The walk to Fremont, a perilous journey


Photo courtesy of Streetsblog USA

It is a dreary Wednesday morning, there is some slight fog in the air and Felipe the Firebird got a solid four hours of sleep the night before. Felipe is walking down Sunnyvale Saratoga, barely paying attention to what is in front of him. He eventually looks up from his phone and sees himself almost at the school. He begins to randomly veer a little to the left on the sidewalk … 

BOOM! Felipe has just collided with a cyclist who tried to zoom past him on the sidewalk, a bad situation for both parties. 

While this story is a bit crude, it remains a serious possibility. As a regular pedestrian to school each and every day, I have seen this tragedy nearly transform into reality all the time.

Countless students bike to school each day traveling south starting from the Sunnyvale Saratoga and Remington intersection. As cyclists get closer and closer to the school, they begin to notice the long line of cars backed-up, waiting right next to them in the bike lane. These cyclists know that the closer they get to the east parking lot and drop-off zone, the higher the likelihood becomes that a student decides to fling open their door and get out of their car early. 

I can personally attest to the fact that on numerous occasions, these early car exiting students do not take the time to even look at the bike lane on their right to see if any cyclists are there. I have already watched a student nearly collide with a door if it were not for his fast reflexes and properly working breaks. 

Consequently, cyclists begin to ride on the sidewalk to not risk having their mornings start with a brisk run-in with death. This begets its own set of equally troubling problems. 

Having cyclists share the sidewalk with pedestrians is not ideal. Why? Because it physically does not work! What ends up happening is pedestrians have to remain on the right side of the sidewalk so that once a cyclist inevitably shows up, they can easily pass them.

However, if you do not typically walk to school and have this first-hand knowledge, it can become deadly. If you walk on the left side of the sidewalk, you run the risk of a cyclist encounter. If a cyclist does come from behind you, nine times out of ten, the cyclist will pedal very slowly to maintain their balance, and will wait a few seconds for you to move to the right. The main problem is that cyclists just expect you to know that they are there. Not once have I ever experienced them ringing a bell, calling out “on your left” or something else of the sort. 

The cyclists want to get to school as quickly as possible so inevitably, they will attempt to go past you regardless of how little space there is. The cyclists will try to squeeze past you even if they are right on the very edge of the sidewalk; causing them to nearly fall off, almost hitting the pedestrian in the process. 

This is a bad situation all around and something must be done before people get hurt. So here is my final message: cyclists, please call out when you wish to pass someone or use a bell; pedestrians, keep to the right side of the sidewalk at all costs; car drop-off students, always look at the bike lane before you open your car door!

Stay safe Fremont.