Articles

Position Statement Concerning Sidewalk Use
     August 26, 2010 — David Sims

 

At a monthly board of directors meeting last week CPEI discussed and ratified a position statement concerning definitions of and use of sidewalks.
 
In the interests of public safety and to encourage more active transportation on PEI, Cycling PEI
supports changing the current provincial traffic act to allow cyclists limited access to sidewalks.
 
The limitations include:
a) any cyclist can ride upon a sidewalk (better termed a multimodal path in this instance) when
appropriate signage so indicates access,
b) children under 13 years of age can ride on any sidewalk,
c) older children and adults on bicycles who are accompanying bicycling children under 13 years ofage can ride on any sidewalk, and
d) anyone in a wheelchair or hand-pedaled conveyance can use any sidewalk if they deem this to be their safest option.
 
Background: In PEI today, we have two forms of public passage ways, roads and sidewalks. Our
highway traffic act states that roads are intended to be shared by motor vehicles and bicycles, and adjacent sidewalks are only for pedestrians. In many countries a more complex use of public space has evolved, allowing for different combinations of transportation that take into consideration safety, rates of usage and availability of land. Sometimes the best compromise is to allow pedestrians and bicycles to share a path, separate from motor vehicles.
In fact, we are already doing this on PEI, even though legislation doesn’t currently cover the practice. In front of the Charlottetown Airport is a path designed for pedestrians and bicyclists. A similar situation exists on Riverside Drive. In Europe today, there are many instances of three separate pathways; a main road for cars and trucks, a separate path (or sometimes two - one in each direction) for bicyclists, and another one or two for pedestrians. Where space is not available for this ideal situation, the compatibility of bicycles and motor vehicles vs. bicyclists and pedestrians are considered carefully before arriving at a compromise solution. In some instances the decision may be to allow cyclists access to a sidewalk because it is not heavily used, or because the alternative - sharing a road with motor vehicles - is not safe.
 
CPEI recognizes that there are many forms of bicyclists. An adult who has a driver’s licence and is familiar with the rules of the road may elect to ride a bicycle on the streets of PEI, merging with motor vehicles, entering roundabouts, using left turn lanes, etc. A 9 year old who is being encouraged to ride a bicycle to school will not have the cognitive and physical skills needed to keep up with motor vehicles, even on a road with a low speed limit. There are many sidewalks on PEI that are not heavily used. Some sidewalks, if made a little wider,would easily accommodate pedestrians, cyclists and wheel chair users.  CPEI encourages the province to adopt new legislation that will give municipalities the option of designating existing and new sidewalks as primarily for pedestrians (resolutions b, c & d above) or as multimodal pathsfor bicyclists and pedestrians to share (resolution a above). Our current highway traffic act requires that bicycles have an operational bell or horn. We support the use of bells or horns to warn walkers on sidewalks or the Confederation Trail when a bicycle is approaching from behind.



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