A pedestrian is knocked to the ground downtown and critically injured by a bicyclist riding illegally on a sidewalk.
It’s a nightmare that any pedestrian who has been buzzed by a bicyclist might have, and it happened Tuesday afternoon to a woman walking out of a downtown building.
“Remember, a sidewalk is not for bicycles,” said Cpl. Tom Sahlberg of the Spokane Police Department traffic unit.
Janice Everhart, 49, remained in a coma Thursday at Deaconess Medical Center.
Everhart, a Spokesman-Review advertising executive, was walking out of the Great Western Building in the 900 block of West Riverside when a bicyclist ran into her.
The 17-year-old bicyclist, who wasn’t wearing a helmet, also fell but was uninjured.
Everhart’s friends, relatives and advocates of bicycle safety hope the freak accident on a downtown sidewalk will teach bicyclists a lesson.
Sahlberg said the teen didn’t know riding a bicycle on downtown sidewalks is illegal. Police have not identified him.
“Clearly, the bicyclist was at fault even though he wasn’t aware that riding on the sidewalk isn’t legal,” said Margaret Watson, chairwoman of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Board.
The nine-member citizens board was appointed by the City Council in 1992 to advise the city on bicycle issues and to promote safe bicycling.
“We are advocates of safe bicycling as transportation,” said Watson, a member of the Spokane Bicycle Club. “It keeps our air cleaner. It’s economical. It can be done in a safe manner.”
A program was launched in Spokane-area schools in 1993 to teach fourth-graders how to ride safely.
This school year, 2,500 students will be taught about obeying traffic laws, riding with traffic and yielding to pedestrians.
“Because this young man is 17, he probably was never touched by that education,” Watson said. “A sidewalk is supposed to be for pedestrians, not for everybody else.”
Since 1984, an average of more than 100 bicycle accidents involving injuries have been reported annually in the city, Sahlberg said.
“There are many more where kids fall off their bicycles, their parents take them to the hospital and we don’t hear about them,” he said.
Wearing helmets isn’t required by law, but Sahlberg said bicycle riders should do so. Head injuries cause the majority of bicycling deaths.
While bicycling on sidewalks is permitted in most residential areas, safety advocates recommend always riding in the street.
The temptation to pedal onto downtown sidewalks can affect even safety-conscious riders.
Spokane attorney Ian Ledlin confessed that he rides his bicycle on the street except for one last stretch of less than a block to reach the downtown building where he works.
“I have to confess I ride my bike on the sidewalk between the curb of the road to the entrance,” Ledlin said.
Also a member of the Spokane Bicycle Club, Ledlin began bicycling to work in 1981. He’s even convinced one law partner to bicycle 20 miles to work sometimes.
When he drives his car, Ledlin said he’s more aware of other bicyclists and pedestrians because of his own experiences riding to work.
“I find I’ve become a better driver because of learning bicycle safety,” he said.
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