Bikers seem to think they exist in some sort of alternate universe where traffic laws don’t apply to them. At least, the bikers I’ve encountered in Ottawa do.
I’ve seen bikers swerve through traffic on King Edward Ave., run through stop signs and red lights by campus, and rarely have I seen a biker wearing a helmet.But the worst and most frequent offense I’ve seen is adults riding their bikes on the sidewalk.
Not only is biking on the sidewalk extremely dangerous, it’s also illegal. According to both the Ontario Highway Traffic Act and the Ottawa Traffic and Parking Bylaw, bicycles are vehicles and bicyclists have the same rights and duties as motorists. But you don’t see a little old lady driving her Fiat down the sidewalk now do you? Although, she would probably go slower than some of the reckless cyclists I’ve seen.
I live on a pretty steep hill—there are many around campus—and I’ve literally almost got hit by cyclists everyday this week. It’s not like I don’t look before stepping out, it’s that cyclists speed so fast that they would probably qualify for the Tour de France. I shouldn’t have to watch out to make sure I won’t get hit by Lance Armstrong everytime I leave my house.
The most recent encounter that comes to mind was the other day, when I was walking down the street with my boyfriend. This street had a bike lane and yet a cyclist made the active choice to use the sidewalk instead. He yelled incoherent slurs at us as we stopped at the intersection. He then sped past us, nearly clipped my boyfriend on the shoulder, went through the red light, and continued speeding down the hill, nearly hitting a family with a small child, who had to literally pull her out of the way of this speed demon.
I understand that if you’re a kid or beginner who’s not exactly comfortable on the bike, being shoved out into traffic isn’t the most comfortable option. But if you’re an experienced cyclist who just “doesn’t like” being on the road, you are jeopardizing the safety of pedestrians and you should be fined and ticketed. Many argue that it’s too dangerous on the road for cyclists, which I can understand, but instead of pushing the danger onto the sidewalk, we should focus on educating motorists on how to share the road, instead of forcing pedestrians to share the sidewalk.
While the Ottawa police stepped in back in 2010, after they received calls from concerned pedestrians and conducted a blitz, it would be nice to see these rules reinforced again. I don’t expect a lot from this city, really, I don’t. I know that my bus probably won’t come on time, the LRT will be pushed back until after I graduate in 2021, and that once snow hits, the roads won’t be cleared until February. All I really want is to make it through my undergrad without falling victim to death by bicycle.