You may know about the ongoing conversation about safe bike riding in Uptown Richmond (the business district). At the end of last year, there was a nice improvement when signs that appeared to prohibit biking on that stretch of Main Street came down. I had an interesting related exchange today while walking on the sidewalk. A young man on a bike was riding on the sidewalk, headphones on, coming toward me quickly, and I saw him at the last minute with barely enough time to jump out of the way:
Him: "Excuse me!"
Me, shouting after: "Could you ride your bike on the street instead of the sidewalk?"
Him, stopping and halfway turning around: "I would get hit by a car."
Me: "Well, it's actually not legal to ride on the sidewalk."
Him: (Shrug, rides away)
I felt bad that I didn't have any more to offer than "don't do this" and "it's illegal." It was already hard enough to step outside my comfort zone to say something at all. So I can sympathize with people who prefer an official looking sign to point to, though, in the end, I prefer that we have to interact with each other on our own terms.
I worry that the young man will be more likely to reflect on how some stuffy older dude tried to tell him what to do than he will about cycling and pedestrian safety. But perhaps that's not giving him enough credit - he did respond and immediately note that he was concerned for his own safety while riding in the street, which I can very much identify with in this town. Other kids with whom I've tried to talk to about not riding on the sidewalk on Main Street seem to take it as an affront to their independence.
In any case, I wonder what other folks experience or desire when it comes to exchanges amongst strangers about what's proper and safe for cyclists, pedestrians, motorists, etc. Any advice for more positive ways to have that conversation when it happens?
If you're interested in issues related to cycling in Richmond (with a focus more on transportation than leisure), you can join the Bike Richmond Google Group.