Opinion: Riding bikes on the sidewalk 


When I was a kid, the town constable announced that we would no longer be allowed to ride our bicycles on the sidewalks. He didn’t explain why, but we suspected that crabby old Miss Heller had complained. She constantly hogged the middle of the sidewalk, and I think one of us came a little too close to her grocery sack when we zipped past her one day.

After a few days of intensive resentment and revenge-plotting, we resigned ourselves to staying in the street. We still maneuvered as close to the curb as possible whenever Miss Heller was walking home from the store, however. And we usually let out a wild whoop as we roared by, just to let her know we knew what she had done.

Then one day we saw Tommy Granneman, whose father owned the local grocery store, blatantly riding his bike down the sidewalk. We crowded around and asked him what he was doing.

“Delivery,” he said, pointing to the small sign on the front of his basket. “If you are making deliveries, you can ride on the sidewalk.”

Within an hour all of us had freshly printed signs saying, “Delivery” attached to our bikes and were once again zipping down the sidewalks with impunity. It was my job to make the signs. I printed them on pieces of white cardboard and poked holes in the top to attach them to our bikes with string.

We were back in business. We had challenged the system and had beaten it. Or so we thought.

On the third day of pell-mell racing down the sidewalks, we skidded around the corner by Hansen’s Drug Store and ran smack into the constable sitting on the fender of his pickup.

“What do you boys think you’re doing?” he demanded, bringing us to an abrupt halt. “You know it’s against the law to ride on the sidewalks.”

“Delivery!” we all yelled at once, pointing to the signs on our bikes and the phony parcels we had put in our baskets to make it look legit.

In measured tones the constable explained that while it was true that delivery bicycles were allowed on the sidewalks, it was also true that such bicycles had to get their signs at the Town Hall and had to buy a permit. Tommy Granneman had left out that part.

The constable loaded our bikes into the back of his truck and told us we could redeem them when our parents paid a five-dollar fine.

We rode a little more sedately for the rest of that summer, Tommy Granneman avoided us like the plague, and Miss Heller continued to hog the middle of the sidewalk.