Pedestrian hit by bike; sidewalk safety still issue downtown

By Jim Hagerty
Contributor

DOWNTOWN — The few feet between his office and Wired Café are those Jim Moore walks several times per week without incident.

Last Wednesday, July 26, the lawyer was reminded of what he says is a growing number of people who disregard the local ordinance against cycling on sidewalks when he was struck by one just outside the popular coffee shop.

“I saw him out of the corner of my eye as I exited,” Moore said. “But he was going about 15 or 20 miles per hour so he really had no chance to stop.”

Before he knew it, Moore was entangled with the cyclist; both were drenched in a cup of Wired’s flavor of the day and a handful of client files caught an early morning breeze. Neither man was injured, yet the unnamed cyclist was anything but pleased about the accident and let Moore know about it.

“He started swearing and shoved me,” Moore said.

A witness called police, which was Moore’s cue to advise the cyclist that officers would likely be on his side resulting in criminal charges that would not bode well for someone on his way to a probation appointment.

“He then apologized,” Moore said. “I told him to get of out there before the police came.”

According to Code of Ordinances Sec. 16-77, it is illegal for bicyclists older than 16 to ride on sidewalks in Rockford’s business districts. As downtown continues to expand, the area’s concentration of foot traffic is following, creating what Moore says is an imminent need for safety.

“There exists in this city a critical mass of bad and dangerous behavior that must end,” he said. “Riding bicycles on busy downtown sidewalks full of cafes, families with children, and shoppers is reckless and extreme. For some reason, Rockford is a town where people walk in the streets and ride their bicycles on the sidewalks.”

Wired Café owner Crystal Douglas can’t count the number of bicyclists she sees streak past her window every day. Moore is the first person to be hit, but she fears it may only be a matter of time before someone is seriously injured.

“First, I don’t think people are aware that it is against the law,” she said. “Also, I don’t think they realize the potential consequences of hitting a pedestrian. I can’t help but thinking of that poor lady (in Beloit last year) that was hit and killed by the 18-year-old-bicyclist. Not only has a family lost a loved one, but a young man has to deal with that tragedy for the rest of his life.”

In Rockford, offenders can be fined up to $500 for riding bicycles on business-district sidewalks. And while police do enforce the ordinance, leaders say officers cannot be in multiple places at once.

“It is important to everyone to hold themselves accountable,” City of Rockford Public Information Officer Kimberly Bruce said. “Follow state-mandated bicycle and traffic laws, and be aware of surroundings to ensure everyone remains safe.”

Bicycles and cars are treated equally in Illinois under state rules of the road. R.

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