Letter Re: Are Leaside streets for all ages and abilities?

I am a senior living in Leaside and, like many people during the pandemic, I’ve been walking more for fresh air and exercise. I’m encouraged to see so many in Leaside outside enjoying our neighbourhood. The increase in people riding bikes, particularly children cycling, is a positive development for overall health and the environment. Sadly, I had to give up my own bicycle as recently as 2 years ago. I was born in northern Europe and ever since coming to Toronto, I am compelled to compare the biking culture differences between my birth country and Canada. People of all ages could comfortably get around by bike and unlike Toronto, bike lanes were everywhere. The dilemma here in Leaside is how to ride and where. Everybody used to ride on the streets, myself included, but now for more and more people, sidewalks are considered the way to go and that poses problems for pedestrians, especially for seniors.

I understand that children up to the age of 14 are allowed to ride on the sidewalk, and many do so perceiving it to be a safer place to ride. Our sidewalks are narrow with barely enough room for two people to pass, never mind someone on a bike. The slopes for driveway exits are difficult to navigate if you are unsteady on your feet or your bike. Bobbling off the curb unintentionally could send a child on a bike into traffic or turn an ankle for a pedestrian.

So that we can all enjoy our outdoor spaces, I ask that if you can safely do so, please ride on the road. But if you find you must ride on the sidewalk, please help people like me stay safe on the sidewalk with these four simple practices:

• Approach pedestrians slowly – older people don’t react as fast as you think and need time to move to one side
• Ring your bell early and often – keep in mind that many seniors don’t hear that well and need to know you are coming
• Always pass on the left side – this way people know where to move when they hear your bell
• If the sidewalk is crowded, walk your bike until it is clear to ride again

These are small changes that I’m sure even children can do with some encouragement from their parents and teachers. I am speaking for my elderly friends as well as myself when I say that we would feel so much safer coming out and walking in the fresh air if people would adopt these practices.

Let’s all work together for a safe summer!

Thank you,

Ulla Nystrom