is not your territory. your presence on the pavement is dominating and unjustifiable.
you are restricted by the pace of pedestrian traffic and obstacles that already exist on the sidewalk (a la monstrous city garbage bins and streetcar shelters).
these restrictions completely impede your ability to travel at any form of pace that would acceptably warrant the use of a bike over simply walking.
and if there is any confusion about who should be where, the curb can clarify.
it clearly defines the territory designated for motor vehicle and wheeled traffic (wheelchairs exempted) and that of the pedestrian.
to be clear: the bike has been allotted that space nestled nicely between that right lane of traffic and this raised cement border.
pedestrians stay on the grey stuff.
were it not for our lovely curbs, and our adherence to their direction, we would be stuck with thoroughfares of mayhem like in delhi where cars, buses, cabs, wagons, cyclists, pedestrians and cattle weave in and out of each others way at a frustrating pace and in an inevitably more dangerous fashion.
imagine pedestrians decided to take to the streets in the same fashion that the pavement pedaler has.
people walking at their own pace straight down the centre of university avenue from queens park to front. imagine. no really, imagine. it's pretty funny.
as a recreational cyclist myself, i must say that yes, i sympathize that the streets are overcrowded and difficult to traverse- especially during the gridlock our city suffers twice daily.
but we all have a choice.
and its short and sweet:
if you cant handle the heat my friends (or perhaps in this case, the exhaust) then lose the bike and walk.
*for those requiring clarification, the fixie is a fixed gear bike traditionally used by bike couriers to expedite their maneuvering through gridlock