Pedestrians use sidewalks to travel safely along busy city streets. During the summer months sidewalks are congested with pedestrians, cafes and vendors. When cyclists, in-line skaters and scooters are also involved, conflicts arise that could be prevented.
A City bylaw allows cyclists with a tire size of 61cm or 24 inches or less to ride on the sidewalk. The intent of this bylaw is to allow young children to cycle on the sidewalk while they learn to ride. The bylaw is based on wheel size because it is difficult for Police to enforce age-based bylaws, as most children do not carry identification. This is a municipal bylaw and rules vary in communities across Ontario.
The Toronto bylaw states that riding a bicycle with tire size over 61cm (24 inches) on sidewalks is prohibited, as is riding/operating a bicycle (or roller skates, in-line skates, skateboard, coaster, toy vehicle) on a sidewalk without due care and attention and reasonable consideration for others. The fine in downtown Toronto for not following this bylaw is $90 and aggressive cyclists can also be charged with careless driving.
There are many hazards involved when cycling on the sidewalks. If a cyclist hits a pedestrian, the injuries can be severe. Seniors are especially vulnerable and can fall merely by being startled. Anyone with a visual or hearing impairment is at increased risk.
Many cyclists ride on the sidewalk because they are afraid of cars. But choosing to ride on the sidewalk does not eliminate the risk of a car and bike collision. Cycling on the sidewalk is a contributing factor in 30 per cent of car and bike collisions. Collisions occur when cyclists ride off the sidewalk into the roadway or when motorists are exiting a laneway or driveway.
Using Crosswalks as a Cyclist
Cyclists are considered vehicles, according to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. When approaching an intersection where the cyclist needs to make a left hand turn, the cyclist has two options.
- Move into the appropriate lane to safely cross the intersection and turn left as a vehicle in the flow of traffic.
- Dismount and walk their bike across the crosswalk as a pedestrian.
Cyclists must not cycle through a crosswalk and must stop behind the white stop line. Being in front of the white stop line is illegal, and can be dangerous too, as placing yourself in the intersection may create a conflict for vehicles behind you that want to turn right.
Intersections which have a Pedestrian Priority Phase, also known as the “Pedestrian Scramble” or “Barnes Dance” allow pedestrians to cross the road safely in any direction, including diagonally, while traffic is stopped in all directions. At these intersections bicycles are still considered vehicles, and if a cyclist wishes to cross a street using the scramble crosswalk, the cyclists must dismount and walk their bike just as they would any other crosswalk.
What to teach young cyclists about cycling on the sidewalk
- Always yield to pedestrians. Get off and walk your bike or put your foot down.
- Ride slowly.
- Always walk your bike through a crosswalk or crossover (Fines apply if not followed).
- Use a bell or horn to let pedestrians know that you are there.
- Make eye contact with drivers. Assume that drivers don't see you.
- Look for cars in driveways, laneways and at intersections and be prepared to stop.
- Expect pedestrians to exit from stores.
To teach skills and give riders confidence in riding on the road, the City offers CAN-BIKE cycling courses for children and adults. Call 416-338-0000 to register or go to www.toronto.ca/cycling and click on CAN-BIKE.