Opinion Your Views — 14 March 2013
Bicycles belong on the road 
or the sidewalk, but not both

To the editor:
I agree, at least in theory, with Jonathan Krall (“Bicycles have a place in Alexandria — even Old Town,” February 28) that Old Town could be made more suitable for bicycling, even if we might not agree on the details of how to accomplish this objective. But one thing is missing from his analysis: Old Town, like most neighborhoods, is appropriate for bicycles if cyclists follow the rules — and if the city seriously enforces the rules for all vehicles, including bicycles. Bicycles can’t be allowed to breeze through stop signs, ride on sidewalks and so on, especially in Old Town and its crowded sidewalks and narrow streets.

Bicyclists can’t keep insisting they want to ride on the street like cars and on the sidewalk like pedestrians. Each mode of transportation has its place in the street grid, and none has more than one place. Bicycles are vehicles, which belong on the street with other vehicles. Pedestrians belong on the sidewalk out of the way of vehicles.

When people with disabilities demanded their mobility scooters no longer be treated as motor vehicles so they could ride on the sidewalk, and the Americans with Disabilities Act acceded, those accustomed to riding in the street were surprised to get ticketed. The law had changed their mobility scooter from a vehicle to an assistive device, treating it — legally — more like a cane than a car. Once one mode of transportation decides it can be in both places, what is to stop others from demanding equal treatment?

Some sidewalks might be wide enough for motor vehicles — certainly for motor scooters, which don’t require a driver’s license — but we still don’t allow them on sidewalks. Were we to allow bicycles on sidewalks, what would stop motor scooters from demanding likewise? Aren’t motor scooters’ brakes better than bicycles’? Some sidewalks might even accommodate motorcycles, so why not allow them too? Where would this slippery slope stop?

- Dino Drudi

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(2) Readers Comments

  1. there is much to be said about defining where bicycles should ride and there is a need to make the definition clear since the lack of it is another factor in potential unsafe situations.

  2. Bicycles belong on the sidewalk because they're so much slower and smaller than motor vehicles.

    It doesn't matter if cyclists obey traffic rules designed for cars (stop signs, red lights, one way streets, and the like). They're just too small and slow to ever fit into the traffic on the road.

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