Have the laws changed? Who rules the sidewalks?

by on August 6, 2011 · 26 comments

in Civil Rights, Popular, The Widder Curry

Today, on our daily walk around the “hood”, Buddy and I had an experience that is repeating itself daily. On our walk on Sunset Cliffs, from Adair south to Osprey, we were met by the following:

  • 7 skate boarders – that were not about to relinquish the “right of way” and would just as soon run us over than move over.
  • 14 bike riders – some young people; some old enough to know better. Some were riding two abreast – hard to do on Sunset Cliffs, while some were in single file.
  • 4 people pushing strollers – they thanked me when we moved over
  • 2 people using “in-line” skates
  • 9 people walking/running dogs, one running his dog while on his bike
  • 10 people just walking – two abreast – and did not think it was necessary for them to walk single file past this old lady and older dog!
  • 3 joggers

I guess times have changed. I thought when you ride a bike, at least the adults that ride theirs, one should not ride on the sidewalk. And, wrongly, I guess, that if you are “biking your dog” or whatever the vernacular might be, they, too, belong on the street. It’s one thing to be run over by a bike; it’s another thing to have their dog lunge at my dog saying “get out of my way.”

And how about those skate-boarders? I don’t know how fast they are going, but it is a hell of a lot faster than Buddy and I are walking. One nearly clipped Buddy today as he soared past us.

The bike riders kind of sneak up on us. So do the joggers. Unless they are panting very hard, we don’t hear them, and then, lo and behold, they are practically upon us. It may not freak Buddy out, but it sure does me!

And the skaters! Man they move fast. And, sometimes when Buddy hears them he tries to move, too, but not always in the right direction. Why is that? you ask. Because they are zigzagging all over the sidewalk. It’s not like they can’t see this 108 pound dog and his mistress, who weighs considerably more than the dog, at a distance.

Some people are friendly; some are not. Some stop and ask if they can pet Buddy. He loves that, because if he sits quietly and suffers through their ministrations, he gets a doggy treat. Sometimes I have even been known to stop and talk to someone along the way. Yeah! He gets a treat then, too.

I’m not asking for these people to be ticketed, or thrown in jail. All I am asking for is a little courtesy. Neither of us “own” the walkway; it is just polite not to run over the little old lady and her dog. Particularly her dog. If you see people ahead of you, slow down and move over. If I see people coming at me that is what I do, but for the people behind me I am stuck because I don’t see them. Let’s keep the outing fun instead of an obstacle course filled with bruises and sprained ankles.


{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie August 6, 2011 at 12:57 pm

As a bicyclist, I have to make a plug for bicycling on the sidewalk. Often it’s too dangerous on the streets for bicyclists and the sidewalk is much safer. Bicyclists are killed every month on our streets as we don’t have adequate bike paths. But bicyclists should be very polite, ask people or tell them “I’m on your left”, or “excuse-me”. Other than that, you make great points, widder curry. Plus the editor thought the photo of the 2 dogs was very cute – one even looks like an older Buddy.


judi curry August 6, 2011 at 1:13 pm

You are right, Frank. One does look like Buddy. When he was younger, he and a friend, “Misty”, a Weinmariner, used to run holding two ends of a toy that looked like an octopus. (Maybe it wasn’t Buddy; maybe it was our black lab, “Shalom.”)

And I agree that riding a bike on the city streets is dangerous. Particularly on Sunset Cliffs because the streets are so narrow. But it doesn’t preclude the rider from being polite and giving us a warning that he/she is behind us. Buddy follows the “smells” rather than the contour of the sidewalk. All I need is a warning and I can “rein” him in. So…you can ride your bike behind me anytime, boss.


Louisa Golden August 7, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Sorry bikes. They are vehicles and belong in the road. If the road is too dangerous, plan a different route or travel at a different time of day. Ride single file and to the far right. Obey traffic laws. Wear a helmet and bright clothing. Of course riding a bike on the sidewalk is safer….for the cyclist. But not for pedestrians or the leashed (another safety rule too often ignored) canines who sometimes accompany them.

I’m pretty tired of having to squish over to the side to allow vehicles to pass me on a pedestrian walkway. I expect to have to deal with moving vehicles on the street, but on the sidewalk, too? Give me a break!

OTOH, auto drivers need to watch out for pedestrians, cyclists and everything else. Slow down on residential streets and drive defensively rather than offensively. Even if a cyclist is driving poorly or two or more abreast, give them space. It’s their lives at risk, for Goodness’ sake, and hardly worth refusing to slow down or give a few more feet of room. I wish everyone would cool off and slow down a bit.


Shadow August 6, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Gormlie, as someone who has bicycled the peninsula as a primary mode of transport for 5 years, I disagree with you in regards to the streets mentioned. Sunset cliffs does have a lot of fast traffic but it doesn’t mean bikes should be on the sidewalk. Instead of just calling out “on your left” and zipping by, you should move into the street and then back on to the sidewalk at the next opening. Streets are for bikes and cars, sidewalks for pedestrians. Gotta respect that. Now a road like rosecrans I would agree with you, slowing to a walking speed and saying excuse me to pass a pedestrian is more suitable, but not the south end of sunset cliffs.
As for the skateboarders, that’s a tough one because several times I’ve seen cops yell at them to get on the sidewalk or even stop to harass them for skating in the street. For them to be on the sidewalk seems like the lawful thing, but it doesn’t excuse them from sharing it with the little old ladies and their 108lb dogs.
I like the ending to the article, a little respect is all it takes.


Frank Gormlie August 6, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Shadow, yeah I didn’t really mean for that on Sunset Cliffs out on the cliffs themselves. Try riding a bike on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard in OB and you’re taking your life in your spokes. Look for my forthcoming post entitled “Bike Trails Out of OB”, coming sometime this summer.


Shadow August 6, 2011 at 5:28 pm

I didn’t mean on the cliffs themselves either, I’m talking about sunset cliffs blvd. Lots of fast cars on that end of sunset cliffs, not very wide, but I always rode my bike in the street there if I had some place to be. I stand by my point, bikes don’t belong on the sidewalk there, pedestrians do. LIke mercy says, that’s just the chance we take.
I look forward to your article.


john August 7, 2011 at 6:21 am

I deal with that by…
Staying off Sunset Cliffs Blvd entirely, ever. (though cable and ebers are both bone jarring minefields of late)
If I MUST be on Sunset Cliffs for a scant block or two, I get on the sidewalk- if I’m approaching a pedestrian, I half dismount and do the scooter thingy standing on one pedal, or look quick and take a driveway ramp out around them. I can tell they look apprehensive and expect me to run them down.
The only other street in the area I get on a sidewalk for is MIDWAY, that gauntlet of “death in the gutter”.
I look at it like this, we want cars to treat us with respect for our life and limb, and they should know we have a right to our legal space on the road.
Pedestrians on sidewalks expect the same of us- and we shouldn’t forget many of them have cars and the pecking order reverses.
It’s not clear though in the article if Judi’s trip had her on sidewalks exclusively, on the edge of the road, on the dirt path, or a little of all.
I pity the boarders and bladers, is anyone sure where they are supposed to be?
I stay off sidewalks though, as a cyclist it’s not just illegal it’s unsafe as cars can’t easily see you around hedges, other cars in driveways, and as they make turns. For us, safety, and respect for drivers, is not doing anything unexpected- that means illegal.
I approached the 4 way stop at Voltaire and Cable just today, at the same time a car on my right did. I ride old school roadie clip pedals, a pain to dismount, I can slow to a crawl though and I waved the guy to take his right away. He is about to do so but on my right comes a jackhole on the sidewalk on a beach cruiser going my direction, doesn’t even slow down and rides right into the intersection so the car has to suddenly stop, I almost fall over getting out of my pedals in time, that idiot screwed up everything that was timed just right.
I thought of catching up and telling him off but why ruin my day by getting torqued off?
The troubling thing is I resolved the anger by conceding the imbecile won’t be doing that too much longer, hopefully he’ll be run over soon enough. I understand where the anger against cyclists comes from, hopefully people realize we aren’t all that way.
When it’s come to an exception when a car can expect the bike to give them their due right of way, we have a problem folks.


OB Mercy August 6, 2011 at 5:17 pm

I have a tricycle and I ride in the street, and if I see the sidewalk is not crowded or really has no one on it, I’ll get on the sidewalk. But I have the common courtesy that when I do come upon someone on the sidewalk, I do say on your left, or ring my bell and I slow way down because I do feel a bit guilty being there. It just feels so dangerous being on the street most of the time, but that is the chance we take I guess. Seems weird to live in a beach town that has no bike trails inside the community.

And can I say again…could we PLEASE have some bike racks at the beach already?! It is so hard to trudge my big, heavy tricycle out onto the sand to lock it up on the chain link fence where the new bathrooms might be some day!


Zach on the side August 6, 2011 at 10:39 pm

I feel for older folks who can’t get a little respect. Young’uns don’t know that a little bump or clip can be much more serious for the elderly than for themselves. But even sadder, why’s everyone always in such a hurry? If we all slowed down, the risks would be reduced. And the pleasures greater. (Thrill seekers excepted, but that shouldn’t be happening on city streets and sidewalks.)


Ernie McCray August 6, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Oh, I hear you, Judi. People in groups, on the sidewalk, who won’t give a little is a pet peeve of mine, even before I was old. Common courtesy was such a theme in my home growing up that I can’t even imagine doing something like blocking someone’s path, especially when the somebody, old or not, is over 200 pounds.


john August 7, 2011 at 6:31 am

You sound like you come from a time when if someone really deserved a poke in the nose in the schoolyard, someone gave it to them and nobody saw a thing.
Not today where someone pokes someone in the nose and doesn’t deserve it, but the pokee gets expelled along with the poker.
The same time when you called male teachers “sir” or “Mr. ____”, and ladies “ma’am” or “Mrs/Miss ______” and whatever you did on the way home from school got back to your parents or the school, and probably both.
Now it goes up the next day on youtube.


Citizen Cane August 7, 2011 at 10:15 am

Streets parallel to Sunset Cliffs, like Devonshire and Cordova are sometimes my bike route of choice. I can’t see the ocean, but it’s often more serene, and less direct exposure to car exhaust.

Us bike riders have our own wish lists. I could really do without the professional yard sale drivers that have nearly killed me on weekend mornings here in OB. I would also like more bikers with cruisers to ditch their wide handlebars, and get something that more closely matches their shoulder width.


Citizen Cane August 7, 2011 at 10:33 am

Oooops! Before Terrie Leigh Relf sends her henchmen after me, I need to say that the wide handlebars don’t need to be thrown away. They can be cut narrower with a tubing cutter, and the watse ends can be made into wind chimes, or garden sprinklers, or…something.


Marilyn Steber August 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm

My dog is a 5 pound Papillon puppy and I have to see her as some dogs do: prey. This means terriers of most any kind (from Yorkies to pits) and hounds like grey hounds will see her and think “Chase and kill”.
She is a puppy and wants to play with everyone, but I lift her up quickly and say to her “He’s too big for you to play with”, to soothe hurt feelings. The dog park is simply not the place for us.
The best investment for me was a doggie stroller. That way a small dog won’t get stepped on in crowds. Kelly at Bone Appetite sold it to me 5 or 6 years ago.


Kenloc August 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm

I have a 9 lber.
The small dog area of the dog park is awesome!


Sunshine August 7, 2011 at 4:32 pm

i see all this ‘traffic’ you speak of as a reminder of what a nice community we enjoy; one where vehicles aren’t really necessary to get around. if we closed down at least one North/South road to bicycles, skaters, and pedestrians only then the ‘road’ would be more appealing than the sidewalk. anyone not in a vehicle that tries to “share the road,” as current laws require, faces great risk. Because, even when a bicyclist, skater, or pedestrian, or pet is in the right in an accident ~ the vehicle always wins.

personally, i meander when i’m out and simply make room for the faster moving folks. Are we not simply each moving to our own drum beat? yes, respect is good, yet unless its taught via kindness, tolerance, and love to the upcoming generations, it may go the way of Latin.


judi curry August 7, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Thanks everyone for you take on this problem. Today, while walking Buddy, I noticed that nothing has changed; a different person on a bike was “running his dog” on the sidewalk. The dog growled at Buddy – we moved out of the way, practically into the street. Only one skateboarder this time; 5 bike riders; 2 strollers, etc. It IS
dangerous riding a bike on Sunset Cliffs. At times it is even dangerous for the walkers on Sunset Cliffs. But many of you hit upon the answer – just be polite; give warning; get into the street if it is safe; and remember to be courteous to others.
The area is beautiful. Let’s all enjoy it.

I think I may print up the first pages of this article and hand it to the offenders on Tuesday, our “sunset cliffs” walk day.


Allthink August 8, 2011 at 8:41 am

You would most likely just be contributing to polluting the beautiful area. I would not litter, but as you regard, many of the “un-polite” bikers, skaters, dog walkers will read your flyer, laugh, and litter it.


liveinOB August 8, 2011 at 4:59 pm

and yet the photo with this article shows 2 dogs running in the street
no leashes
no owners
go figure


Frank Gormlie August 8, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Ah, c’mon! It’s a cute photo.


Terrie Leigh Relf August 13, 2011 at 7:32 pm

I haven’t ridden my bike much lately due to all the construction, and I RARELY ride on the sidewalk. . .One of the things that totally freaks me out is when I’m in the bike lane (when one exists) or as close to the sidewalk as possible (parked cars notwithstanding) and cars HONK at me. I’ve also noticed many people don’t follow the other rules. . .which are the rules for cars (i.e., stop at a red light or stop sign, don’t go against traffic, etc.), and I’ve seen many riders who are accidents waiting to happen.

As to the dogs, the photo is adorable, but I’ve noticed quite a few people down at the beach (i.e., end of Santa Cruz, the tidepools, etc.) with dogs and they’re not on a leash. I am polite and warn them about tickets should the cops come, but I don’t know how much they enforce that.

I had an incident the other day on my street, where I was walking up it and a dog growled and herded me. I was freaked about getting bit. Their other dog rushed to stand by me to protect me. That was nice, but the owners didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. I’ve been attacked and bitten several times and just having a huge dog growl and lunge is enough to send my central nervous system reeling!


judi curry August 13, 2011 at 7:53 pm

I, too, have been bitten by a dog – German Shepard, and when approaches me it freaks me out, too. Thanks for riding in the street, but be careful. I just got a notice from the water department that beginning in Sept. they will be replacing the pipes on Sunset Cliffs, south to Ladera. They will not be paving the construction until it is all done, sometime in late February or early March. Talk about not riding a bike on the street. I won’t even drive my car along the road.



john August 15, 2011 at 4:30 pm

hehe…. this being OB and all, we can’t be sure that coyote wasn’t someone’s pet.


judi curry August 15, 2011 at 4:39 pm

You know what – you are probably right!


Joe September 27, 2011 at 10:40 am

This is sorta a long post… but the situation I refer to below just ticked me off so much that the excessive typing helped to get some of the annoyance outta me…

To be honest… I work in Manhattan and regular old adults do the sidewalk thing as well. It annoys me with kids… but I give them a little leeway (although their parents should teach them some manners). I was taking a walk down by the east side water front today. They have been doing road construction for the past year or so. So, right now, they have a walkway going along the water which is fenced off on both sides of the walkway (one side to keep you from falling into the water… and the other to keep you from going into the road construction). There’s room for two people to walk comfortably through… Which means that you pretty much “have” to move if you’re walking more than single file. Even with that… freaking people still don’t move. I can see a group walking in the opposite direction heading towards me… none of them are moving. Keep in mind… there isn’t any place for me to move to… I can’t even get out of their way if I wanted to as there’s a construction fence on both sides. They’ll practically on top of me and do the little arm twist thing so there’s just enough room for me to squeeze by if I go right up against the fence.

I was doing that walk today and there were two guys walking ahead of me side by side. Fortunately they were going quickly so I wasn’t going to have to try and get around them… but I noticed they were not getting out of the way for anyone coming the other way. Now, while it’s not a great place to do it, people ride their bikes down that pathway as well. They can get easily by if you just stay on your side. These to jerks were not even bothering to move for bikes trying to get by. There was an older couple, riding single file. The older man managed to get by them, but the older woman that was behind him couldn’t make it. Unfortunately, they have chain link fences on both sides. Since the morons couldn’t bother moving, the elderly woman had to try to get way to the side and her handlebar got caught in the fencing as she tried to get by and stopped her bike cold and she went tumbling off. Fortunately, she was going relatively slow since she had to finagle her way around the guys that couldn’t be bothered to move… but even going that slow, a sudden stop like that is quite a jolt.

I just don’t get it sometimes. How can you not say to yourself “Oh, there are people coming, let me move out of the way”. I guess maybe at one time they were those kids whose parents let them wander all over a sidewalk without providing some guidance on being considerate.


judi curry September 27, 2011 at 4:10 pm

I guess it doesn’t matter where you are – the east coast; the west coast, etc. There are thoughtless people everywhere. My husband used to have small stickers that he would give to people that were rude; They said something innocuous like, “did you know you had a chance to be a good model today?” or something like that.

It didn’t make a difference, but he felt that at least someone looked at what they gave him and he felt better. Better fold up your water wings and put them in your pocket, just in case.


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