Sunday, May 02, 2010

Sharing the bike path

Some pedestrians get very cross at anyone on a bicycle on the sidewalk, even when there's nowhere else for a bicyclist to go, and even when the bicyclist is going to every effort to ensure that not only don't they pose a danger or get in the way, but that the pedestrians don't even need to notice them. It's a sidewalk, not a sidebike, they point out.

Fair enough. But when those pedestrians are walking on the bike path, bicyclists never chase them off, nor do they seem to feel any obligation to, say, share the path with the bikes, or get out of the way. Groups of three or more always walk side-by-side so as to block the entire path, and most of them won't shimmy out of the way, forcing the bicyclist to stop or ride onto the grass. Those walking dogs, or worse yet, children, rarely feel compelled to control their less-sapient charges to keep them from moving unpredictably and possibly into the path of bicycles. And as often as not, I still get nasty looks from them, as if I have no right to be on the bike path.

I'm not going to make overmuch of the fact that it's named a bike path, though I could. Realistically, the people who funded and planned the bike path didn't name it that because they intended it to be used only by bicyclists. It's probably named a bike path because if you want to make something that works for all manner of non-motorized transport, the bike's the one you do design for (in terms of how it should be paved, how wide it needs to be, etc.), because anything that'll work for a bike will also work for pedestrians, joggers, cross-country skiiers, people with baby carriages, etc. I bet they always intended it to be shared with pedestrians.

And I've never met a bicyclist who minded sharing the path with pedestrians. All we want is for them to share it back. The snotty attitude they take on a sidewalk isn't very nice there, but at least they've got some pretext, but not on the bike path.

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