Riding a bike on the sidewalk

  • Thread starter mattmns
  • Start date
  • #1
mattmns
1,118
6
I just read that a bicyclist is supposed to ride on the right side of the lane (with traffic), and not on the sidewalk. Why is this?

Personally I ride on the sidewalk all the time, as it feels more comfortable, and safe. However, I have always ridden a 20" bmx bike, so I usually do not go at the faster pace of a road bike.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Evo
Mentor
23,924
3,261
Supposedly sidewalks are for pedestrians, but you rarely see pedestrians on the sidewalk and it's dangerous for people on bikes to be on busy roads. Laws are sometimes stupid. :grumpy: I'd much rather have someone on a bike riding on a sidewalk, away from traffic.
 
  • #3
Knavish
116
1
I ride my bike on the sidewalk all the time. The 'law' is enforced rather loosely.. not that big of a deal.
 
  • #4
mattmns
1,118
6
Ohh wow, I did not even know it was a law: I thought it was a recommendation. Though it now makes sense why they had that listed.

Personally I will continue to break the law because it seems more safe.
 
  • #5
cronxeh
Gold Member
1,004
10
the monkey on the typewriter who wrote this law was, at the moment, on amphetamines
 
  • #6
Integral
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,253
63
The stipulation, of course, is that you ride on the sidewalk in a safe and courteous manner when, and if, pedestrians are present.

I am fortunate to live in an area where there are abundant bicycle paths. So, in most places, it is not necessary to ride on the sidewalks or the street.
 
  • #7
Monique
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
4,217
66
I always used to ride on the sidewalk. When there was no sidewalk, I would find another way to it or just go somewhere else. Far too dangerous to ride on the road with cars.

I haven't seen a single bicycle lane in the US and in the suburbs I also haven't seen a single person walking on the sidewalk.. the choice is then easy.
 
  • #8
Andre
4,509
74
Many countries, many bike laws. In Germany the law prescribes that kids shall bicycle on the sidewalk.
 
  • #9
arildno
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
10,089
135
Bicycles are to be on the road, not on the sidewalk. End of assertion.
 
  • #10
stoned
82
0
Andre said:
Many countries, many bike laws. In Germany the law prescribes that kids shall bicycle on the sidewalk.


in many European countries there are special bike lines exclusivelly made for bicyclers with their own signal lights and all the stuff. we have nothig like that in N.America and propably never going to have.
 
  • #11
Monique
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
4,217
66
arildno said:
Bicycles are to be on the road, not on the sidewalk. End of assertion.
Ever been to the US?
 
  • #12
arildno
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
10,089
135
Monique said:
Ever been to the US?
Nope.
However, I have been the victim of bicyclical terrorism as I was just walking peacefully on the sidewalk here in Norway. :grumpy:
 
  • #13
Kazza_765
171
0
Same law over here. When I lived in the suburbs I always rode on the sidewalk, cause there's no one there. But now I live in the near the CBD, the sidwalks are always busy, and so I ride on the road. I also find that around the CBD drivers are far more aware of bikes, and so they look out for you. But I ride my bike every day almost, and as long as you are careful and don't act stupid its not too bad.
 
  • #14
arildno
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
10,089
135
And, of course, in Australia, you would have to compete with those pesky kangaroos for sidewalk space, so I understand why you use the road instead.
 
  • #15
adrenaline
Science Advisor
103
3
When I am road training and riding fast (an average speed of 18-20mph,) I ride on the road. When I'm just tooling around the neighborhood on a mountain bike, I go on the sidewalk but I bunny hop back into the road if I see any pedestrians (they have right of way.) By the way, here in Atlanta there is a very antagonistic attitude towards us bicyclists. ( Two to three days a week I bike commute thirty miles to work to save gas and keep in race form shape for mountain biking)
 
Last edited:
  • #16
DocToxyn
Science Advisor
425
0
adrenaline said:
When I am road training and riding fast (an average speed of 18-20mph,) I ride on the road.

Exactly, if you're on the sidewalk coming out of a store or coming around a corner, are you expecting to encounter a large mass of metal, rubber and human to be coming at you at 25+ mph? I ride to go fast and I can't do that on a sidewalk. It's much safer to be on the street for both cyclists and pedestrians. The car drivers are (hopefully) looking to see such things and are ready for them. Most pedestrians aren't paying that much attention and sidewalks aren't set-up to deal with highspeed traffic (no stop signs, lights, turning lanes, etc.). I've got some sources on this issue somewhere, I'll dig them up soon.
 
  • #17
Moonbear
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
11,828
53
Whatever the actual laws are, if a bicyclist is going fast (like when you're commuting to work or training for a race), you should stay on a road, but over to the right so faster cars can pass you easily (I get very annoyed with the bicyclists riding down the center of the lane as if they own the road; even a tractor trailer will pull toward the right when they know they can't go as fast as traffic and give you some room to get around, so this should be much easier for a bicyclist).

If the bicyclist is a child with training wheels, or otherwise inexperienced or slow, and likely they'll fall often, I'd say stay on the sidewalk and just stop or slow down or carefully go around pedestrians. If the sidewalk is very crowded, such as in a city, someone who isn't safe to ride their bike in the street should walk their bike on the sidewalk (they're no safer to be riding on the sidewalk).

Don't they teach these rules to kids in school? When I was in school, they taught us bicycle safety along with rules of the road so we'd be safe riding our bikes. I often wish they would require a test to "license" bicyclists before they are allowed out on the roads. Afterall, if they are going to share the road with cars, and are expected to follow the same rules, they too should get tested and licensed to prove they are sufficiently knowledgeable to do that. Perhaps just the written test portion about road signs, right of way, how to signal turns, helmet laws, etc.

Interestingly, I recall way back when I took my driving test in NJ that a portion of our driver's ed class covered bicycles, though from the perspective of drivers and what their signals are and who yields to whom, etc. But, I've never seen that addressed in the driving manual in any other state I've lived in. Education is probably needed on both sides to keep the roads safe for both bicyclists and drivers (as well as pedestrians in places where there are no sidewalks; if you're a pedestrian, you're supposed to walk on the LEFT side of the road, not the right, so you have a clear view of the cars coming your way...I really don't understand the people around here who wear all dark clothing and then walk down the middle of the road at night or run out from between cars to cross the street rather than at the crosswalk at the corner).
 
  • #18
matthyaouw
Gold Member
1,185
5
In the UK, it is illegal to ride on the pavement, and there is a £30 fine if you are caught(about $50 i think), though its not always enforced. Kids up to age 4 or 5 can get away with it if they are accompanied by a parent, but kids don't get any cycle training until 11 or 12, and even then it doesn't really give them much experience with traffic.
 
  • #19
Monique
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
4,217
66
Moonbear said:
I often wish they would require a test to "license" bicyclists before they are allowed out on the roads. Afterall, if they are going to share the road with cars, and are expected to follow the same rules, they too should get tested and licensed to prove they are sufficiently knowledgeable to do that.
Here in the Netherlands in the last year of primary school you are required to take a bicycle road test, where you take a certain route and on stragetic points there are people watching the kids and noting down how they perform. It prepares you for high school where all the kids have to get on their bikes and go through traffic everyday (primary school is usually in walking distance).
 
  • #20
Moonbear
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
11,828
53
Monique said:
Here in the Netherlands in the last year of primary school you are required to take a bicycle road test, where you take a certain route and on stragetic points there are people watching the kids and noting down how they perform. It prepares you for high school where all the kids have to get on their bikes and go through traffic everyday (primary school is usually in walking distance).
That's a really good idea. Schools are set up pretty much like that in the US too, where the elementary (primary) schools are either within walking distance or buses are provided or the parents drive the kids to school, but then the junior high and high schools are further away and more kids start biking to school rather than walking or getting rides from parents (buses are still usually provided to kids who are too far for a reasonable biking distance or who would need to cross very dangerous/busy roads). So, it would make sense to do the same thing when kids are at that age where they're getting old enough to bike to school without a parent accompanying them.
 
  • #21
loseyourname
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
1,802
5
Hey, if bike couriers can make it in Manhattan, you can ride a bike on the road anywhere. It's easy here. All the big roads have bike lanes, and the small roads usually don't even have any vehicle traffic.
 
  • #22
motai
358
2
arildno said:
Bicycles are to be on the road, not on the sidewalk. End of assertion.

There are some roads in America where this simply cannot be done. Some of the rural roads don't have bike lanes, and traffic may be heavy at some times (intercity highways). Usually the shoulder of the road extends to perhaps 0.3048 metres (meters :tongue2:) on average if there is no bike lane, and that isn't enough for a bicyclist to sufficiently manoeuvre.

Bicycles usually have to travel with traffic (it would sort of make sense in a way), because they are moving with traffic at a faster rate than pedestrians, and if there ever is a collision, it won't be head-on. Still, bicyclists don't have the luxury of finding out what automobiles may be behind them, or which ones are drunk, etc.

edit: Hmm.. what about unicyles? Do they have to ride in the bicycle lane, or are they technically pedestrians?
 
Last edited:
  • #23
Mental Gridlock
16
0
Unicyclists are supposed to use the unicycle lane (that's what it's there for, duh!) It makes me so mad when I see the unicyclists using the roller blading lane.
 
  • #24
brewnog
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2,739
7
It gets on my tits when cyclists use the pavement. If they're not good enough to be riding in traffic, they shouldn't be allowed out. You don't just get cities in the US by the way, we have some in the UK too. I have shouted at many a cyclist using the pavement. My ex's grandad had his hip broken by a pavement-bound cyclist, he never walked again.

Unless you're a kid with stabilisers, if you ride a bike, ride it on the road. Otherwise you'll have me to face up to. And don't even get me started on the helmet/lights issue, cos then I'll get really angry!
 
  • #25
matthyaouw
Gold Member
1,185
5
brewnog said:
It gets on my tits when cyclists use the pavement.

Funny, it gets on the motorists tits when they use the road. Can't win really.
 
  • #26
Moonbear
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
11,828
53
matthyaouw said:
Funny, it gets on the motorists tits when they use the road. Can't win really.

There you go! Maybe we should just ban them altogether if there isn't a designated bike lane. :devil: Maybe people just need some common sense not to try biking in places where it's not safe to do so. If the sidewalk is too crowded or you need to go fast, stay off it. If the street is too crowded and there's no place to get out of the way of the cars, stay off of it. If that leaves you with no place to bike, complain to the city council and get bike lanes put in, or stick to the parks.
 
  • #27
brewnog
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2,739
7
Moonbear said:
There you go! Maybe we should just ban them altogether if there isn't a designated bike lane. :devil: Maybe people just need some common sense not to try biking in places where it's not safe to do so. If the sidewalk is too crowded or you need to go fast, stay off it. If the street is too crowded and there's no place to get out of the way of the cars, stay off of it. If that leaves you with no place to bike, complain to the city council and get bike lanes put in, or stick to the parks.


There is absolutely no problem with a bike being ridden on any road (short of a motorway) providing both the cyclist and any motorists are following the highway code. End of story.
 
  • #28
BobG
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
330
84
I'm seriously wondering what's up with some of these neighborhoods where no one walks. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. One morning I saw someone slowly driving their car down the street, holding onto a leash with a dog on the other end. If there's people so lazy they have to sit in their car while walking their dog, I guess it shouldn't be that big of a surprise that there are neighborhoods where you never see anyone walking on a sidewalk.

Edit: When I was in the military, I lived in base housing for a few years. People in military housing are more friendly and helpful than in a lot of neighborhoods. So much so, it almost became annoying - everytime you walk to the store, at least one or two or three cars stop and ask if you need a ride and keep offering reassurances that it's no problem when you turn them down. Doesn't anyone like to walk once in awhile?

Bicycles definitely should use the road, along with other vehicles. Yes, they are slower than cars, but so are farm tractors. It's always a give and take whether on the road or on trails. A bicycle has the same rights as a car on the road, even if they can't very well demand their rights are respected. On trails, the pedestrian has the right of way, even though the considerate pedestrian steps off the trail when they hear a bicycle coming.
 
Last edited:
  • #29
Integral
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,253
63
stoned said:
in many European countries there are special bike lines exclusivelly made for bicyclers with their own signal lights and all the stuff. we have nothig like that in N.America and propably never going to have.
You must be stoned...

Or perhaps have never been to Oregon. Bike paths are common here.
 
  • #30
matthyaouw
Gold Member
1,185
5
Where I live, a bike lane usually constitutes a strip no more than 3 feet wide in the gutter, separated from the road with some white paint. More often than not there will be cars parked in them or periodically driving into them, and they disappear at tricky junctions. Its a little safer than the road, but not by much. The only cycle tracks near my house that aren't on a road are pretty unsafe and secluded. Its a bit tricky if you need a bike to get around. It would be a hell of a lot easier if motorists and cyclists would just show some consideration towards each other. I feel sorry for the motorists who are around the reckless cyclists who pull out without warning, get in the way etc, but its pretty frustrating being nearly knocked off by cars, or having to wait 5 minutes to pull out into another lane because no one will stop to wait for you.
 
  • #31
mattmns
1,118
6
Well the street I will be riding on has a decent amount of traffic, and cars often park on the side. The sidewalks are quite wide though, so I will use them and risk pissing off a pedestrian, or maybe 2! instead of risking my ass with these moron drivers.
 
  • #32
Moonbear
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
11,828
53
brewnog said:
There is absolutely no problem with a bike being ridden on any road (short of a motorway) providing both the cyclist and any motorists are following the highway code. End of story.
Oops, apparently not enough smilies to indicate sarcasm. :redface: Though, common sense would still be helpful on both sides, both the bicyclists who ride oblivious to traffic and down the center of the lane who ought to move to the side, and the motorists who can see them ahead and don't even try to give them room when passing. I'd still be too terrified to ride a bicycle around here; cars barely notice other cars let alone anything smaller and not motorized. (There seem to be an abundance of drivers around here who drive down the road with their tires ON the yellow line...when someone comes down the opposite side doing the same, the outcome is pretty predictable...no, these people shouldn't be allowed to drive, but since they are on the road anyway, it makes it pretty unsafe to be a bicyclist with people on the road who are that bad of drivers...do you really want to risk your own neck to prove a point that you should be allowed to share the road?)
 
  • #33
pallidin
2,209
2
Well, I have something to say about this topic.
I ride a bicycle fairly often here in the northwest U.S. I prefer to ride on the road(closest to the side, not in the actual vehicle lane) whenever possible because it IS a much smoother ride than if I were riding on the sidewalk.
However, there is a particular road here that has moderate traffic, and a good percentage of that vehicular traffic is of people rushing to work and also of the elderly commuting(the location has many elderly residents)
Now, on this road I use the sidewalk as much as possible because I consider it to be somewhat dangerous to be on the road. I'm not kidding. I've seem MANY an elderly driver driving down that street almost hugging the SIDE of the road(where I would be on a bike) Also, younger drivers rushing to/from work do NOT take the several curves in the road in a decent manner(again, I would likely be hit)
The pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk is very light, and I am always courteous to them(slowing down and even stopping if need be)
I see one or 2 police cars go by each time, and I have never been stopped(of course, they likely have better things to do).

In any event, be it a law or not, I am reminded of when I went camping with a friend in a National forest known to have wild animals, particularly bears, and he took a .357 magnum hangun with us during our trip. He told me that is was illegal for him to have the gun in this National forest, but he said this: "I would rather pay a fine and have my gun taken away than get mauled by a bear"
I've never forgot that.
 
  • #34
DocToxyn
Science Advisor
425
0
While we as cyclists are supposed to be treated as vehicles, that doesn't mean I push the limits of the law and common sense and ride wherever I please. I do take a somewhat longer route to work on my bike than if I took a car, mostly because the latter would require me to hit some pretty hairy four-lane intersections. I can get there pretty quickly and since I don't have to park a mile away, it probably evens out. It definitely evens out when I don't have to pay a parking fee or gas, plus I get to enjoy deer, birds and other critters on the off-road part of my commute. Most riders I know ride the road, but will plan their route to avoid known danger spots, heavy traffic or tricky situations.
 
  • #35
Monique
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
4,217
66
You know what is hard, riding a bicycle in a city with tram-lines.. a bicycle wheel fits exactly into the tracks and you can come down pretty hard.

I once fell when sitting on the back of the bicycle, fortunately for me we fell the direction where I had my feet so was able to break my fall. My friend had a busted up knee and hand. Then there were many close encounters, but I always kept my balance.

The most annoying thing is making a left turn over a busy intersection with like 12 tram tracks and no left turn lane :grumpy:
 

Suggested for: Riding a bike on the sidewalk

Replies
11
Views
768
  • Last Post
Replies
6
Views
514
Replies
3
Views
275
Replies
20
Views
802
Replies
4
Views
436
Replies
59
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
26
Views
732
Top