Every day I pass pedestrians on my bicycle, and so many days I am frustrated by the sheer stupidity demonstrated by some pedestrians, as they scatter in random directions, clogging the path even more than before I approached. In order to prevent such foolish behaviour, I present this simple how-to, which describes what a cyclist will do as he or she approaches you, the pedestrian, and what you should do in response.

Upon approaching you, especially from behind, a cyclist will ring their bell once (or maybe twice). This bell sound is not an emergency or panic signal, but rather simply to alert you to their presence, that you might move courteously to the side of the path, or at the very least not act unpredictably and endanger yourself and/or the cyclist.

While approaching you, the cyclist will be selecting a safe course past you. This will usually be the widest section of path, irrespective of whether that is to your left or right, as it grants the cyclist the greatest margin for error, should they or you trip or make a mistake.

Upon reading the preceding paragraph, it should now be clear that the best course of action is for you to move toward the edge of the path that is closest to you, thus widening the gap that the cyclist is aiming to pass through.

However, on many an occasion a pedestrian will do exactly the opposite, which is to move into the large space that the cyclist was originally aiming for. Do not do this. Would you step in front of a truck, were it to be headed in your direction? Of course not.

Perhaps this course of action is chosen by the pedestrian based on some misguided notion that while on the shared pedestrian/cyclist path upon which they are meandering, they are subject to the same rules as are motor vehicles on the road. In this case, they may think they are on "the wrong side", and promptly "correct" the situation by crossing over to "the right side" of the path. Do not do this. You will simply get in the way of the cyclist, and cause anything from a bad word or finger signal from the cyclist, to a possible collision.

In truth, to continue walking in your previously-chosen path would be preferable to moving to the opposite side of the path. The cyclist would already have chosen a course that would be most likely to ensure they do not collide with you.

The good news is that the correct course of action on your behalf is in fact the one that requires much less effort and action than would the wrong course of action. By simply moving toward the closest side of the path, you are walking a shorter distance than if you were to cross over to the other side of the path. Even better, you don't even need to stop in order to move to the side. You can merely step sideways toward the side of the path as you continue on your way along the path, thus ensuring that you are not slowed down in your journey, be it for leisure, health, or simply to get from one place to another.

Happy walking!

PS: As noted to me by Xydexx Squeakypony, pedestrians always have right of way on shared paths. This is true, and I'll always stop if I think there's a risk of smacking into a pedestrian. Better safe than sorry, and hopefully other cyclists will think the same. Nevertheless, a little courtesy goes a long way, and costs very little. Both cyclists and pedestrians can do their fair share to make shared paths safe and fun for all. Yay! :-)

Cyclists be sure to check out how to be kind to pedestrians.

A cyclist may also say "On your left" or "On your right" as applicable, to let you know they're approaching you. This is especially true if they don't have a bell on their bicycle. The disadvantage to this approach is that the pedestrian only hears "left" or "right" and moves that way, which is again, into the approaching cyclist. Just be informed that if you hear one of these phrases, someone's coming at you from the corresponding side, and you should go the other way to avoid them.

Generally, this is only applicable on bike paths or sidewalks, where it's considered appropriate for cyclists to ride on the sidewalk.

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