Finally, someone speaks truth to power on the issue of riding a bicycle on a sidewalk:
While we do have an existing network of bike boulevards stretching across the city [Vancouver BC], they resemble an afterthought; relegated to residential side streets with very few amenities (10th Avenue, Ontario Street, Woodland Drive, etc). To borrow a transportation planning term, travelling the “last mile” to a restaurant, shop or theatre is where the problem lies. If you’re headed somewhere along Main Street, Commercial Drive, Robson Street or Broadway, for example, you are fully expected to run with the bulls, and rub shoulders with massive cars, trucks and buses travelling twice your speed. Trust me, it’s not for the faint at heart.
In that situation, the cyclist is legally obliged to take the entire lane, effectively doubling the amount of road space they are entitled to, but risking the ire of passing motorists. It’s far more secure, and less confrontational to ride the sidewalk to your ultimate destination, especially if you are cycling with children, as I often do. It’s not a coincidence that sidewalk cycling is most prominent on these busier streets. As Mikael Colville-Anderson often says: “Badly-behaved cyclists are usually just cyclists with inadequate infrastructure. Or none at all.”
When faced with the choice of being sandwiched between a just-opened car door and a SUV, and riding on the sidewalk where there’s hardly any traffic, I’m on my bike on the sidewalk. I wish I weren’t, but it’s often the least-worst alternative. And sometimes I’ll still do it if there’s a bike lane on the street, if the bike lane is two narrow strips of paint that come and go as the street widens or narrows, and is completely ignored by drivers. I consider my presence on the sidewalk part of my plan to die in my sleep at a ripe old age. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, the city can save their paint and skip marking bike lanes – it’s a “compromise” that’s more of a sop than real solution. The city just puts them down where it’s convenient to show that they’re “bike friendly” without doing the hard work of carving out a few real, separate bike lanes.