Wednesday, April 17, 2013

It's a SideWALK

After another day of walking into town and back, I'm once again aware that some people need a wake-up call regarding appropriate behavior in regards to who belongs on a public sidewalk.

It's a sideWALK. It's for pedestrians. It's not for bicyclists, skateboarders or Segway riders. The only exceptions should be:

- Disabled individuals on scooters or mobility devices
- Children accompanied by adults and riding tricycles or small bikes with training wheels at low speed
- Bicycles being walked to an apartment or a bike rack from the street

There's no excuse for an adult to be riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. A bicycle is - for all intents and purposes - a vehicle under Oregon law. We now have a plethora of bike lanes, bike boxes and bike routes. If you're going to ride a bicycle in town as an alternate form of transportation, learn to ride boldly and correctly. Riding on the sidewalk is hedging and it's a danger to pedestrians.

Another disturbing trend that makes streetcar riding a miserable crush involves bicyclists who somehow feel they must bring their bikes onto the streetcar. There's a good reason to bring bike on the MAX if one is commuting to Gresham or Hillsboro from downtown, for instance. And I'll be the first to agree that bicyclists get a raw deal on MAX because during rush hour, pedestrians will often stand in the areas where the bike hangers are located and refused to let bicyclists use the racks to hang their bikes. A bicyclist shouldn't have to wait for the next MAX any more than a disabled person should have to wait because an able-bodied pedestrian has decided to take the space allocated for them. However, I digress.

The streetcar routes are small loops of less than a couple of miles that a bicyclist can easily ride, and in doing so can get to his or her destination more quickly than they can on the streetcar. So why are they getting on the streetcar? I might understand it if a cyclist were caught by a cloudburst or if they found themselves with a flat or a broken chain and didn't happen to have the proper tools to fix what went wrong. But that never seems to be the case. And because it's become a lot more crowded recently because of the growing number of aging riders on Rascals and Hoverounds, walkers (which nobody ever folds up when they get on), and homeless people with shopping carts there is just no more room for something as large as a bicycle. And there are no bike hangers on the streetcar nor bike racks on the front or back, such as you would find on a bus. No bikes on the streetcar!

I may be the only person in town who says loudly, "Bikes off the sidewalk!" when some clueless biking idiot comes wheeling at speed right up the middle of the sidewalk and my attempts to shame bicyclists into taking to the street are probably doomed to failure because I have actually heard people justifying bikes on the sidewalk as though it's somehow alright.

It's not. And as bicycling continues to grow in Portland and more pedestrians get sideswiped, hit and flipped off because they might have had the temerity to complain, the sh*t is going to hit the freewheel.

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