From the archives: Bicycles on the sidewalk or — ouch, there goes my hip

From time to time, we will visit the Wayback Machine to read stories from The Senior Times archives. This story by June Grant was published in October 1989.

I heard that some of the sidewalk-cyclists held a news conference recently to demand their rights.

“We want pedestrian-free sidewalks by 1991,” said the spokesman, known as Good Ol’ Speedy. “Meanwhile, start cracking down. Make pedestrians pass a test and get a walking license. Insist they wear signal lights on their ears. And force-feed them with live grasshoppers so they can jump out of our way faster.”

Here Speedy broke a walking stick in two and burned a pair of arch supports, to the cheers of his followers. “Pedestrians act as if the sidewalk belonged to them. They turn left in mid-block to enter stores. They keep spotting a friend and stopping for a chat. Then when we knock them down, they litter the pavement with slippery blood and dangerous bone fragments.”

A little old lady stood up, waving her walking stick. “Did you happen to find an 80-year-old left hip littering the pavement in front of Steinberg’s? My friend Mamie didn’t jump fast enough yesterday.”

“Lady, don’t blame us if Mamie has grasshopper-poor blood.”

“But why do cyclists have to race along the sidewalk like that?”

Speedy tore his hair. “You people have no imagination. When I race along the sidewalk I’m not racing along the sidewalk at all. I’m a John Wayne leading a cavalry charge across the Prairies. Why don’t you stop seeing bikes as bikes and see them as horses instead?”

The little old lady burst into tears. “There’s enough mess on the sidewalk already without a lot of horses dropping dog-dirt studded with oats. And horses kick. No wonder Mamie needs a complete hip transplant. I’m going to tell her to sue John Wayne.”

After hearing about the news conference, I started imagining myself equipped with signal lights. It was a bit confusing, even with the help of the instruction manual. For instance, if you want to pause at a dress store window, you have to make your ears light up half a block away. Then you push your purpose arrow for three seconds and use the flickering sign that says: “Please, please, please.” After this you consult your rear-view mirror and if the bicycles behind you give permission, you make a quick left turn. You then have five seconds to decide whether you want the dress or not. Fail to move on and a bicycle is allowed to smash your taillight.

“It’s no use,” I said to my friend Marge. “Pedestrians have lost the battle for the sidewalks.”

“I’m ashamed of you,” she replied. “Think of Churchill. We will fight on the driveways. We will fight at the bus stops. We will nevah surrendah.”

“Listen, Winston only had Hitler’s tanks to worry about. We have John Wayne’s cavalry. Marge, our only hope is to go overhead. Pedestrians must take to the rooftops.”

Marge considered this for a minute. “I’m a bit worried about leaping across Sherbrooke St. Aren’t we too old to become long-distance jumpers?”

“Now I’m ashamed of you, Marge,” I said. “Do you suppose Churchill would be afraid to try live grasshoppers?”

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