Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pedestrians, keep left.

Pedestrians, keep left. | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
Goose and goslings on the Ottawa River
I love the bicycle paths that run alongside some of Ottawa's beautiful open spaces and shorelines. In winter, the paths were arduous to walk (they weren't plowed), but come spring, they opened up and were a pleasure to navigate. Then came the bicycles.

I just hate it when bicycles sneak stealthily up behind me. Even if they ring their bells (to give warning), it startles me and, instead of getting out of the way, I panic and come to a full stop and look around for the impending crash. Not very effective.

And then too, Kane heels to my left -- which puts him right next to the passing bicycles!

When I'm on a bicycle path, I remain very aware that these paths are not principally pedestrian paths; they are for wheels: bikes, strollers, roller blades, wheelchairs. Pedestrians, for the most part, do just fine on grassy or beaten paths. Wheels, on the other hand, not so much.

So I really do want to respect that. But how to do so safely and effectively?

The other day, as I walked through our neighbourhood, which (mostly) does not have sidewalks, a thought occurred to me.

Pedestrians, keep left. | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
Our neighbourhood
I remembered a schooldays lesson from Elmer the Safety Elephant: on roads without sidewalks, pedestrians should walk on the left side, facing traffic. When traffic does come along, smart pedestrians step right off the road onto the grass. (Stephen routinely reinforces this rule when we go for walks.)

This prevents cars from surprising you. Yes, drivers ought to be aware of all obstacles on the road, including people, but the reality is that they are also trying to navigate and avoid collisions with other vehicles. Also: in a competition between a 150-lb woman and a 3,500-lb mass of steel and rubber moving at 25 km/h, I lose. So I play it safe.

Why, I thought, shouldn't I apply this same logic to the bicycle paths? Walk on the left and get off the path when I see a bicycle coming.

Pedestrians, keep left. | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
A bicycle riding along Pinecrest Creek
It worked! By walking on the left, I put my body between Kane and the bicycles and had ample time to get well off the pathway.

You may wonder why I don't just move to the right lane when I see a bicycle coming. Here's why: I won't know if a bicycle happens to be coming up in that lane unless I turn around. Also, Kane would then be right next to the bicyclist again. It is faster and safer to simply step off the path.

Pedestrians, keep left. | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
Stephen walking Kane along the Ottawa River Pathway
Even when we do that, the cyclists often prefer to veer into the far lane.

Pedestrians, keep left. | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
Note that the cyclist has full view of oncoming traffic
and can assess the safety of moving into that lane.

So that's what I've been doing for the past several weeks (when I haven't been under house arrest on massage therapist's orders). So far, the only hitch has been the odd looks I get from other people using the paths. It's as if their eyes are saying, "Keep right except to pass, idiot!"

Or maybe I'm imagining it. But I'm safe, they're safe, and Kane's safe, so I figure it's a good rule to follow. Your thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. That's smart. I tend to do that if the path is busy, otherwise I go right.


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