I really want to rant about this subject, for a number of reasons. As someone who has been a student here at UW for 8 years now, I have to say that most bike riders in the University area are a menace to themselves and to others. I love riding my bike, and for most of my time here at UW had no access to a motor vehicle and thus rode my bike 8 to 10 months a year. But the cyclists around campus are most often obnoxious, dangerous and infuriating.
IT IS AGAINST THE LAW IN ONTARIO TO RIDE A BIKE ON A SIDEWALK!
From the Ministry of Transportation Ontario’s (MTO) website it states: “The Ontario Highway Traffic Act (HTA) defines the bicycle as a vehicle that belongs on the road. Riding on the road means mixing with other traffic. This is only safe when all traffic uses the same rules of the road. When everyone operates under these rules, actions become more predictable. Drivers can anticipate your moves and plan accordingly. Likewise, you too can anticipate and deal safely with the actions of others.” That means, if you are on 2 wheels, get off the sidewalk!
This is especially needed now that both University Ave. and Columbia St. have bike paths. I recently checked with a member of the RCMP and was informed that not only is it illegal to ride on the sidewalk, but also illegal to ride the wrong way on a bike path. So if you’re on a bike, obey the rules of the road.
I have a friend in town, who is a professor, who happens to walk with a cane. He has been hit by bikes on Columbia more than three times. He has been knocked down and often the cyclist does not even stop to see if he is okay. Who in the world is that ignorant!?
According to the HTA on the MTO’s website, a bike is legally responsible for:
HTA 144/136 -Traffic signals and signs - stop for red lights and stop signs and comply with all other signs.
HTA 153 – One-way streets - ride in the designated direction on one-way streets.
HTA 147 - Slow moving traffic - any vehicle moving slower than the normal traffic speed should drive in the right-hand lane, or as close as practicable to the right edge of the road except when preparing to turn left or when passing another vehicle. For cyclists, you must ride far enough out from the curb to maintain a straight line, clear of sewer grates, debris, potholes, and parked car doors. You may occupy any part of a lane when your safety warrants it. Never compromise your safety for the convenience of a motorist behind you.
HTA 142 - Signaling a turn - before turning, look behind you and signal your turn. Cyclists can use their right arm to signal a right turn.
HTA 140/144(29) - Crosswalks - stop for pedestrians at crosswalks and walk your bike when crossing at a crosswalk.
HTA 166 - Streetcars - stop two metres behind streetcar doors and wait until passengers have boarded or departed and reached the curb.
HTA 175 (12) - Stopped School Buses - stop for stopped school buses when the upper alternating red lights are flashing and the stop arm is out.
HTA 62 - Lights - a bike must have a white front light and a red rear light or reflector if you ride between ½ hour before sunset and ½ hour after sunrise.
HTA 62 (17) - Reflective tape - a bike must have white reflective tape on the front forks and red reflective tape on the rear forks.
HTA 75 (5) - Bell - a bike must have a bell or horn in good working order.
HTA 64 - Brakes - a bike must have at least one brake system on the rear wheel. When you put on the brakes, you should be able to skid on dry, level pavement.
HTA 218 - Identification - Cyclists must identify themselves when stopped by police for breaking traffic laws. The police officer will ask you for your correct name and address.
HTA 185 - Expressways - Bicycles are prohibited on expressway/ freeway highways such as the 400 series, the QEW, Ottawa Queensway and on roads where "No Bicycle" signs are posted.
HTA 178 - Passengers - Passengers are not allowed on a bicycle designed for one person.
HTA 178 - Attaching to a vehicle - You are not permitted to attach yourself to the outside of another vehicle or streetcar for the purpose of "hitching a ride".
HTA 104 - Helmets - Every cyclist under the age of eighteen must wear an approved bicycle helmet. Parents or guardians shall not knowingly permit cyclists under sixteen to ride without a helmet.
Yes, some of these are not all that trendy, but neither is your hurting yourself, or putting someone else at risk. Use some common sense, be polite and be safe for yourself and for others!
I know that, as a cyclist, sometimes, maybe even often, cars do not yield when you have the right of way or may even put you as a cyclist at risk. But you as a cyclist have choices; you can choose to walk instead, you can choose to ride and obey the rules of the road being extra vigilant of cars, or you can do what most cycling students do and become a danger to others by your behaviour.
Sometimes the right decision is not the easy decision. A few years back I was hit on my bike on Columbia near Weber St. A classic Volkswagen Beetle drove up over my front wheel while making a right hand turn to cut through a parking lot, without even doing a shoulder or mirror check. My bike was toast; the guy had the wheel fixed but the forks were bent and it was never the same. However if I had been on the sidewalk and not the road, I would have been the person at fault.
I do want to acknowledge that there are many cyclists who do follow most of the traffic rules, and regulations. They are a credit to their mode of transport. Yet unfortunately, too many cyclists, especially around campus, have a flagrant disregard for the law and the safety of others, and they endanger all near them, and they need to be taken to task on their reckless behaviour. So I implore you do the right thing, and ride on the road not the sidewalks, please.
(First Published in Imprint 2006-11-03 in the Features Etiquette Beyond Buckingham Palace, as ‘Cyclist may endanger many.’)