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Published: Sunday, 11/6/2005

Bikes on the sidewalks

Instead of ignoring a proposal to let adults ride bicycles on sidewalks on busier streets, perhaps a Toledo City Council committee could consider how to make it incumbent upon bicyclists to watch out for motor vehicles if they use sidewalks and penalize them for riding without due regard for safety.

A recent debate on the subject before council's law and criminal justice committee seemed to disregard why bicyclists prefer sidewalks on streets where the speed limit is above 35 mph.

Some adult bicyclists understandably feel their safety is jeopardized on streets that carry a lot of vehicular traffic. But city law only allows cyclists 14 and under to use sidewalks.

Councilman Ellen Grachek has proposed amending the law to permit older cyclists to also use sidewalks on such busy thoroughfares.

The idea springs from an adult cyclist's experience in July on Alexis Road. After the bike rider collided with a vehicle coming out of a driveway, he was slapped with a ticket and conviction, though he received no penalty.

He correctly notes that motorists today are more distracted, especially by cell phones. Motorists on the phone don't pay close attention to traffic in general, so they may not see bicyclists on busy streets.

At the same time, there are legitimate concerns about cyclists on sidewalks. Foremost among them: the worry that bicyclists could pose the same threat to pedestrians on sidewalks that cars and trucks represent to bikes on busy streets.

But there are ways to allow bikes on sidewalks and penalize careless operation. Bicyclists on sidewalks could be required to travel in the same direction as traffic, and motorists, not bicyclists, could have the right of way at intersections and driveways.

If youngsters are allowed to ride their bicycles on sidewalks, adults willing to do so responsibly should have the same right. Bikes don't belong on busy thoroughfares.

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