Another Reason We Don’t Ride Sidewalks
Sept. 20, 2010
Total mileage: 2,584
It’s been a tough month for area cyclists. One week ago Sunday, a Topeka man was struck by a driver. Thursday a teenaged Lawrence cyclist was hit at an intersection. Friday it was a Prairie Village rider’s turn to get in the way. The latter two people survived, but the first did not.
Comments on the related newspaper articles were quite sympathetic to the drivers of the vehicles. In addition to the old sun-in-eyes excuse, there were a couple of remarks instructing cyclists to ride on sidewalks. One from the Lawrence Journal-World read, “take the sidewalk and stay alive.”
Experienced cyclists know the opposite is true. Sidewalks are dangerous places to ride. Drivers turning in and out of driveways aren’t looking for fast-moving bicycles. Heck, they’re not even looking for pedestrians. Let’s face it, sidewalks in most cities are ornamental. Drivers get used to no one being there, and don’t look when they turn. That’s why my morning commute involves only short patches of sidewalk, and mostly without driveways.
But last Friday I broke my no-busy-sidewalks rule by deciding to stop at a corner gas station and pick up something to drink. The shortest way to get to the station was via the sidewalk. So I rode it, eyes moving rapidly from rear-view mirror to parking lot to street. Anybody turning in? Anybody pulling out? In this manner I successfully avoided moving vehicles but neglected to pay attention to the sidewalk.
I was rolling through the last driveway before the gas station when I finally looked forward. Yikes! The sidewalk was buckled up a good six inches, looking for all the world like the Matterhorn. Luckily, I had been practicing hard stops the past couple of weeks because of a cyclocross clinic, so I didn’t really have to think about what to do. I slammed the rear (right) brake hard while squeezing the front (left) brake, thrust my body far back over the seat, and evened out the pedals until they were parallel to the ground. Sweetpea and I went airborne and came down hard, bouncing a little on landing. I remember feeling shocked that I had pulled it off, then fell over in the grass. I had completely forgotten to let go of the brakes. Embarrassing, yes, but at least the body survived unscathed. Well, I did get a mosquito bite before I could get back on the seat, but it could have been so much worse.
This morning I stopped on the way to work to take this photo of the sidewalk. The Sweetpea is laying on its side, but almost none of it is visible because of the buckled concrete. The city will be receiving a copy of this image in an email shortly. And I’m not going to be riding sidewalks again any time soon. My heart can’t take it.