LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Sidewalks are for pedestrians

Aug 23, 2011


In New York vehicles- — including, or maybe especially bicycles — are banned from the sidewalks. Bicycle messengers with their enormous log chains slung over their shoulders to be used to secure the bike to some post zoom past at unbelievable speeds, but not on the sidewalks. Bikes are as big a danger as taxis for pedestrians at crosswalks, but they do not travel on the sidewalk.

But here in Grand Haven the sidewalks in our downtown neighborhood are treated like bike paths. We pedestrians moving at glacial speeds while our English bulldog sniffs down every tree and post are expected to jump aside so bikers can speed down the sidewalk.

Bikes on sidewalks are an obvious risk to pedestrians, but there is also danger of injury for children who crash a bike into an adult, particularly an adult of my size.

The problem is amplified by Grand Haven’s ramping of each crosswalk intersection to ease the travel of handicap persons. With the jolt of a curb drop off gone, bikers don’t even need to slow down once each block.

Our little city moves at a wonderfully casual pace and there is plenty of space for bikers to use the streets as all other vehicles do. Sidewalks are for people, and slow moving dogs.

— J. Mac McClellan, Grand Haven



Many people who ride at the speeds that would be dangerous to a pedestrian already do ride on the roads. Skateboarders have been refused use of the downtown sidewalks during the summer because of the pedestrian traffic. But is this letter actually suggesting that I allow my 5 and 8 year old children to ride their bikes in the street? We live in the city, and despite the fact that our road is only one block between stop signs, and is a posted 25 mph zone, cars frequently scream down it at 40+ mph. There is no way I am allowing my children anywhere near the street without me.

I am glad to hear that you love Grand Haven, and find it to have a "casual pace"...however, like any city, there are quite a few people who still appear to be in quite a hurry, and endanger bicyclists who are in the road. Sidewalks are there for the enjoyment of everyone in the community, not just those who are walking.


Welcome to Grand Haven, J. MacMcClellan. I hope you continue to enjoy our slice of West Michigan. As an adult/occasional cyclist, I agree with you about biking in the roadway: much safer for me and pedestrians! And I agree with 'moose' who doesn't want his/her young children riding anywhere but ON the sidewalk.
And since the original letter writer was talking about downtown, I think there is room for both points of view. Also, I believe only pedestrians are supposed to use the main (3?) blocks of sidewalks downtown: they ARE too busy for anything but walkers only.
Again, welcome to Grand Haven!


Agreed, sidewalks are for pedestrians, and bicycles belong in the road, preferably on a bike path. Unfortunately many drivers do not share that opinion, and I have often been honked at or told to "get out of the road!" by zooming cars who understandably have a hard time sharing the lane on narrow streets. It makes riding rather unsafe, especially with kids. Opening car doors are also a very real problem for bicycles. The Harbor/Grand ave. segment comes to mind immediately, as does Lake. It is a very well traveled path for bicycles because of the beach. I sincerely hope the City kept this in mind when they redesigned the Harbor St. layout So far I have heard of wider sidewalks, but nothing about a bike path...


Having lived in NYC, I hate when people say they are from the NYC area...thats code for not really NYC, but please allow me to speak as if I am...NYC is different...come on...does the same hold true in upsate, conn, nj, the boroughs...nope...just in nyc...to use pedestrian laws in nyc as the baseline is ridiculous...we dont need new laws because you are from somewhere else...


Im sorry but I totally disagree with this. I HATE having to move over for bikes or driving behind ppl going super slow because they wont pass a stupid bike on the road. I ride on a BIKE path & if I do end up riding in town, if people are walking on the sidewalk, Ill go out a driveway & go back up the next one. To be completely honest, I, being a bike rider myself, would rather (if it came down to it) hit a pedestrian on my bike than get hit by a car myself. But unlike the people you are complaining about, I know how to move my bike out of the way & not run people over. Isnt that what they made bells for, to put on your bike so people know you're around? I agree moose, I was driving down Washington on saturday & saw a boy, who was maybe 10 riding his bike down the road & I flipped out, Im sorry but that is not safe & there werent any people on the sidewalks on either side of the road. I do however agree that bike riders shouldnt ride on the sidewalks downtown because they wont move for people but there really isnt any room for them on the roads down there either


I totally agree with J Mac - I am not from NYC, but I have lived in Grand Haven for almost 30 years. Every time I go downtown it seems that I hear an "excuse me" or "watch out" because a bike wants to get by me. I had to dodge bike riders as well as move out of the way because they don't want to go around me. The downtown sidewalks are for walkers only and should be kept that way. There are just to many walkers downtown and it makes it hard to enjoy our beautiful town because we are having to watch out for our safety because of the bikes.

I agree that there should be a bike lane on our downtown streets and it is a shame that it wasn't included in the plans when they redeveloped Washington.

Maybe if we speak out loud enough the planners for GH will get this hint that we need bike lanes. And if your riding on the sidewalks in the last three blocks of Washington, then you are ignoring the city ordinance.


Just out of curiosity, is this the same J Mac that wrote for flying magazine for many years and now writes for the EAA magazine?


As this area becomes more populated things must get more organized. When you live in an organized society you should follow the rules that your elected officials have put in place. Some that come to mind are using turn signals, riding/driving on the right side of the road, stopping for red lights, horns are for emergency purposes (not venting rage), sharing the road with those that are also allowed to use the road (bikes), speed limits are not God given rights (they are limits, not expectations), and sidewalks should be for pedestrians.
This is not to suggest that 5 & 8 year olds should ride their bikes in the road, but then neither should a 5 year old, especially, be riding around without an adult.
To ride and drive in the road you need to know the rules of the road!
It would seem there are quite a few of both categories that don't know the rules very well.


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