As a cyclist, I have had my share of interactions with rude drivers. But today was my first taste of a rude pedestrian. To avoid rush hour traffic I was riding slowly on the sidewalk. Slowly is indeed the only way to ride on the sidewalk as it dips and rises with every driveway. Since pedestrians have the right of way on sidewalks, I slowed even further to a walking pace when I saw a woman approaching with her dog on a leash. I passed by their side, then I heard her say accusingly "There is a bike lane, you know." I was already past her and started to cross the road, so I ignored her and rode on. But her comment bothered me, as I do not wish to create a bad reputation for cyclists. But it also made me angry, because there is no functional bike lane on the road. There is an illusion of one, as signs along the road indicates. But cars parked all along the "bike lane," or more appropriately, the shoulder, means that I am stuck between parked cars and moving cars if I tried to ride on the road. That is much more dangerous than riding on a shoulder, however skinny, that is directly beside a sidewalk.
Commuting cyclists ride to do our part for the environment. But yet we are stuck between and often shunned by both pedestrians and drivers. Where bike lanes are barely available, neither law nor culture guides where one should ride and receive right of way. Specifically, the law allows sidewalk riding when no bike lane exists, but what happens in the scenario above where the "bike lane" is used as a parking lane?
I can sympathize with both pedestrian and drivers as I am both at certain times. The lady with the dog responded simply out of entitlement for the sidewalk, as pedestrians have been trained to do. Without the perspective of a cyclist, she simply cannot see that the assigned bike lane is cluttered with parked cars. She has probably also encountered her share of unruly teenagers on fast bicycles. And I have to admit that as a driver I have been annoyed by slow cyclists on the road. But I shouldn't be feeling this way. Proper city planning and alterations have the power to eliminate the tension between drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
The future of sustainable transportation is filled with trains, trams, buses, bikes, scooters and rollerblades. Half of these modes of transport are currently unwelcome on road nor sidewalk, and disallowed in many public spaces. Culturally, personal modes including bikes, scooters and rollerblades have been dominated by unruly teenagers. But increasingly, people are switching to these modes to bridge the last mile on their work commute. How do we keep the peace on the roads? I believe nationwide licensing extended to personal modes of transport are necessary to establish order and respect, and re-establish trust between drivers, riders and pedestrians. We all need to do our part whether walking, riding or driving, to impart respect and actively share the road towards a sustainable future.