Editorial: Where The Sidewalk Ends

“The police told us he would be held accountable. More and more, this becomes unlikely. Meetings with the police and prosecuting attorneys only make it more evident that nothing will happen to this boy. We actually were told that in most cases, a jury would not hold the boy accountable. He didn’t mean to hurt her. Why ruin his life?”

Sound familiar? Change the particulars and this could describe just about every car-on-cyclist collision where a driver claims not to have seen the cyclist they end up injuring or killing.

But the quote above has nothing to do with a car or a driver. It comes from a February, 1996 op/ed piece in the Spokesman Review by a friend of Janice Everhart, a 49-year-old Spokesman Review employee who had been struck by a teenage cyclist in front of the Great Western Building ten months prior.

As a result of the collision Everhart’s skull was cracked, she was in a coma for three weeks, and she permanently lost her sense of taste, her sense of smell, and all hearing in her left ear. A year later she was still experiencing dizziness, could not drive a car, and was unable to resume her job.

There are so many cyclists riding the sidewalk downtown these days it’s a wonder that something like this hasn’t happened again. I see kids on fixed gears weaving between pedestrians and I wonder if they have heard about Everhart. They probably don’t know that City ordinance prohibits bike riding on downtown sidewalks in “congested districts” and “retail zones,” which is roughly south of the River and north of 2nd avenue between Madison and Washington. But it’s really not a great idea anywhere in downtown.

Most of us have done it, myself included. Downtown Spokane’s combination of too many one-way streets, the railroad viaduct, and the River create intense barriers to cyclists making it hard to stay off certain stretches of sidewalk that can cut blocks off a trip. But if you think you are safer on the sidewalk downtown instead of being in the street, please think again. Not only could you collide with a pedestrian, but riding a bike through a crosswalk is extremely dangerous for cyclists because you enter the road faster than cars making turns can react to you. The problem is most cyclists don’t know that sidewalk riding is dangerous and illegal. Maybe it’s time for a few signs as a friendly reminder.


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