Opinion: A Surprising New Foe in the War Against Pedestrians

Allowing bikes on sidewalks pits cyclists against pedestrians, an advocate argues.
April 23, 2018, 8am PDT | Elana Eden
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Alex Linch

In the world of active transportation, "bike and pedestrian" is often uttered in one breath—as in "bike/ped," "ped/bike," "bike+ped," etc.

But for Douglas MacDonald, former Secretary of Transportation for the state of Washington, the two are not natural allies. Rather, in places without strong infrastructure for both—where neither walkers or cyclists can safely traverse car-dominated roads—they become adversaries competing for space on the sidewalk.

In Crosscut, MacDonald outlines how he sees this dynamic playing out in Seattle, where new state legislation allows e-bikes as well as regular bikes to be ridden on sidewalks. He argues that allowing any type of bike on the sidewalk is "a throwback to an earlier time," when cyclists were fewer and sidewalks were not recognized as "special refuge for the elderly or disabled." Not only do bikes in motion endanger pedestrians, he writes, but with the introduction of dockless bikeshare to the city, parked bikes are obstructing walking paths or encroaching on lawns.

On Planetizen, Ariel Godwin and Anne M. Price have dissected the implications of cycling on sidewalks, while Michael Lewyn has argued that pedestrians and cyclists should band together to fight for infrastructure that benefits both.

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Published on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 in Crosscut
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