Like many students who live along Richmond Road, I have a little bit of a trek to campus each day. The walk is usually not too bad. I use the sidewalks to get where I’m going, and it’s often very peaceful. In the early morning, I can walk through the bright cold and see the sun rising through the trees. And at night, the streets are so glowing and empty that it feels like I’m the only person on earth.
That is until a bicycle zips past me, and I have to jump off the sidewalk, out of its way.
I’ll never understand why people ride their bikes on the sidewalks along Richmond Road. Sometimes, I’ll drift along the road, lost in some deep and interesting thought, and I’ll hear, “On your left.” I’ll snap out of my mind and look to see someone bounding on their bike towards me. I don’t understand why I’m the one who’s expected to move. If they move their bike over just a couple inches, there’s literally an entire bike lane available to them.
I used to think I was overreacting when things like this happened, and maybe I am. But I have to say, it feels terrible to have someone scream “move” or “get out of the way” at me, especially when I’m already having a bad day. My personal favorite is when people don’t say anything to me at all. They just slam their bells or horns, expecting me to move as if I’m a bird sitting on the hood of their car.
Not only is this rude, it’s actually dangerous. I wear my headphones a lot while I’m walking to class before my day starts. I have a very hectic schedule — what student at the College of William and Mary doesn’t — so this is often the only part of my day when I have time to relax and listen to music. So, if someone riding their bike yells at me to move over, I might not realize it, which could be dangerous.
But even when I’m not wearing headphones, there’s a decent chance I won’t hear the cyclists riding behind me. I have a genetic hearing impairment. Because of this, I often miss middle speech tones, which are what people typically use while communicating with each other. This means that if I’m not looking at someone’s lips, I probably don’t know what they’re saying. There have actually been several instances when I didn’t hear a cyclist behind me, and they almost hit me as a result.
For these reasons, riding bikes on the sidewalks is not safe, especially when there is a clear bike lane available. Sound is not a foolproof measure against collisions. Many people listen to music while walking to class, and if someone has hearing issues like I do, they won’t hear cyclists whether they’re using headphones or not.
So, if you’re a person who frequently rides their bike on the Richmond Road sidewalks, or any sidewalks for that matter, please start using the bikes lanes. Try thinking about how you’d feel if a random stranger yelled at you to move.
Also, consider the risks. What if the person walking in front of you doesn’t hear you? What if they simply don’t want to move? What if you’re going too fast to stop abruptly? Trust me, it’s not worth it — just use the bike lanes.
Email Anna Burns at