London

Between cyclists and pedestrians on the Thames Valley Parkway: who gets the right of way?

Where the pathway runs through tunnels, under bridges, or close to the water, it becomes difficult to follow public health recommendations to keep at least two meters of physical distance from other users — especially while passing each other. 

It's hard to maintain physical distance at choke points along the 40-kilometre path

“Selfishly, you never want to slow down when you’re biking. But I really think that’s the best thing to do. Either slow down, or get off the trail," said Tiffany Burger. (Liny Lamberink/CBC London)

The Thames Valley Parkway (TVP) has been drawing scores of cyclists, pedestrians and runners since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

The 40-kilometre trail runs along the side of the Thames River in London, and ranges from 2.4 to four metres in width, according to the city's website. 

But where the pathway runs through tunnels, under bridges, or close to the water where there's little room on either side, it becomes difficult to follow public health recommendations to keep at least two meters of physical distance from other users — especially while passing each other. 

So we asked people on the TVP: who gets the right of way? Pedestrians or cyclists? 

"When you're a pedestrian, you want to think the faster people should get out of your way, but now that I've been biking a bit more, I realize I have the opposite mindset when I'm on a bike," said Tiffany Burger. 

She used the path to run a half marathon at the start of the pandemic, so she's experienced the issue from both sides. 

"Selfishly, you never want to slow down when you're biking. But I really think that's the best thing to do. Either slow down, or get off the trail. And as walkers and runners, you can definitely make space for other people, oncoming in the other lane, to walk past you safely." 

But not everyone is mindful of other people's space, Burger noted. 

"I still try to get out of the way of pedestrians and runners as much possible, but that's really not the case for most bikers on the TVP that I've come across anyways. Usually, they just go into the median in between two groups, and that's definitely not six feet apart."

Harman Chalal uses the Thames Valley Parkway every day, either as a runner or a cyclist. (Liny Lamberink/CBC London)

Harman Chahal uses the path as a runner and a cyclist too, and believes that pedestrians should have the right of way. Jordan C., on the other hand, thinks the right of way belongs to cyclists. 

"They're moving quicker. I don't know. I feel like they should maybe have a bell, warning you so you can get out of the way. But we're able to get off the path easier than the cyclist would be," he said. 

Gerda Zonruiter doesn't always use the bell on her bicycle, because she noticed that it sometimes startles pedestrians straight into her path. Instead, she'll say "on your left" to let people know she's coming up behind them. 

"I was thinking about it on my way out this morning, that if we just got used to using our bell and hearing our bell more often, then it wouldn't make us jump so much," she explained. 

No person or mode of transportation should get a preference on the Thames Valley Parkway, because it's a shared space and we can make careful decisions about where and when to use it, said Gerda Zonruiter. (Liny Lamberink/CBC London)

As for who should get the right of way, Zonruiter doesn't believe one person or a method of transportation should have preference over another on the TVP. 

"It's a shared space. I think that it's intended for movement and getting out and enjoying nature, I think that we can make choices about when we go and which parts of the parkway we want to go on, if we want more space."

Connor Skidmore, meanwhile, says pedestrians should probably have the right of way because bikes are akin to vehicles. As a runner on the TVP, he said he hasn't experienced any close calls with other users.

"Normally it's the geese that are bad pedestrians," he laughed.

About the Author

Liny Lamberink

Reporter/Editor

Liny Lamberink is a reporter in London, ON. She can be reached at liny.lamberink@cbc.ca

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