A cyclist riding on the sidewalk is deemed dangerous and unlawful yet the alternative of riding on a busy arterial road is often life-threatening. Cyclist actions when approaching vulnerable pedestrians can be the key to allowing greater safety for both. The example here is of a cyclist travelling eastbound on the south sidewalk of Oxford Street in London Ontario and approaching two vulnerable persons from the rear.

Pedestrians being struck and injured by cyclists riding on sidewalks is one of the main reasons why many jurisdictions make sidewalk riding illegal. Yet, with proper actions by the cyclist, a safe coexistence can occur. In the example shown in the photo above the cyclist is riding on the sidewalk because riding in the right lane of Oxford Street is dangerous to cyclists. Oxford is a main arterial road in London that provides no safe opportunity for cyclists to ride in the right lane. In particular many cyclists simply fail to wear helmets, often due to ignorance but also because many persons and cycling organizations, who ought to know better, tell cyclists that helmets do not matter. When struck from the rear by a motor vehicle a cyclist’s head often strikes dangerously stiff portions of the vehicle exterior when helmet use could be of substantial benefit. Much like a seat-belt a helmet may not prevent all injury but in the vast number of instances they reduce the severity of injuries. Thus when cyclists do not wear helmets it becomes even more important that they stay out of traffic lanes and ride on a sidewalk.

As shown in the next photo, a crucial part of responsible cycling is to warn vulnerable pedestrians, in reasonable time and distance, of their approach. We can see below that the woman pushing the stroller has turned her head possibly because the cyclist has rung his bell thus allowing her to consider how she might avoid the oncoming cyclist. Many instances of collision with pedestrians is that cyclists fail to reduce their speed on approach whereas it is very easy for a cyclist to reduce his/her speed to a level which is less than 5 km/h higher than the vulnerable pedestrian. Such actions can give everyone involved plenty of time to react to each other.

Here the female pedestrian has turned her head possibly because she heard the warning bell rung by the cyclist informing her of his approach.

As shown in the next photo, the cyclist has chosen to ride off the sidewalk while the man in the medical cart has also chosen to ride closer to the right edge of the sidewalk. With proper warning given by the cyclist, and a slow speed, such passing motions can be performed in safety.

The cyclist has chosen to steer off the left edge of the sidewalk when passing the man in the medical cart and the man in the cart has also steered toward the right edge of the sidewalk. When proper warning is given by the cyclist and the cyclist reduces his speed such passing motions can be performed in safety.

Knowing of the cyclist’s approach the female pushes her stroller closer to the right edge of the sidewalk allowing the cyclist more room to pass her left. This can be done safely if the cyclist gives sufficient warning and reduces his speed.

In the photo below it can be seen that the cyclist can pass the female and her stroller in safety because the female moved over to the right while the cyclist has moved over to the left. This passing motion can be done in safety if both partners perform their actions correctly. This cannot be done if the cyclist does not provide sufficient warning of his approach and he does not reduce his speed.

In summary, pedestrians and cyclists can co-exist on sidewalks in safety if proper procedures are in place. Most importantly cyclists need to understand their obligations when riding on sidewalks. When in the presence of pedestrians they need to give sufficient warning of their presence and they need to slow down such that they are travelling only a few kilometres per hour faster than the speed of the pedestrian. These procedures must to taught to all persons involved but mostly to cyclists who have control over how a passing motion unfolds. Cyclists need not be banished to dangerous travel lanes of arterial roads where they could meet their death from impact by much larger and heavier motor vehicles. With proper guidance and enforcement by authorities cyclists and pedestrians can co-exist on sidewalks.