This morning as I walked to work, alongside a busy road with backed up traffic driving in the other direction, I witnessed an accident between a cyclist and a truck. The cyclist was coming towards me; I stepped to the right well in advance to give her room to pass as I always do. But immediately after that, when I took a sip of coffee and my eyes weren’t focused directly forward for a split second, with barely a noise the bike slammed into a truck. The truck was turning from this major street into a driveway of sorts, a street that only gets you to the door or parkade of a high rise apartment building. There are no lights or stop signs; it’s just a brief gap in the sidewalk that cars can drive through to get to a very specific destination.
The beige truck was turning into that right as the cyclist was to cross it. Somebody clearly bought the naming rights to that non-street because, while directly across is known as Wardlaw Avenue this entry is called Lagopoulous Way, so I gave both side street names and the main road when I called 911 for an ambulance. It wasn’t a hit-and-run. The driver stuck around, got his truck out of the way, made sure the struck cyclist made it into the ambulance okay. “Struck” cyclist is a bit of misnomer; she rode into the side of the truck, approaching that driveway without slowing down. Or so the driver’s story goes – supported by how terribly bent was the bike’s front wheel. I gauged the cyclist’s speed before the collision, so the story checks out for me. But the guilt and concern brought out some ramblings from the driver and also some passersby that didn’t seem appropriate for the occasion.
Is it safer to ride a bicycle on the road or the sidewalk? The answer: no. The driver thinks it was because the cyclist was on the sidewalk that the hit happened, but how would it have been different if the cyclist were on the road? The truck’s turn into the driveway must’ve been swift without enough checking if the cyclist didn’t notice it and the driver didn’t notice the bike. It’s a lose-lose situation for cyclists, and motorists don’t win either. Yesterday a cyclist was killed by getting struck by a car and then run over by semi with a driver completely unaware. The lack of support of cyclists and other commuters not in a car intimidates people from adopting this practice, which thins out the movement, withering away into obscurity with little public support.
So don’t give an opinion if it’s right or wrong to bike on the sidewalk. It’s not a black and white problem and there is certainly not a black and white solution, because North American cities were designed for a utopian future where every human being would get around in their own car, and we need to break apart that sentiment and start over again with a new concept of roads and day-to-day movement.
As far as I know, the cyclist’s right arm was pretty much shattered in the fall – the paramedics were bandaging it up on scene and she screamed in pain when they had to move her into a proper lying position on the stretcher. She was wearing a helmet that may have saved her life. The crash has already happened, so there’s little point in speculating what could’ve prevented this particular incident in such specific circumstances and trying to subtly lay blame. Let’s look deeper into the problem.