To the jerk who yelled SIDEWALK! as I was biking home today:
I’m so incredibly, terribly sorry that I slowed you down. Sure, I was turning off of 40th onto Prescott and halfway around the corner when you yelled at me so I only slowed you down for maybe three seconds, but still, that’s three seconds you’ll never get back. Gone! You could have been able to sit at a red light further along your route for three whole seconds more had I not been such a stupidface. I apologize.
I could ride on the sidewalk in the future. However, let’s consider something first.
Let’s say I rode on the sidewalk. Do you have a son? A daughter? A niece or a nephew? Some other young child who’s important to you in some way and might be prone to playing out in the front yard of your home? What if I was biking on the sidewalk past your house one day, and they ran out in front of me? I was a little kid once; I often failed to look before running into the sidewalk in case someone was walking or biking on it.
Sure, I’m smart enough to slow down when I see that I’m approaching young kids, but maybe you have a tree or bush or something that hides them from my view. What then?
I’m an adult, huge in size relative to a little kid. On the street or on a trail, I go somewhere between 15 and 20 mph. Now, I’ve never done it or researched it, but I’m sure that little Timmy or Jane wouldn’t be feeling great if I ran into them at 20 mph (and subsequently landed atop them?).
I take precautions to avoid this and it has yet to happen, but it’s a very real possibility. In any situation, as careful as you are, the other person may not be. Little kids aren’t exactly widely considered to be cautious, especially when playing in front of their own home.
Yes, I slowed you down and made you lose a couple of seconds. But I ride in the street because it is, in most cases, the safest place—for all involved—for me to ride. So if you don’t mind, I’m going to continue holding a few drivers up a handful of seconds every now and then instead of risking seriously injuring or killing someone’s child.
Also, I’m curious: what should I do where it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk? There are 7 areas in town apparently (I recall it being 4 when I read the actual law, but a tweet the other day said 7) where I legally cannot ride on the sidewalk. (Yes, I really have read the relevant sections of the Lincoln/Nebraska law relating to bicycles. Have you?) Most notably, downtown. There are plenty of lanes for you to safely go around me while I continue to bike much faster than I’d go if I were walking my bike on the sidewalk. Am I supposed to go much slower than I otherwise would just to save you a couple of seconds? I just want to make sure I know why I’m walking on the sidewalk where I’m legally allowed to ride in the street…
Update: Shortly after I posted this, a video made by a guy ticketed for not riding in the bike lanes in NYC started getting passed around by people I follow on twitter. Incredibly stupid and unsafe (c’mon, at least a helmet!), it’s hilarious and helps get the point across.