How to get cyclists off the sidewalk: councillor asks, answers and then ignores herself

One can't help feeling that Councillor Stintz is trying to divert attention away from her responsibility for helping to cut access to TTC routes by pulling the old "get the cyclists off the sidewalk" complaint out of her political toolbox. News680 and now CBC has picked it up. In the tried and true way of Mr. Ford, she listens to a complaint or two from ward residents and figures it must be an epidemic.

Sister Mary Sibbald, a Toronto nun, likes the idea of cracking down.

"They are a menace sometimes on the sidewalk," she said of sidewalk cyclists. "They come behind you so quietly and so surreptitiously."

In 2009, a woman died after she struck her head on the pavement after being hit by a cyclist on the sidewalk.

Wow, one person died two years ago. There must be a scourge of sidewalk cyclists killing pedestrians! That comes to an average of 1/3 pedestrians dead per year due to cyclists (if I'm allowed to make a generous inference from one data point). From the City of Toronto's pedestrian collision data (pdf for years 2002 to 2007) we see an average of 29 pedestrians dead per year due to automobiles. Shouldn't we pay paying 100 times more attention to all these pedestrians dying from automobiles? The rate, after all, is 100 times higher.

Still, sidewalk cycling should be discouraged. Just how do we go about convincing cyclists to get off the sidewalk? An enforcement campaign? A public education campaign? Maybe. But then Councillor Stintz responds to her own approach with an even better answer:

"It's like jaywalking," she said. "We have a bylaw about jaywalking but people still jaywalk. And the best way to change behaviour is not to ticket jaywalkers. The best way to change behaviour is to create safer ways to cross the street. We've done that with pedestrian scramble.

So is that an analogy, Stintz? Out of your mouth keep coming the words "enforcement" and "education", but what you really mean to say is this: "safer cycling infrastructure". If Andie Garcia can say it so can you:

"If there was a provision for cycling infrastructure … I think most cyclists would use the infrastructure rather than the sidewalks," said Andrea Garcia of the Toronto Cyclists Union.

"There are times that road conditions can be so unsafe that cyclists feel that their safest option is to ride on the sidewalk," Garcia said.


Actually jaywalking is legal, as long as you don't get in the way of vehicles.

The cynics could say that there's no better way to distract from real issues (Transit City, TTC service cuts, etc.) than by digging up the old "scofflaw cyclist" from its horse grave and beating it some more.

The stakes are so small, and everyone has a personal anecdote that proves everything. It's the perfect recipe for a giant flamewar.

As always, the answer to whether a bicycle belongs on the road or sidewalk is "it depends on the situation" (College and Bathurst vs. Eglinton and Black Creek Dr.), and the solution is "build safe infrastructure".

Still, the resentment is real. I don't understand it, really - I mean, the power imbalance between a pedestrian and cyclist is so tiny. An old lady with a cane could poke it in a sidewalk cyclist's front wheel and send them flying. Even waving a cane or umbrella in the direction of a sidewalk cyclist would be enough to stop them in their tracks. Whereas a pedestrian has no defence from getting crushed by a truck or car.

In the past seven years, since I started cycling, I've only heard of two pedestrian deaths caused by a cyclist.
The one in Toronto and just last year one in Vancouver.

Although your typical anti-cycling comments started when news struck about the Vancouver death, it turns out the pedestrian was wearing dark clothes and walked right out into the street.

It should also be noted that neither of the pedestrians were wearing a helmet at the time of the incident.

Hell sidewalk riding is often more dangerous for cyclists than riding on the road. Until I was 21, absolutely every cycling accident I or someone I knew had been in, happened while riding on a sidewalk or an off-road trail (and that's not from a lack of riding on the road). And knowing this, I still ride on the sidewalk from time to time, so here's what would get me back on the road:

  • You see that big parking pad there covered with ring and post stands in the middle of the block. Cut the curb right by it, because I'm riding down the opposite side of the road when I approach it, and can't make a left turn straight up an uncut curb.
  • You see that big streetcar boulevard right down the middle of the road in between me and the lanes that go in the direction that I intend to travel. If I had some sort of means to cross it here, instead of a block in either direction, I'd cross it here instead of riding down the sidewalk to the nearest gap.
  • You see that construction project where there wasn't enough road width left for me to be able to get by all these &^#^%$ cars, even though this road originally had a bike lane, or that project where anything right of the streetcar tracks has been re-marked as the sidewalk that you're complaining about my riding in, or...
  • You see that little jog over there, where in order to stay on the road, I have to make a left turn from the middle of a set of streetcar tracks with a whole bunch of angry traffic accumulating behind me

The list is hardly complete, but I think that there's plenty of work that Councillor Stintz could get cracking on if this were anything but a PR stunt.

The bicycle that was involved in the death of the pedestrian in 2009 was a sidewalk-legal bicycle ridden by a 15-year old. A sidewalk-legal bicycle is one with tires 24" or less.

Get off the sidewalk and start risking your neck on Toronto's streets already... Too scared to swim with the sharks eh? Are you implying we need some higher fatality numbers so we can get our "Crosswalks" also?

Maybe you sidewalk cyclists can ask for a prayer from the Sister that God might save you from being crushed to death . I'm sure it won't cost her anything and then she'll be rid of you for good!!

Sidewalk cyclists get on my nerves as a cyclist and as a pedestrian. If it's not safe to be on the road, find another route.

Still, the resentment is real. I don't understand it, really - I mean, the power imbalance between a pedestrian and cyclist is so tiny. An old lady with a cane could poke it in a sidewalk cyclist's front wheel and send them flying. Even waving a cane or umbrella in the direction of a sidewalk cyclist would be enough to stop them in their tracks.

I have seen my share of belligerent-looking large male riders on the sidewalk. If I'm the pedestrian, I maintain my pace and don't get out of the way (why enable?), but no way would I want to be poking a stick in their wheels to see if they get mad after I dump them right beside me. An 'old lady' would be nuts to do so.

While there aren't a lot of sidewalk cyclists, I have seen some pretty dangerous ones. On Lake Shore in Long Branch, with storefronts and apartment doors right to the sidewalk, I've seen several young males riding very quickly in a weaving line, jerky line (on drugs? ADD-challenged?) with no apparent regard for anyone or anything else. There's an accident waiting to happen.

The sidewalk-riders and their close kin the wrong-way-in-the-bike-lane riders are plenty dangerous to cyclists as well as pedestrians. Thankfully they're a minority, but no way should their miscreant behaviour be minimized or tolerated.

I could have included some City stats, which Stintz has full access to as well. From the 2010 Bicycle Screenline Report, which counted all the cyclists coming and leaving downtown, they found that "the majority of cyclists counted were riding in the street, with only about 5% riding on the sidewalk" except on the "southern screenline" which includes the streets crossing Lakeshore and the Gardiner where 15% of cyclists rode on the sidewalk. "The higher incidence of sidewalk riding along the southern screenline is likely because the cycling conditions are more challenging in that area." On the other hand, where there was a bike lane cyclists were much less likely to ride on the sidewalk than cyclists riding elsewhere - only 3% versus 6%.

This isn't rocket science. Make the streets safer and most people will choose the street. Is it a good use of public money to spend it on enforcement on the last 3% of "scofflaws"? I would presume that those few sidewalk cyclists would fall under the unwritten "FIDO" rule of law enforcement (that is, "Fuck It, Drive On") except for those short yearly campaigns where police put out nets to ticket all the cyclists riding downtown (catch the fish where they are most populous).

Many sides to any stories...but the debate has to start somewhere...
Here's my initial view of "SideWalk Sissies" on the busy downtown sidewalks of Toronto...

I can't speak for the desolate sidewalks out in the Burbs of course ;-]

Just Sayin

The minutes from the PWIC meeting where Councillor Stintz presented her item are available, called the Harmonization and Enforcement of Sidewalk Cycling By-Laws in the City of Toronto. The original item asked the PWIC to recommend ... to request ... to request ... blah blah .. the Chief to create a strategy to enforce sidewalk cycling related by-laws, and to review ticketing procedures. (Drop everything and focus!)

Luckily newly minted Councillor Layton (and a member of PWIC) squeezed in three amendments:

  • investigate options to step up enforcement of illegal parking and stopping in bike lanes
  • develop a strategy for snow removal in bike lanes
  • create a strategy for accelerating utility cut repairs

Great work Layton! (It was a pretty short, boring meeting overall from looking at the minutes, except for Stintz' media stunt. Look folks, no one was even reported injured or even hit! It's just a councillor making a stink.)

Hi, eh, just writing a letter to someone in the hospital. You know it's
always kinda hard to find the right words to say.

You know somehow 'How's the weather in the hospital? sure is nice outside.'
just doesn't work.

But you gotta try, you know, you gotta show your concern so here's what I got
so far.

Dear Guy I Clotheslined As You Went By on Your Bicycle.

You don't know me, but I'm the guy who broke your collarbone.
Now I've asked myself over and over why did I clothesline that guy. Perhaps I
watched too much slapstick as a kid and expected you to get up after being
violently assaulted. Imagine my confusion when you did not. Although not
so confused that I'd actually hang around.

In all fairness, It was pretty funny, I mean the last thing you'd expect
as you were riding merrily by on your bike is that someone you didn't
know at all would stick out his arm and crush your throat.

I mean, you really should have seen it, It was just like WAM! BAM!


In closing, as you lay there convalescing in your hospital be, I'm forced
to wonder 'What were you doing riding your bike on the sidewalk anyway,
Huh, ya asshole? Side-WALK!

Maybe sometimes we bring heartache upon ourselves.

Signed, the guy that collapsed your trachea.


I don't think they'd give you pencils or pens in prison... non-toxic crayons maybe, but seeing as you're so intelligent i think they present a choking hazard to the likes of you!

Bikes can often be quick and quiet, and peds, especially older ones, do feel nervous with bikes on sidewalks, and they have rights to safety too. Crashes take their toll, as we don't bounce back so well with aging. So peds, and councillors have some points/right on their side.

But it's also clear that the roads are not safe for a good means of mobility, and folks are right to suspect that it's a distracting mechanism as much as truly being concerned about pedestrians. So I guess we have to watch those pwic agendas as they've started it all up without having a Ped or TCAC committee set up. It may be possible to write all councillors at Council level c/o the Clerk on this item eg. Councillor Layton btw.

Sometimes, the TTC makes cycling extra hazardous by hurried clearing of their transit stops of snow, and they push the snow all into the road/bike lane so they create a pinch point and remove safe cycling space. Shamefully dangerous of course - along with how at times we're seeing our bike lanes shrink to bike lines. A pleasant surprise though - on the Dundas St. W. bridge last night, snowbank removal has occurred and bike lanes are relatively great.

Is riding one's bike on the sidewalk wrong? I don't know.

Is it illegal? Yup.

Should it be a priority? Nope.

How many pedestrians have been killed by cyclists in recent memory? One, several years ago.

How many pedestrians have been killed by cars? Around thirty per year.

How many motorists and cyclists have been killed by motorists? Again, around thirty per year.

What should the City's priority be? Protecting us all (cyclists, motorists and pedestrians) from being killed by cars, that's what!

Why do the Police not ticket cyclists riding on sidewalks? Probably the same reason drivers don't get stopped for speeding and running red lights.

Cyclists should not be on the sidewalk - it's just that simple.

Better to recognize this for what it truly is: a lame attempt to tweek the anti bike sentiment and build misguided public policy.

On the plus side, only 34 parking enforcement officers were assaulted by car drivers in 2010 - that's down from the 58 in 2008.

Council meets next week, starting on Monday. It is possible I think to address Council on issues (not that things will necessarily be read etc.) in email/writing citing the agenda item, then your opinion(s). PW1.4 and I think are the appropriate things.

For good measure considering copying any vexings about safety to the Legal Dept, as we do have a right to use the public road, and to do it in safety, just cyclists are shitizens, not citizens. I copy , and for really good measure/safety - copy it to someone that cars about you in case you do get smucked badly, so someone outside of the hospital/grave can react if you can't as I think there's a 7-day limitations period of needing to file claim notice.

It will be of interest in this big dump of snow to see how the bike lanes fare, and please note just how many transit stops plow snow into the curb area and how dangerous all of that is for bikes.

Hamish, I love your puns. "Cyclists are shitizens, not citizens." How true.

Kevin Love

There's a Star story today about the many injuries from large transit vehicles, sparked by a teenage girl being hit in a crosswalk -
Since the alacrity of movement shown by Ms. Stintz and others was prompted it seems by one, count it readily, one!! letter, maybe it's time to suggest to TTC Chair Stintz that her agency's vehicles are posing a far far greater maiming and death threat than sidewalk cyclists. - but copy to others...

As for puns, well, some think they're repungent...

I'll just leave this here:

No mention if he was one of those reckless "car couriers".