In all the planning work I have been involved with in Vancouver, the number one complaint seniors have with sidewalks is not the tripping hazards of uneven pavement-it is bicyclists on sidewalks.
For a senior with impaired sight and hearing, the quick reflex of turning quickly when surprised by a bike can result in a fall.
Wayne Moriarty has written an opinion piece in The Province expressing his admiration to cyclists, but wishing that they would stay off the sidewalk. In the article “Cycling has no Place on Sidewalks” Moriarty states:
“It was my hope a year or so ago that cycling on the sidewalk would become the new smoking — a habit more likely to induce shame than, say, a sense of self-approval. But while a respectful awareness among people who smoke in public spaces grows, cyclists on sidewalks appear utterly oblivious to their ways.
In fact, if anything, their number seems to be growing and with that growth getting bolder.”
This excellent Australian report on Seniors Walking in Victoria State prepared by Victoria Walks Australia shows that 81 per cent of trips by seniors over 80 years of age are by walking. Unlike young people, seniors are very aware that a fall on a sidewalk can result in a broken hip and can have deadly consequences.
The report states “Sudden, unexpected incidents such as cyclists passing at high-speed without warning or uncontrolled dogs can sometimes cause as much, or possibly more concern than the more predictable hazards associated with motor vehicles.”
The report also states that seniors will regularly walk one kilometer to services and shops. That is the same distance that younger people will walk to services, shops and schools.
What is your experience of walking on sidewalks in Metro Vancouver-is there a challenge with cyclists also riding on sidewalks? And what can we do to ensure that seniors are able to keep walking in a convenient and comfortable way?