While driving with my 85 year old father a while back we got to talking about cycling. Dad commented that there is always that “age old debate” on whether you should cycle on the road or on the sidewalk. I replied that there is no debate and that the Ontario Highway Traffic Act is clear. Bicycles are vehicles and are required to ride on the road. I went on to say that they are also required to ride with traffic or in other words in the same direction as a car.

I find myself wondering when it was that it was ever deemed to be ok to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk such that people think that is where bikes belong. In addition, the majority of all vehicle collisions occur at intersections, therefore riding on a sidewalk does nothing to prevent this conflict. In many cases, cyclists riding on a sidewalk often ride facing traffic resulting in a collision because they did not stop for a pedestrian cross-walk.

People also believe that bikes belong on the right hand side of the road and nowhere else. In times past where the majority of urban roadways were single traffic lanes in each direction, it was easy to ride on the right hand side and nowhere else. However, with urban roads now containing dedicated left turn lanes and dedicated right turn lanes cyclists are required to ride “in traffic”. Some motor vehicle operators chose not to understand that this is where bikes belong. I say chose because that is exactly what it is. They are making a choice to not “share the road”.

We can spend a ton of time arguing about the rights of the road, but to what end? For those who require the language, it is an offense to fail to share the road with a bicycle. More importantly, I believe we need to want to live in community with others. We need to want to share the road.



  1. Graham Roe · September 6, 2014

    I think you are misguided about sidewalk cycling. I’ll work on a post to show the either side of the story, and comment back.

    For example if I’m riding on the sidewalk on Columbia between Fischer-Hallman and Philip Street, there’s no way it’s safer than riding on the road where traffic routinely exceeds 80km/hr. There are very few intersections and no driveways. It’s much safer to ride on the sidewalk there (particularly in winter).

    I think we need to look into the reasons for sidewalk cycling and instead of banning the practice, we need to address the causes. Current poorly designed infrastructure makes it feel unsafe to ride on our roads, polling has showed this to be hindrance for a large majority of our population. Using a bylaw to hide the poor design solves the wrong problem. I think we need to delve into the reason for the behaviour, look for the deeper causation.

    My view was like yours until I heard Susan Sauve a Peterborough planner who spoke about how they were considering reversing their bylaw to allow sidewalk cycling. They did research and concluded that the current rule of thumb that states sidewalk cycling was more dangerous to be a flawed interpretation of the studies and data.

    More later 🙂

  2. Becca · January 5, 2016

    I agree that cyclists should not be on the sidewalk, and cyclists are “vehicles” on the road. However, and it is a BIG however, just as Graham stated, we must delve deeper into the constraints that cyclists face when roads are unsafe to ride on. There is a place for cars, there is a place for pedestrians, so why don’t we properly plan for cyclists?

    Clearly, cycling is a mode of transportation which should not be ignored considering there are so many benefits bycling brings to a city. There are lots of examples about how we can plan for cyclists from our friends across the pond, and even places in the States which were originally car-dominant cities turned cyclist (Portland, SF, Boston, NYC).

    The bottom line is that people have realized active modes of transportation may be better for their lifestyle, the environment, the economy and the communities in which we live in. There is a growing group of cyclists, and we must innovate and plan our city according to what we see the future to be.

    I am currently a Masters student at The University of Waterloo in Recreation and Leisure Studies. I study how car-dominant discourses suppress cyclists within a city. Please feel free to reach out to me to talk further about the topic!

    Keep cycling and keep advocating! 🙂

    Becca Mayers

    • dianelfreeman · January 5, 2016

      Thanks for your comment Becca. Happy to catch up. Email me at my City of Waterloo email address.

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