Your helmet’s too tight maybe?

(click to enlarge photos)

I know the whole Ottawa cycling thing has been discussed at length on blogs like David Reevely’s, and I just did a post on the topic just 3 weeks ago, but since then a good friend of mine was knocked down by an Ottawa cyclist.


The cyclist was going fast, on the sidewalk, and hit my friend from behind. My friend went down hard and shattered her kneecap. The butt-cavity cyclist kept going even though people in the vicinity went running after and shouting at him to stop.  My friend is pretty much incapacitated for the rest of the summer and who knows how this is going to affect her in the long run.


And every day I continue to get winged by cyclists. I yell at them sometimes like some crazy old cane-waving man.  Yesterday at lunchtime I took my camera along and snapped a few offenders on my walk.  If anyone would like to do some bike patrolling, I’d recommend Hog’s Back Road from Riverside to Prince of Wales as an excellent spot. The place is thick with sidewalk cyclists, bridge cyclists and cyclists who can’t read.


I took these in less than 10 minutes and didn’t even come close to getting them all.




This guy seemed really annoyed that me and my stinking camera were slowing him down.




 Look at this guy trying to squeeze by the pedestrians on this narrow walkway. (click to enlarge)



 And, to end on a positive note, I wanted to acknowledge that not all Ottawa cyclists have the IQ of a salad bar (not that I have anything against salad bars)



37 responses to “Your helmet’s too tight maybe?

  1. That sign is too small, it should block the entry! lol

    Seriously, I hear you and I would probably be there yelling at everyone on that path on their bikes. Some cyclists are totally devoid of respect towards others. They wouldn’t know if it hit them in the face.

    I’ve said it before, Toronto has an issue with cyclists here too. We have bike lanes but they’re not respected by cars and we have the weekend cyclists who use the sidewalk because the road is too dangerous. *major eye roll*

    I really don’t know what can be done to solve the problem.

  2. Linsey – Totally agree – they pay no attention to pedestrians and when they are on the road, pay no attention to traffic rules, either. And, YIKES — that’s some cycling issue you’ve got there. Now I’m afraid.

    David – Thanks. Though Mike Powell’s stuff is excellent, I had intended to link to your discussions on the various bike issues. I’ve fixed the link. I hope.

    UA – As I’ve said somewhere before, if you’re too insecure of your cycling skills to be on the road, then you sure as heck shouldn’t be on the sidewalk with vulnerable pedestrians. Cars need to respect cyclists and share the road and cyclists need to respect cycling laws and everybody needs to respect pedestrians and pedestrians need to respect pedestrian rules.

  3. Seattle has some Cyclist problems. I have found if they ride along side of you in heavy traffic and you can’t shake them if you put your windshield washers on, they for some reason back away.

  4. Carry a stick when you walk in there, when they wing you shove it in their spokes, they will stop really fast. When they are lying on the ground bleeding you can explain to them the errors of their rude ass ways.

  5. Sorry to hear about your friend. That’s complete bullshit. Did anyone report the incident to the cops? I hope he gets creamed by “karma” in the form of an SUV or something soon.

    Taking pictures = AWESOME IDEA. Seriously.

  6. Now you need to go one or two steps farther and send this whole post to your councilor, the mayor, and the police and ask what they are going to do about it.

    There is nothing politicos, and that includes the chief of police ,fear more than an irate citizen with a bit of pr knowledge.

  7. Cedar – I guess legally, cyclists should be behind you in traffic, but I don’t imagine cars like them taking up a whole big space like that and it would seem kind of silly for them to wait back there, when they can squeeze by everybody on the right – though that could be dangerous. They have to be allowed to ride somewhere. And, stick, eh? They’re going pretty fast. It could be tricky.

    Em – Yes a report was filed, but so what? It’s not like they’re ever going to find him or even look for him. It happened real fast, description is sketchy.

    Bandobras – The mayor? Really? I guess you haven’t been following Ottawa civic politics. Our mayor doesn’t know the meaning of the word “fear” or “knowledge” or a lot of other words. He’s not so good at math either as it turns out.

  8. Would it make you feel better if I told you it was not just Ottawa?

    Cyclists need to understand that they are considered vehicles, and as such should be riding on the road. If cars were drivng along on sidewalks, there would be hell to pay, it should be the same for cyclists.

  9. You don’t have to be a cyclist to be stupid. Irresponsible people are everywhere. I’d be the dude walking my bike (really I would).

    Sorry about your friend. If I was there (on my bike), I would have chased the guy. And probably would have broken some rules in order to catch him.

    Good post.

  10. I used to live in Holland and once you got used to having cars whizzing past you 3″ on your left, it was okay. Sortof. At least you knew that cars would keep going straight and so did you in your lane. Sometimes I think this idea of cars changing lanes to accommodate a cyclist causes more trouble since you have no idea what the car is going to do.

    Just last night though, I got yelled at by a cyclist out riding at 3:15am, no light, no helmet, dark clothing, the wrong way on a side street…

  11. Jazz – I wish someone would make them pay hell. There’s a lot of talk about this, but there doesn’t seem to be any way of enforcing it. They’d have to have cops sitting on corners like I was yesterday, like they do with speed traps.

    Les – Thanks. And yes, there are plenty of stupid people in cars and on foot and in buses and just standing around. Sometimes in between yelling at sidewalk cyclists, I stop and say thanks to cyclists using the road and stopping at stop lights and other law-abiding stuff like that.

    Violetsky – What were YOU doing out at 3:15 am, I wonder?? And why was he yelling at you? Were you on foot? In a car? Or just standing on a streetcorner? (lol) But whatever – ya, what a knob.

  12. Ah, Cedarflame beat me to the ‘stick in the spokes’ idea. I’m all about sticks these days.

    I find it totally hilarious that you’re there snapping shots of the guilty as they whiz past. The gal in the blue shirt…she’s all grinning like you’re taking her photo ‘cuz she’s so cute or something. And, how many times per minute do you think that bag falls off her shoulder? Geez. (i know, not related to the point you’re making here…everybody follow the rules; got it)

    Sorry about your friend. What an all-round miserable experience. And, the asswipe who bowled her over not stopping? Enraging.

  13. I think its funny that you were out there taking people’s photos and yet even that didn’t seem to deter them. I would love to stop one of them and ask why they feel justified in doing what they damn well please, at the expense of others safety. Next time, stop and ask one of them that, okay? And get back to me. 🙂

    I’m so sorry about your friend. I hope she has a speedy recovery.

  14. Aw XUP, I’m sorry your friend got hit by an idiot cyclist, but I don’t agree with booting all cyclists off of all sidewalks forever and ever amen.

    I take to the sidewalk when the street is too hairy for anybody but a car. Example: Bronson from Somerset to Carling. (My route to work if I don’t take the bike path on Percy.)

    I go real slow, hardly faster than walking, and if it gets congested I get off and walk. Nobody has to be scared of me and I will never ever hit anybody.

    The beauty of bikes is that they are so adaptable. They can act like cars if conditions are good on the road, and they can act like pedestrians if conditions aren’t so good. But this requires responsible cyclists.

    I think the problem of reckless cyclists has two causes:
    1. The kamikaze culture that prevails among bike couriers.
    2. The influx of people who haven’t gotten out their bikes since they were 12. They’re only doing it because they don’t want to pay the price of gas. They ride like 12-year-olds, too fast, inconsiderate of others. They’re a pain in the butt for me too.

    I don’t expect you to agree. I just wanted to say that there is another side to it. So don’t post my picture, ok?

  15. An important piece that’s missing is the context:

    This location is on a bridge where there is a multi-use pathway on both sides, which come from and go underneath the roadway (so riding on the road is not an apples-to-apples alternative). The bridge is not wide enough for the pathway’s width (and separation from the roadway) to be maintained, so it essentially turns into a sidewalk over the bridge. On top of that, it’s under construction. This sign was put up for the construction and applies only to those cyclists coming off the pathway–those riding on the road can still ride there. Cycling on the sidewalk is illegal in Ottawa.

    I think that info might prove to be useful for non-Ottawa residents viewing this blog entry.

    (As an aside, note that a cyclist walking his/her bike takes up more of the sidewalk than one riding slowly…)

    While I appreciate the traffic to Citizens for Safe Cycling’s website, if people want to patrol, they should volunteer for the Pathway Patrol ( CfSC’s work mainly focuses on representing the interests of (law-abiding) cyclists. We want more people to ride their bikes, and we want these cyclists to have better conditions–don’t blame our volunteers just because some cyclists act irresponsibly!

    Make sure to e-mail your councillor and tell them you want more investment in public education on riding safely. We need a broad public education campaign that gives people the confidence and skills they need to ride in traffic, so that they don’t feel intimidated into riding on sidewalks, and so that they know how to operate their bicycles as vehicles.


    Charles Akben-Marchand
    Citizens for Safe Cycling (CfSC)

  16. Whoa! MENACES. (Except the lovely people in the last picture.)

    We have a similar kind of thing here in LA where we spend our time trying to kill each other in our CARS. So we’re equally menacing…but just in a less personal kind of way.

    I’m so sorry about your friend. 😦

  17. grace, edie and i have been biking to mooney’s bay this past week. i just picked up a bike from someone’s garbage and started biking again after being off of one after about 10 years. i love it. edie’s stroller is attached to the bike, and grace rides on her own, in front of me. i have to admit, we use the side walk, i think that’ fair with little kids in tow. but, the number of better, speedier cyclist who use the sidewalk is pretty large. we try to be respectful of people walking on the sidewalk, but most people and kind enough to step off and let us bike on by.
    i wish i had the balls to bike to work, but i am too scared to share the road with cars.

  18. OTC- About the smiling cyclists – it was actually funny how many of them smiled as they went by. I guess they thought I was some oddball tourist from a country where they don’t have bikes.

    Debra – Actually I did say, as they went by – “Hey – you’re supposed to be walking your bike” A couple of them shouted something rude back, but I didn’t really catch it.

    Robin – If you’re just riding your bike on the sidewalk at the speed of walking, why don’t you just walk? I do sypathize with the hairy road thing, I really do, but the answer is not to take to the sidewalks. Like someone said previously, would you drive your car on the sidewalk(going really slowly) if the roads were too congested?

    Charles – Thanks so much for your comments and for defining the sidewalk/bridge in question. There are permanent signs on both sides of the bridges, also, reminding cyclists they are to walk their bikes on the bridges. The canal bridge is particularly hazardous as it’s metal, often slippery and only a thin strip of solid space on which to walk. I linked to you because you were the only resource listed on the Ottawa Police site for bike patrolling. I was by no means blaming any of your fine volunteers for irresponsible cyclists. I don’t understand why there aren’t real police out fining cyclists who are violating traffic laws. And, yes, walking your bike takes up as much space, or more, than riding it on a narrow path, but no one ever got knocked over by someone walking a bike.

    Lesley – Oh, we have cars up here in Upper Canada, too!! Quite a few now, actually and they also try to kill pepedestrians, cyclists, each other and themselves all the time. Too often they’re successful.

  19. Meanie – Sorry, you know I’m most awfully fond of you, but the inexperienced cyclist on a creaky old bike from the garbage towing kids is the worst sort of sidewalk menace. You are not in full control of your machine; you have the added hazard of the drag and sway of the buggy (not to mention unpredictable kids); your bike may not be in good working order — are the brakes sound? the tires? do you have a bell? do the gears function correctly? Anything unusual that might happen on the sidewalk could cause you to have or instigate a serious accident — kids suddenly jumping in your path, another cyclist clipping you as he goes by, a dog or other animal jumping in your way, a pedestrian or wheelchair making an unexpected move, who knows what else. Of course, you shouldn’t be riding on the street like that either, though. Get your biked tuned up, practice by yourself for a while and then maybe you could all have fun on the bike path?

  20. Whatever happened to common sense? CAM (comment 17) has a point about the bridge at Hog’s Back, because the sidewalk turns into a bike path. Plus the road is really narrow there and there is no room for a bike and a car, side by side. I have ridden my bike along there because there is no other way. But if I see a pedestrian, I slow down and scooch over. Someone else said they bike slowly rather than walk the bike because you take up two widths while walking the bike. If you have the mad skilz to do that, you should. Otherwise, yes, get off the bike and walk. Robin in comment 16 said it well – that bikes are so adaptable. If I need to, I can just turn into a pedestrian.

    Common sense AND common courtesy.

  21. Julia – Yes, the bike path turns into a sidewalk and the sidealk turns into a bike path — but the bike path is pretty clearly defined (yellow lines). I guess some people don’t realize this and wonder what happened to the nice 2-lanes where there was lots of room for pedestrians and bikes. Still once it’s a sidewalk, bikes should be walked — both bridges have signs telling cyclists to walk their bikes.

    Geewits – You’re such a cynic! That last lady was actually part of a group of about a half dozen fit, older women who’d been riding on the trail (you can see them in line up ahead of her). I don’t think they even noticed me and all just hopped off their bikes automatically when they got to the bridge — seasoned veterans.

  22. I see both sides of the coin. I will not bike in Ottawa because you can’t get from here to there soley on bike paths, and I am petrified of riding in traffic. There are as many, if not more, disrespectful drivers. However, I definitely have my beefs with cyclists as well. a) when there is a bike path, why are you using the road? b) you have to follow the rules of the road just like everyone else. Why aren’t you? c) you can’t have it both ways. You are either classified as a vehicle or you are classified as a pedestrian. Why do you get to pick and choose? ..End of rant.

    P.S. on another note. The Urbane Lion and I are heading over to Navarra tonight to check it out.

  23. Noha -Not just rules, but LAWS. No one seems to get that it is actually against the law to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk. Any bicycle — no matter how slowly or respectfully you think you’re riding it.

    UP – Hey, I thought I was going with! This doesn’t sound like an invitation to me, especially not this last minute. Oh well, give Rene my regards.

  24. I was in my car delivering my newspapers and moving from one side of the (one-way) street over to the next. And no, I didn’t see him still ahead of me in the shadows. I know that is a little different from your topic of riding on the sidewalks.

  25. UP – Well, obviously I missed the dinner, but please email me all the details or do a review on your blog or something.

    Meanie – I’m glad you got the tune up. It certainly sounds like a reputable firm.

    Violetsky – Obviously the guy should have had a light and reflector and maybe a few other things to distinguish him in the dark.

  26. Hmmm… I’m finding all this “It’s the law!” stuff a little self-righteous. Tell me, all you smug pedestrians, have you ever jay-walked? Don’t you know it’s AGAINST THE LAW?

    Stopping at a red light on a bike, seeing no traffic coming, and proceeding across the intersection against the light feels just like jaywalking as a pedestrian. Except that it’s safer, because bikes are faster.

  27. I pretty much stay on the road as much as I can but sometimes I just don’t feel safe on the road and I am a very skilled cyclist.

    After 11 pm I tend to take the sidewalks if they are empty. There are too many drunks, stoners and general assholes on the street to be safe. If a cop want to fine me so be it. I’ll pay the fine and continue on the sidewalk.

    On a related note 2 weeks ago I was nearly assaulted by a very large very very angry man. He flew by me, most likely speeding, and came 1-2 inches away from my handlebars. I yelled at him and he turned around to come back to attack me. He got out of his car and came at me. Luckily I had a helmet and a big steel u-lock for defence. If I hadn’t got off my bike and stood my ground with my lock in hand he might have murdered me in the street. He told me he will have a baseball bat next time and I had better be off the street or he’ll bash my skull in.
    (BEWARE: navy blue Montana with ‘MR BEAR’ Ontario plate)

  28. Ruhh – Man, that’s just freaky. I wonder what his problem was and I’ll definitely look out for that plate. You should pass this story on to the Ottawa Cyclists group, too.

  29. See that’s why I carry an umbrella even when it’s not raining. They’re fun to stick into the spokes of bikes on the sidewalk…

    …seriously though, Sorry to hear of your friend’s accident I hope she’s doing better.

    There are a few things that piss me off more on the sidewalk than bicycles.. – there are the slow ass people with the directional sense of lint, and dog shit – but bicycles are the effing worst. it’s called a sideWALK here people… not a sideBIKE.

    While I’ve never ‘spoked’ anyone [yet] I have on purpose stopped in my tracks and made it impossible for a bike rider to pass me on a sidewalk… and when they’ve yelled at me I yelled back even louder “Off the effing sidewalk asshole” Sure some might find this all together too aggressive, but it accomplishes a few things:
    – in most cases, and at least til they’re well past me they DO move to the road
    – you often hear a “Yea!” or “you tell him/her!” from other pedestrians
    – you feel better (and by ‘you’ I ‘me’)

    …oh and if you think it’s bad in Ottawa with bicycles, I warn you, if you make it to Paris (from your Bucket List) you also have to deal with scooters and motorbikes on the sidewalks. I was stunned by just how often i saw them on the sidewalks to cut through red lights, and or park and or, just because… When you’re walking on the sidewalk and you see the people ahead of you begin to scatter, you best be moving off to the side too.