Who Owns the Sidewalks, Pedestrians or Joggers? Neither. We Are All Just Fighting Over Leftovers.

CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter/ my plan for how we can all get along.

It’s been fashionable for pedestrians to complain about killer cyclists on the sidewalks, but now there is a new threat, the killer jogger. Joshua Kloke writes in the Toronto Star about the menace. His title asks the question: Who owns Toronto’s sidewalks, pedestrians or joggers? (Link to Star is broken at time of writing)

On a recent Saturday afternoon ... as families with strollers and tourists walked slowly along the sidewalks, no less than 25 runners were spotted in half an hour. It’s not uncommon to see runners bump into pedestrians at high speeds without proper observation of running etiquette, fuelling questions about who has ownership of the sidewalks.

Kloke finds a few runners for comment and they agree that it’s an attitude thing.
“Runners seem to think they own the street. If they aren’t slowing down you can see other people get upset. For certain people it’s a matter of ‘Hey, look at me, I’m running, get out of my way.’”

Personally as a sidewalk runner, I think that pedestrians shouldn’t be walking slowly three abreast filling the whole sidewalk, talking to each other and having a good time when they should be paying someone in a café for a place to sit. Everybody is saying they are called SideWALKS, not sideJOGS. I’m sorry, they are not SideTALKS. And those giant SUV strollers that are everywhere now. They are always in my way. Kids belong in parks, not on smelly streets. So who does own the sidewalk? In Toronto it would appear that much is owned by Astral Media which fills it with advertising and overflowing garbage cans. Or the Cafés that push out so far that there pretty much is no sidewalk left for walkers or joggers. Perhaps my proposal for a network of separated and marked lanes might solve the problem.

Lexington before and after

© John Massengale

In fact, there are all kinds of competing interests, pushed into a tiny concrete belt because we gave up all the road space to cars. Look at what happened to Lexington Avenue in New York over the years; big sidewalk with stoops and light wells gets replaced with a thin strip of concrete.

Cyclists are fighting with pedestrians who are fighting with joggers because they all are trying to occupy the tiny bit of space left over after the cars and drivers get what they want. Articles like this one divert our attention from the fact that all kinds of people and things have to fight for a share of the sidewalk, because if they go on the road they get killed.

None of us own the sidewalks; we are just fighting over leftovers designed to keep us out of the way of cars. If it's not enough, tough.