Biking on the sidewalk may seem like a safer alternative to biking on a busy street, but Park Ridge police are reminding Uptown bicyclists that they should avoid doing so.
Temporary signs telling bicyclists to be “sidewalk friendly” and walk their bikes when on the sidewalk have popped up along Prospect Avenue between Northwest Highway and Summit, along with new, metal permanent signs that are also visible along portions of Northwest Highway and other nearby locations. Officers have also been present to give bicyclists verbal reminders as well.
“I think it’s a very positive thing,” said Police Chief Frank Kaminski, who called the Sidewalk Friendly initiative a “reboot” of efforts taken last summer. “I like the design of the signs and hopefully people will read it and comply with the message.”
But not everyone is. Sit outside the Park Ridge Public Library on any given afternoon and sidewalk bicycle riding is a common occurrence.
During the early afternoon of Aug. 19, for example, five teens — within minutes of each other — picked up their bicycles from the racks outside the library and proceeded to ride them right past the “no bicycle riding on sidewalks” metal sign that is attached to a light post at the parking lot entrance. Only one girl decided to walk her bike.
Three more teens riding north on Prospect, also on the sidewalk, soon followed and about an hour later an adult man got on his bike at the library and proceeded south down the sidewalk.
In general, bicycles are permitted on sidewalks except where local laws specifically prohibit them — which can make it confusing for riders. In Park Ridge, bike riding is not allowed on sidewalks along Prospect Avenue, from Garden Street to Northwest Highway; on Fairview Avenue from Garden Street to Main Street; on Main Street between Prospect and Touhy Avenues; on Northwest Highway between Washington Avenue and Cedar Street; and on the pathway between Meacham and Morris Avenues near Hinkley Park.
Skateboards and inline skates are also prohibited on some sidewalks and inside certain parking lots, with signs posted.
Last summer, resident Betty Rouse broke her elbow, sustained a black eye and received a cut that required stitches after she said she was hit head-on by a sidewalk-riding bicyclist outside a store on Prospect Avenue. The experience prompted her to push the police department to better remind bicyclists of the “no riding” rule in order to cut down on potential collisions with pedestrians.
This year, police continued their partnership with Rouse, asking her to appear in a photograph accompanying the kick-off the current Sidewalk Friendly campaign.
“I’m really happy to see this hasn’t been a forgotten problem,” Rouse told the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate. “I’m sure [the signs] will help, but if we want to solve the problem totally, it needs to be enforced because there will still be people not following the rules.”
While posing for the campaign photograph last week, Rouse noted that a mother and four children rode right by the Sidewalk Friendly sign and the police officer who was present there.
“Children see their parents doing it, so they are going to do it too,” Rouse said. “I don’t know if it’s because they don’t know about the rule or they don’t care, but I am an example that it’s dangerous.”
“The potential [for a collision] is always there unless people are very cautious and walk their bikes,” Kaminski added.
Rouse suggested that putting the message on a large banner, like the one that announces the library’s summer reading program or those that advertise various events above Prospect and Vine Avenues at Hodges Park, may have a greater impact because banners are so visual.
She also suggested that educational campaigns telling people to walk their bicycles should begin as soon as school dismisses for the summer.
Though police can ticket riders for ignoring the signs, Kaminski said he hesitates to do that.
“I’d rather not,” he said. “I’d rather see us get voluntary compliance.”