Bikes pose a danger in Wolfville: blind woman

Wendy Elliott
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By Wendy Elliott


Some vulnerable Wolfville residents are having trouble dodging bicycles on town sidewalks.

Joan Boutilier, who is legally blind and physically active, is one of those pedestrians who wishes cyclists would stay on the road.

She says three seasons of the year, “the beautiful sidewalks of Wolfville become treacherous for those of us unable to cycle due to physical disability.”

Boutilier has written council twice because “cyclists ignore the law, use sidewalks as bike lanes, and zip by with no warning, oblivious to the danger they pose to vulnerable seniors, the blind, the deaf, and members of our beloved l'Arche community.”

While she strongly supports the safe use of bicycles as a means of healthy and sustainable transit, Boutilier has “serious concerns about the alacrity with which some cyclists use our public sidewalks as a bike path.”

She points to the sidewalks on both sides of Main Street, from Clock Park to the western town limits.

“Nearly every time I walk from my home to downtown Wolfville, I am passed by one to three cyclists, riding on the sidewalk,” she says. “They do not use any audible warning (bicycle bell or horn) and, quite often, they pass close enough to touch me. This is startling and disconcerting - and I expect any day to be accidentally run down.”

Coun. Carl Oldham told fellow council members about an older woman who was knocked over by a cyclist on the sidewalk near the Save-Easy Store.

Council has also received a letter with a similar concern from a new resident of Wolfville.

Wolfville town council may consider signage, an education program or street patrols by the bylaw officer to curb cyclists who impede pedestrians.

The town’s police advisory committee began looking at the problem recently and will forward recommendations to council.

The Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act, Section 171 (2), specifically forbids adult cyclists to ride on a sidewalk.

Organizations: Save-Easy Store, Wolfville town council

Geographic location: Wolfville, Clock Park, Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Joy
    December 09, 2013 - 07:10

    Plain and simple, bicycles do not belong on sidewalks. There are loads of pedestrians who use those sidewalks for their daily commute to school, work, to run errands, or simply to stay fit. It is their right to expect that the sidewalk is a reasonably safe place to be able to carry out these objectives. While I can appreciate that cyclists have the right to be safe as well, it is illegal to use the sidewalks and it is something to which cyclists are not entitled to. If you are worried about your safety as a cyclist-to the point that you feel unsafe on the road where you legally belong, perhaps you should exercise the option of walking instead of cycling. If you are cycling long distances for the physical activity benefits, avoid the main streets and ride on the outskirts of town (it is much more pleasureable anyway!). This is a matter of respect. Wolfville does need to consider installing bike lanes to "get with the times"--and in the meantime, hopefully this article will remind MOTORISTS that they need to be more respectful of cyclists and allow them to claim their rightful place on the road so that pedestrians may use the sidewalks safely.

    • Brandon
      December 09, 2013 - 13:37

      There are loads of cyclists who almost get hit every day on the roads in the world, all because of incompetent drivers. Wolfville does need to "get with the times". Also, driving on the outskirts of town only makes biking more dangerous because now you have cars whizzing past you going 80+km/hr on blind crests, corners, or when there is another vehicle passing on the other side of the road. It is more pleasurable, but also just as or more dangerous. Motorists collectively aren't going to smarten up and start giving safe distance when passing cyclists. If Wolfville is going to begin cracking down on cyclists using the sidewalk for the safety of the pedestrians, I think they should care enough about the cyclists and put bike lanes in the town.

  • Brandon
    December 08, 2013 - 15:46

    That is fair, I would obviously keep on the road in Wolfville if there were safe bike lanes for me to travel in. But currently, I pay attention to pedestrians on the sidewalk and would like to keep myself safe. With the current situation with drivers not giving enough space, I just feel (though it is illegal) that is a safer choice to be on the sidewalk when available. Though the best thing would be to have bike lanes for us.

  • Brandon
    December 07, 2013 - 01:21

    If drivers learned to give cyclists a proper amount of distance when passing, cyclists wouldn't be forced to be on the side-walks. This lady talks about having people zoom past her on bikes, yet does she know most drivers zoom past me (and all other cyclists) in cars? Honestly, I'd much rather be hit by a bike than a car. Plus, when you're in downtown Wolfville, and not on a road bike, it's somewhat difficult to be travelling a good 40-50 km/hr, because if you don't motorists will pass you with very little space/honk at you angrily. As a cyclist, I'm disappointed that people aren't paying attention to pedestrians on the side-walks, but until motorists learn to pass properly and not make me fear for my safety, I and others will always travel on side-walks when available for our safety and the safety of the unintelligent motorists. Lastly, on the topic of bells to warn that we're passing a pedestrian, I've have maybe 1% of drivers who pass me when I am biking on the road honk their horn to let me know they are passing. If motorists can't be bothered, why should I be bothered?

    • Grace
      December 07, 2013 - 16:31

      Hi there Brandon, I too am a cyclist, and also feel concerned about the velocity of drivers passing me and the lack of breadth they afford. I, like you, have had quite an array of disapproving gestures and verbal disparagement tossed my way when I take up room on the road. The issue here, as the woman featured in the story correctly points out, is that a town as progressive as Wolfville needs to give serious thought to putting in bike lanes. We cyclists belong on the road, and we need to advocate for our safety to exist there. If you are riding on the sidewalks, you "should be bothered" because LEGALLY you don't belong there, and last I checked, a laissez-faire attitude doesn't really hold up in court. Putting ourselves above the needs of others won't endear cyclists to the general populace, nor will it convince our elected officials of our right to commute sustainably and safely. A 'Survival of the fittest' approach when it comes to our sidewalks has nothing on the commitment of citizens to change things--let's get us some bike lanes my friend!