Dear Ottawa Cyclists

I know you deserve all sorts of special considerations and lovely gifts and awards for using such an environmentally superior mode of transportation. And I know you’re constantly brutalized by motorists and the weather and dogs, too, probably. And I know this somehow means you are obligated to pay it forward by terrorizing something weaker and slower than you. And I know the likeliest candidate for that is the pedestrian.

But, come on guys! Motorists hate us almost as much as they hate you, but they rarely come up on the sidewalk to show their distain. Couldn’t you just sneer or something like they do?

Sidewalks are for walking, that’s why they’re called sidewalks and not side-cycle-free-for-all-places.

Like today, for instance: I was walking on a bridge that’s part of the riverside pathway. There are huge signs posted on either end of the bridge telling (not asking) cyclists they must disembark and walk their bikes across the narrow path.  Why you even need a sign telling you that a pathway only wide enough for one isn’t a good place to ride your bike, I don’t know. Wouldn’t that just be common sense?  Maybe that skinny bike seat up wedged up your muscular arse-cheeks compels you to be so boorish?

Anyway, today, I and several other pedestrians were forced to leap off this bridge path and onto the street, ya’ll. The STREET.  Why? It was because of 2 idiot adult male cyclists leading a gaggle (12 or more) of adolescent boy cyclists at top speeds. No bells, no warning, no slowing down, no apologies.

I yelled rude things, but you didn’t hear me. You were busy having fun and feeling the wind in your helmetless hair.

I’d probably suck this up if it were a rare occurrence, but it’s not. Every freakin’ day, no matter when or where I’m walking, one or more of you comes this close to mowing me down as you silently bullet by me on the sidewalk. It’s a good thing I’m not plugged into an iPod or anything, so I at least have that split second’s fighting chance to jig to safety.

 And then there are the times when you run red lights while I’m trying to cross a street. I think, “Oh, how nice, the cyclist is on the street where he belongs.” And then you brashly ignore traffic, traffic lights, stop signs, rights-of-way, motorists, pedestrians and all those pesky laws that apply to the rest of us on the road — like you have some special Papal (or Al Goral) dispensation that exempts you from anything that slows your environmentally-friendly ass down. I’m not surprised motorists are doing their best to cull your numbers.

Now I know that not all cyclists are like this. I know there are many that cycle where, and how they’re legally obligated and I know you’re as frustrated as the rest of us with the Velotards.  And I hope some of these issues get addressed on July 9th, when Ottawa City Council and the public discuss the Ottawa Cycling Plan.


26 responses to “Dear Ottawa Cyclists

  1. If I were religious I’d say “amen.”

    Cyclists here in Portland are pretty good about staying off the sidewalk, but on ‘mixed-use’ paths (which can be identified by the signs ignored by cyclists that says “Bicycles yield to pedestrians”) they have the same arrogant disregard for the pedestrians that cars often have for cyclists on the roads.

  2. As a long time cyclist and scofflaw, I can only say that you should complain to the authorities. The same thing that finally gets cops out of the doughnut shoppes to control speeders in school zones can be used to jam the cyclists. If there are enough complaints about a specific place like the bridge the cops will respond and nail the cyclists.
    Recently in Toronto there was a blitz on bad cycling, resulting in several hundred charges and thousands of dollars in fines for the miscreants.
    As for me I try not to bother pedestrians and save my lawlessness for country stop sign running rather than city attacks. Even as a cyclist you get to live longer that way.

  3. Oh no! We haven’t had too many run-ins with the cyclists on our walking excursions…but they drive me crazy in my car. I used to pretend to flick them off the road as I’d drive by…but I’ve stopped doing that, because my daughter would mimic me, and I am being rude…and when it comes down to it, I really wouldn’t wish bodily harm on them. Just get out of my way. 😉

    Yes, we have a friend who cycles, and I’m sure he’s nice about it, but around here, the majority are really annoying.

  4. Yep, I hear you and Toronto is no better. What gets me are these stupid cyclists who INSIST on cycling on the sidewalk saying the street is too dangerous! Well… walk then! take transit! lol

    What annoys me even more is the family on a weekend outing on their bikes, dad, mom, couple of kids, all the way down to the one who can barely cycle and they’re merrily ahead, then stop wayyyyyy at the front and yell “come on Johnny!” it takes all whatever little left willpower not to smack them on the side of the head. WTF??

    I’m an occasional cyclist and whereas I can sometimes not obey all the laws of cycling, I am polite and careful around pedestrians. But I see others do the total opposite. It’s the same as car drivers too. There are some who are great, some who are assholes. Ditto for pedestrians. Of course, not you or me 🙂

  5. In a perfect world we would have an education system that allowed for classes in cycling safety every year when kids are young. Along with those classes on courtesy and civility.
    Or parents who spent more time doing things like bliking and hiking with kids and taught them these important things as they went.

    But, I have no kids, and this sort of thing just turns me into a biting itch.

  6. Dave – Maybe we should send our cyclists to Portland for staying off the sidewalk lessons. The mixed user paths are a nightmare for everyone.

    Tania- Maybe if we had decent bike paths on each major road cyclists would be happier and less maniacal. Right now they really have no place to cycle that’s safe.

    bandobras – There are crackdowns threatened and the meeting tomorrow should help address things — if enough people go and voice their opinions

    CP -Maybe they actually enforce the “no bikes on sidewalks” laws where you are. Here the sidewalks are screaming with bikes, especially during commuting hours. They’re even on the sidewalks when there’s a perfectly fine bike path running parallel with the sidewalk they’re on!!

    UA – Cyclists who are too afraid to ride on the road, shouldn’t be riding their bikes in the city. We don’t need insecure cyclists on the sidewalks. Pedestrians can get seriously injured and even killed by a bike going at a good clip — you hear about it happening on a regular basis. Then there’s a big outcry and a crackdown on sidewalk cyclists for a few days, then everyone goes back to doing whatever they were doing again.

    Violetsky – As Urban Animal points out — the families with all their kids are some of the worst offenders.

  7. I understand that cyclist hate motorists because cars are bigger than them and thus lord it over them. But personally, I often think they deserve to be mowed down.

    I’ve already had a cyclist scream at me because I was crossing on a green light – forcing him to actually slow down on what was for him a red light.


  8. heheh… I’m an urban cyclist in Montreal, and at least there, we have a lot of really good bikepaths. The only time I’m on the sidewalk with my bike is when I’m WALKING it up a really steep hill I can’t bike on. I’ve been a pedestrian for far too long to actually think about terrorizing other pedestrians. and as for the stop signs and running red lights, wouldn’t dream of it. In Montreal? A car would kill me.
    But I guess it goes both ways. I’ve had pedestrians walk on the bike path when there’s a perfectly good sidewalk right on the other side of the street for long stretches, or sometimes even on the SAME side of the street. Then there are the ones who think it’s a good idea to wait for the red light to turn green for them, not on the sidewalk, but on the bike path… Live and let live, people, for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians…

  9. The timing of this entry is uncanny – or maybe it’s just that cyclists pull the same bullshit on me every time I leave the house.
    I was almost hit by a cyclist tonight while crossing Prince of Wales. All the cars were stopped, but this spandex douchebag sailed right through the red light and wasn’t able to see me because the cars were stopped. Luckily, it was by the Farm and he could swerve into the grass/shoulder to avoid me. The only good part of it was that I made eye contact with him a split-second before he swerved, and he looked pretty freaked out. I still hope he gets hit by an SUV or something.
    Anyway, I was going to rant about this on my blog, but I feel a bit better now. Thanks. 🙂

  10. Jazz – Ah yes, the screaming cyclists. I forgot to mention them. so much outrage on 2 skinny wheels. I’ve been screamed at on the sidewalk: “get the F**K out of the way!!” and other such charming greetings.

    Noha – It would be great if everyone felt and behaved like you, but alas….I’ve seen cyclists dodging traffic in Montreal and Toronto – especially those bike couriers.

    Em – Not uncanny, unfortunately, because it DOES happen every day. Thanks for venting. While I can’t say I want anyone to get hit by an SUV or anything, maybe a tumble or two due to their own carelessness would be a good lesson.

    Hunter – I guess they can’t be everywhere.

  11. I recently posted a comment on a friend’s blog about a cyclist who passed in front of me while he was driving the wrong way on a one way street. I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting him, having already checked the sidewalk for pedestrians – but not expecting a wheeled vehicle of any kind coming from that direction in the driving lanes. HE gave ME the old two-fingers-to-his-eyes-and-then-pointing-at-me signal as he passed the front of my car, as if I had done him wrong, as I apparenlty should have been looking for someone traveling the wrong way down a one-way street – as it was, in his mind, a legal manoeuvre for him.
    Pedal(l)ists are nowhere near as high on my disdain list as a rule, because many are very good at respecting the rules of the road around here, but I do take that particular left at that one-way street on a regular basis, and the next time I’ll make a point of coming MUCH closer to that particular cyclist if he pulls the stunt again. Just an idiot. Or, as someone else here pointed out, Asshat.

  12. I have stopped counting the times when I’ve nearly hit cyclists while making a left-hand turn at a 4-way stop from Orangeville onto south-bound Booth St. After waiting for my turn, I start to pull out into the intersection and ALMOST EVERY SINGLE TIME

  13. oops, hit the send button. And now to continue. ALMOST EVERY SINGLE TIME, some idiot on a bicycle (usually, but not always male) shoots across the intersection southbound on Booth, (I got the direction wrong in the last comment, I’m trying to turn left to go north on Booth) WITHOUT EVEN SLOWING DOWN, LET ALONE STOPPING. I slam on the brakes, heart pounding. Invariably, the cyclist gives me a look of intense disdain, and flips me off. One woman even shook her head despairingly at my total lack of driving ability.

    I’m frightened that one day I’ll be distracted and not able to brake in time. And I stop and wait my turn like a good little law-abiding driver. Do all the capital letters let you know just how much this pisses me off?

  14. JB – Hamilton must not have very many cyclists and/or they’re all incredibly law-abiding if have only experienced one incident like this.

    Alison – Your male/female point is interesting, because 99% of the cyclists I see on the sidewalk are male. There are plenty of female cyclists in Ottawa, too, but I usually only see them on the roads or paths where they’re supposed to be. And you’re saying most of the velotards you encounter are also male. Curious…

  15. Folks,
    it’s not about cyclists or pedestrians or motorists. Assholes are assholes however they’re moving.

    I’ve been on my bike and nearly run over by some dough-headed soccer mom talking on her cell phone and trying to drive her urban assault vehicle around a corner (and my daily commute has me on city streets for about 3 blocks, total). Two weeks ago, my partner and I were literally run over by this jerk who cut a blind corner – all of us on our bikes, on the pathway. Also on my bike, I am constantly passed by cyclists who fail to signal their intent to pass you – why do you think your bike comes with a bell? (Interesting side note, I once had someone yell at me for ringing my bell before I passed him! Apparently the “bring, bring” startled him. Read the rules, moron, they’re posted.)

    Anyway, long story short, I’m sure we’ve all been motorists, peds, and cyclists who have been annoyed by other motorists, peds and cyclists. Ease up on the cyclists; we’re not all self-righteous envirofreaks hell bent on ruining your day…some of us just like to ride.

  16. I don’t think there are any more law-abiding cyclists here than on average – but that incident happened in Brantford. I work in Hamilton, but live in Brantford. Pretty soon, with the price of a barrel of oil, all I’ll be able to afford to do is commute by bike.
    The price of oil just went up because I said that.

  17. JC (you’re not not THE JC, by any chance are you? Because if you are I’m real sorry if I offended you). If you’re just a regular JC, then I guess I can’t argue that there are assholes everywhere, but some assholes are more dangerous than others. There’s not a lot of damage an asshole pedestrian can do except to themselves. And yes, of course, you’re right – not all cyclists are assholes. I do believe I tried to make that very clear in my last paragraph.

    JB – Who knew when we built our entire infrastructure around cars that oil was ever going to be a scarce resource. Oh ya – LOTS of people. I’m excited to see how this will all play out in the future.

  18. XUP, Pedestrian assholes usually damage themselves first, but if they step into the road without looking (gee, didn’t hear anything…) and get hit by a cyclist (or hybrid), that cyclist is going to hurt too. The pedestrian will fall, but the cyclist will not only fall, he will skid, losing skin at best, but sometimes her life if she slides into something hard like a curb.

    For sure, cyclists should obey the rules of the road and stay off sidewalks. If the road is all broken up, or too narrow, then the cyclist should go down the middle of the lane, so cars will have to switch lanes to pass. Drivers might get irritated, but no one wants an “accident.”

    It’s important we all follow the rules of the road and act predictably to avoid collisions.

    But those 4-way stops are a pain. We need roundabouts or a fused-grid street pattern to make cycling more pleasant – and to save on all the pollution from cars stopping and starting, stopping and starting, stopping and starting.

    tOM Trottier,
    VP Citizens for Safe Cycling

  19. Tom – Thanks for your input. You’re right, of course, that pedestrians need to remain alert and follow the rules too as they can cause accidents as well as anyone else. I hope the city will follow through on the cycle plan approved last night and that some major infrastructure changes will occur to make the roads safer for all. I do realize that the current structure is very unpleasant and unsafe for cyclists. I commute by bike myself on occasion and don’t much like it. I’m hopeful though will the ever-rising price of gas that we’ll see more and more bikes on the road and the more users, the more quickly the city has to act to make intra-city cycling a viable, safe and friendly transportation method

  20. sometimes i feel like they follow car-rules when it suits them and pedestrian rules when it suits them. i do wish i had the balls to cycle in the city though, but it does scare me – everything seems so unpredictable.

  21. Meanie – Yes. You need to be really sure you know what you’re doing and have a high degree of confidence in your cycling and defensive cycling abilities before riding in the city. I think most of the problems stem from unskilled, unknowledgable cyclists. And then, of course, some are just plain rude.

  22. What about kids who ride their bikes on the sidewalk? One quiet day, I was walking along on the sidewalk, minding my own business, when suddenly, this kid, a little boy about 8 or 9 yrs old, zoomed right passed me! Not only was I startled, but I was upset too & I yelled at him that he wasn’t allowed to ride his bike on the sidewalk. As I was yelling this to him – zoom! – another kid, this time a little girl about the same age went by, who of course thought that I was yelling at her, which I wasn’t, but the message was the same – do not ride your bikes on the sidewalk!!!

    Now, this little girl told her friends that this mean old lady (I’m in my mid 40’s) was yelling at her and now one of her more “vocal” friends harasses me whenever she sees me – calling me “a mean bitch for yelling at a little girl” for riding her bike on the sidewalk!

    I hate kids.

  23. Tina – Kids are a problem. I don’t like to see them on the road because they’re pretty vulnerable and don’t really belong on a busy street either. But they should have some respect for pedestrians. We need bike paths!!!

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