Ailin Quinlan: How are cyclists getting away with terrorising pedestrians?

Despite what they may assume, cyclists have absolutely no right to ride along pedestrian footpaths frightening and endangering walkers, so says Ailin Quinlan in her weekly column
Ailin Quinlan: How are cyclists getting away with terrorising pedestrians?

Cyclists should stick to the roadways, not paths, says Ailin Quinlan — after all, it is the law. Picture: Stock

SHE was like something out of a storybook. With a waterfall of fair hair floating behind her, the smiling young woman pushed a bicycle — complete with picturesque wicker basket — over the zebra crossing in front of me.

And then she mounted the bicycle and cycled it straight down the middle of the pavement, oblivious to the pedestrians scurrying out of her way.

What on earth is going on with cyclists these days?

A few days later, I recalled this incident when a woman in her eighties told me how she was now afraid to venture out the front door of her house, which is located in a sedate suburb of Cork city.

The reason?

Her front door opens directly onto a public path, which, she reported, has turned into a rat-run for muscular, lycra-clad, neon-helmeted cyclists who bomb it right past her house as if they were in the Tour de France.

This elderly lady, who has lived there for more than half a century, is now, quite literally, terrified of walking out her own front door because she runs the risk of being knocked to the ground and breaking a hip or a knee. Or worse, of being killed in a collision which results in either herself or the cyclist being flung onto the very busy three-lane road outside her house and right under the wheels of a passing lorry.

Meanwhile, if all of that’s not bad enough, when she has actually managed to safely navigate her way outdoors and is walking her dog along the footpath, she says that, should she happen to encounter a cyclist, more often than not he or she will refuse to give way to her.

“They expect me and my dog to stand back to let them pass,” she observed.

“I thought pavements were for pedestrians!

“I don’t really mind children cycling on the pavement, given the level of traffic these days, especially if they realise that they must give way to pedestrians.

“But I think it’s dreadful that fully-grown adults are doing it, and at full belt too, as if it’s their right. It’s terrible. I know the traffic on the roads is bad but they shouldn’t be allowed to just race along the footpath like this. ”

Now let’s be straight here.

I’m not one for blaming the gardaí for everything that goes wrong in this country. They have too much on their hands as it is. They’re under-resourced and under-financed and under-equipped and on a daily basis the force has to deal with every kind of idiot and every imaginable and unimaginable vicious, horrendous and inhuman crime.

Understandably — to an extent — the issue of respectable-looking cyclists biking their way to work or college or whatever along a pavement may not exactly be at the top of their list of crime-fighting priorities.

However, it’s time that it is recognised that these cyclists now pose a very significant hazard to pedestrians. And it’s time that something was done about it, presumably by the community garda system.

After all, this behaviour is common now, it affects the very heart of every community, and it poses a risk to so many pedestrians.

So I suggested to this poor lady that she have a chat with local gardaí — after all, the station is only up the road from her house, and the self-same cyclists terrorising her daily walks must surely be racing along the footpath outside the local garda HQ!

“Sure, what could the guards do about it?” she asked.

We Irish, I thought, we are just amazing. We just won’t complain about things we really should complain about. Especially older Irish people. We all just tend to moan and suck it up.

So I checked out the legalities of the situation.

And the results were not that surprising.

Despite what they may assume, cyclists have absolutely no right to ride along pedestrian footpaths frightening and endangering walkers.

First off, it is an actual offence to cycle on a footpath unless you are entering or exiting a property.

Secondly, for several years now —in fact since 2015 — gardaí have had the power to stop cyclists and fine them for specific fixed charge cycling offences.

Gardai can fine cyclists for a number of offences which include cycling along a pedestriansed street or area and for riding a bicycle without reasonable consideration.

So how are cyclists getting away with terrorising pedestrians like this, and where did they get the idea that they’re entirely within their rights to do it?

This is not a recent problem. About three years ago I had a footpath encounter with one of these bike-riding millennials. One summer afternoon I was pushing a buggy containing my toddler grandson along a narrow footpath in Bantry. As I turned the corner, I saw to my horror that a helmeted, multi-coloured-lycra-wearing member of the species aged in his late twenties or early thirties was tearing along the pavement right at us.

I stopped moving, and as he approached, politely requested him to stop cycling and dismount and to just push his bike along the pavement.

Our friend placed a steely cycling-shoe-clad foot on the ground and flatly refused.

This was followed up by a brusque command for me to get out of his way and/or to move myself and my buggy out onto the adjacent, and very busy, road.

When I refused to comply, he became quite nasty in that well-articulated passive-aggressive, entitled, millennial way with which we have unfortunately become all too familiar since the Celtic Tiger boom days.

I refused to give way to him.

He got even nastier.

Suddenly a long car drew up alongside the pavement on which we were standing. Sticking out of the open window of the car was a heavily tattooed and very muscular elbow.

A deep voice growled from the interior: “Get off the footpath and get out on the road, you p****. Get out of that woman’s way.”

The cyclist’s head nodded up and down with sheer temper as he started to argue back.

The elbow disappeared and the passenger door began to open.

Without another word, the lycra-clad bully lifted his bike under his elbow and scuttled off the pavement and across the road with astonishing alacrity. The door clunked closed, the elbow reappeared at the window again and the car moved off without further ado.

The problem is, Superman can’t be everywhere.

The gardaí must start dealing with this behaviour before somebody gets seriously hurt.

Because it’s everywhere.

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