Battle of the Sidewalks: Cyclists versus Pedestrians
I am a cyclist, and I ride on the footpaths. But before you get upset with me, let me qualify that I don’t ring the bell incessantly, demanding that pedestrians make way for me and my bicycle. But I do ring the bell gently—because some pedestrians seem oblivious to the environment, glued as they are to their handphones, or walk in a zig-zag fashion. Though I will slow down as I ride past them, I believe it’s better to alert them of my presence, so as to avoid an accident.
I used to own a road bike and ride on the roads, but it just became too scary. With cars and heavy vehicles zipping by at breakneck speeds, I found my bicycle easily pushed off course by the strong gusts of their wake. So I gave away my road bike (to a younger man who is more fearless) and replaced it with a foldie, which I could ride more slowly and safely on the footpaths.
As such, I read with interest the latest news about an advisory panel set up to review rules on cycling on the road to see how safety can be improved for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. With more people taking up cycling amid the Covid-19 pandemic, this battle of the sidewalks has become an urgent matter that needs to be addressed for everyone’s safety.
But we all know that while rules can help in deterring bad behaviour, there are limits to their effectiveness. Take, for example, the earlier banning of personal mobility devices on footpaths: for a season, it seemed to work, making the sidewalks safer for pedestrians. But now, we’re seeing another category of accidents taking place on the footpaths—cyclists knocking down pedestrians.
This ongoing battle on the sidewalks reminds me of the apostle Paul’s inspired words in 1 Corinthians 10:23–24: “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”
The believers in the young church in Corinth saw their newfound freedom from religious rules as an opportunity to pursue personal interests. But Paul wrote that they should view it instead as an opportunity to benefit and build up others. True freedom, he taught, does not give a person the right to do as he pleases, but the liberty to do as he ought.
This is something I’ve tried to apply on the sidewalks. As believers—whether we are cyclists or pedestrians—we follow in Jesus’ footsteps when we use our freedom to choose edification over gratification, and others over self. That’s what Jesus did when He went to the cross for you and me (see Philippians 2:6–8). Let’s be a little more considerate: as we enjoy the use of the footpaths, let’s also make them safer for everyone. —Chia Poh Fang
Lord, please help me to realise that
I don’t have to do everything that I’m free to do.
Sometimes, I should limit my freedom and
be more considerate for the benefit of others.
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