While 2020 will go down in history as the year of the pandemic, it may also be remembered as the year we became acutely aware of the importance of our public spaces. Driven by the pressing need for social distancing, many municipalities have finally dared to open (and not – as is too often the case – to close) parts of their streets to citizens. This has led to a rapid increase in shared streets, quietened streets, “active and safe” streets, free-play streets, pedestrianized streets, vélorues, and temporary or permanent bike paths – much to the delight of citizens!
Unfortunately, in areas where car traffic is limited, bikes are usually also prohibited. On pedestrian streets, cyclists are often required to disembark 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, rain or shine, regardless of whether the street is crowded or deserted. On the one hand, it is surprising that these rules are not respected and on the other, many traffic signs suggest that these rules are based on a well-documented principle that cyclists pose a danger to pedestrians – which is not confirmed by any statistical data.
And if we bank on the fact that cohabitation with cyclists on pedestrian streets is possible? In Europe, it is quite common for cyclists to be authorized to use pedestrian streets. Closer to home, on the campus of McGill University, pedestrians and cyclists are now invited to share the car-free space – after many years of useless bans. Don’t forget: pedestrians and cyclists have much in common and can cohabitate quite safely.
This summer, let’s make the most of the amazing opportunities available to us and bank on the fact that cohabitation is possible. Let’s promote the opening of pedestrian streets to cyclists by appealing to their good judgement and cracking down on inconsiderate bikers. As cyclists, let’s earn pedestrians’ trust by adapting our speed to their pace and giving them plenty of space, since neither pedestrians nor cyclists like to be grazed by speeders – and if the street is crowded, let’s have the common sense to disembark.
President and CEO