Cyclists defend using sidewalk where pedestrian was struck and killed
Cyclists travelling through the North York neighbourhood where Nobu Okamoto, 74, was run down by a bicycle are defending their choice to use the sidewalk, just days after he died from his injuries.
On Thursday afternoon, a Star reporter witnessed at least 10 cyclists on Finch Ave. W., near Sentinel Rd., fail to comply with the bylaw that prohibits riding on sidewalks on vehicles with wheels larger than 61 centimetres in diameter.
Okamoto’s family insists that bikes have no place on the sidewalk, but local cyclists say they have no choice due to narrow roads and fast cars.
Khemraj Ganga rides his bike on the Finch Ave. W. sidewalk on a regular basis to get to work as a security guard.
“Nobody’s going to make me ride on the road. If I can’t ride here, I’ll stop riding because it is not safe for me,” he said.
Ganga, 55, claims he is a safe cyclist, especially when pedestrians are near.
“When I’m close to pedestrians, I come to a complete stop. No pedestrian is going to tell me I’m going to hit them. They’re going to walk into my bicycle. I’m not going to hit them, though.”
Another cyclist — who declined to give his name — cited poor road conditions and cars travelling up to 80 km/h as the reasons he rides on pedestrian walkways.
When informed of the $3.75 fine associated with the bylaw, the cyclist shot back saying: “There’s a certain size (of wheels) that you’re technically not supposed to ride on. This size is okay.”
With the number of cyclists using the sidewalk, some local residents have become accustomed to looking over their shoulder.
Cory Sampson, 17, who lives in the same apartment building as Okamoto did, is often caught off-guard by cyclists who whiz by with no warning.
“They just expect (pedestrians) to know that they’re coming. I always have to be on the lookout for something that comes up behind me,” he said.
A bike lane was installed several years ago on Sentinel Rd. as part of the original 2001 Toronto Bike Plan. However, local cyclists say a bike lane down Finch Ave. W. would have been more useful for accessing services and stores at Jane St. and Finch Ave. W.
With the recent death of Okamoto, Councillor Shelley Carroll said the bylaws need to be reviewed because they were originally geared toward accommodating children cyclists living in a “car-oriented” area like North York.
“It’s time — with the ever-increasing number of cyclists on the road — for (cyclists) to start to keep in mind that . . . they control the speed like everyone else,” she said.
“Speed kills, whatever vehicle you’re on.”
-- Liem Vu, Staff Reporter