Used to be staunchly anti-sidewalk for bicyclists until I got my bike. The path home for me (the one with the most bike lanes) is a little iffy for approximately the last 3-4 blocks. My street is striped for sharrows, but the bike lanes are about 3-4 blocks away. Block #1 is a low traffic street most hours of the day (it is busy during the AM commute with people heading to the freeway, but empty for most of the day otherwise. This block isn't a big deal. The next block is where it gets tricky. Leading up to that street is a very weird 5-way intersection on a major thoroughfare (6 lanes, with cars frequently going 40+). Right after I got my bike, I attempted to bike the one block to the bike lane, which requires a right turn. The intersection is also a bus stop. Well it was really scary, and I made a pact not to do that again (unless it is a quiet Sunday). When I am headed home, the other side of the street is worst, on the up note there is a left turn arrow (which hypothetically I wold use). The problem is the turn arrow is pretty short, only allowing 3-4 cars and the light cycle is really long. So the cars are not going to be patient enough to wait for people on bikes.
When "leaving home" I take the parallel street for a block, and that leaves me with 100-200 feet of sidewalk until the bus stop. When "returning home" I don't always have the energy to use the same route (it is a steep hill in the other direction, it is more like a dip, and when you finish the street you have a semi-blind corner. Cars are infrequent, but they tend to speed to catch the light.). So I decided to take the sidewalk for that block. The corner with the bus stop can be a little busy, there is a bar on the corner with lots of loitering from 5pm on. But otherwise the sidewalk isn't heavily used at all, particularly at night when I tend to go home. I compromise by pedaling pretty slowly, just a bit faster than walking pace, so I don't blow by any pedestrians and catch them off guard. This feels a lot safer than navigating the busy bike-lane free street.
I actually sidewalk bicycle SOMETIMES. I would be a liar if I said some roads still give me gears. I haven't mastered riding next to a car thats about a foot away yet.
You can claim riding on the road is safer UNTIL you are almost hit a by a car.
I ride on the sidewalk when there's a ton of cars on the road. Seriously, where I live, go out on the road on a bike during rush hour and you're suicidal. Semi trucks and cars fly by. I've tried it once. Won't do it again. Cars will honk their horns at you, and sometimes yell at you. A semi passed me once with about a foot or less room. I was like oh crap this is a bad idea and got right back on the sidewalk.
Usually there aren't too many people walking on the sidewalk so you don't have to worry about that where i live.
Now when traffic is less "why I ride at night most of the time" I use the main road simply because it's smoother, and cars can actually move over when they see you.
I cycle about 2,000 miles a year on the streets. The only collision I've ever had was when I was hit by a car while riding on the sidewalk. Old lady in a sports car not paying attention. There's just too many people pulling out of parking lots that become a hazard. Too many blind spots for those drivers. Too many obstacles like crowded bus stops, electrical boxes, poles, abandoned shopping carts, etc. In the scenario where I got hit in the sidewalk, there was a bike lane I should have used instead.
There are a couple scenario's where i'll go on the sidewalk:
1) It's late at night, and the sidewalk has very few pedestrians, and cars passing through it. Late at night, there's more chance of DUI drivers, or cars full of teenagers that like to mess with cyclists. I've been hit with eggs, bottles of beer, and have been threatened, just while minding my own business, all these incidents happened at night. After dark I like to distance myself from cars as much as possible. 4 cyclists have been killed in my city this year, two days ago it was a DUI driver on the same block I ride in.
2) If I'm on a street that has very heavy traffic, and the street has no bike lane, no shoulder, and the car lane is less than 8' wide. I would rather go on the sidewalk than overtake a lane. In the area where I live, drivers almost never see cyclists take lanes, and the few times I have done that, they became confused and enraged and blared their horn at me even though they had another open lane to use. They simply don't understand the concept of taking a lane, or the reason why it's done. It's not worth it if there's a sidewalk I can use.
I don't agree than using a sidewalk is always the less safe option 100% of the time. I think you have to judge the situation for yourself after considering the factors.
Things like how wide the sidewalk is, and how much car and foot traffic are along those sidewalks are things that need to be taken into consideration.
Both times I was hit on my bike I was either on sidewalk or transitioning from one to the other.....I steer clear of sidewalks when and where I can. 'nuff said.
Depends on the situation, but usually I'll ride on the street only if there's a protected bike lane, or to pass a group of pedestrians on a narrow sidewalk, or when I'm in low traffic residential areas. If I'm in an area that is popular with cyclists with a high number of cyclists riding on the street, and the car speed limit is low, then I will probably ride on the street. There is safety in numbers.
But I almost never ride on busy arterials. The roar of all that traffic speeding by you and the stress it creates is too much.
Last edited by northernlights; 09-27-14 at 06:58 PM.
I almost never ride on the sidewalks in my area. It's actually illegal for adults to ride on the sidewalks where I live. The only time I ride on them is when the road has been milled. The speed limits are low downtown so I feel safer there than I do on the back roads.
I ride on the sidewalks about 50/50. I think it's wholly dependent on your local traffic conditions and no one should judge others for choosing what suits them best. Unless you choose to ride on a busy sidewalk at 30mph, or along the side of the road holding up fellow cyclists at 10mph.
I cycle on sidewalks about 10% of the time.
We have a 4 lane main street with far too narrow lanes, and it wouldn't be bad if folks followed the speed limit, but they add 20%.
So... I parallel Main as close as I can, hook up to it, then ride the pedestrian highway - always giving way to the bipeds.
Almost had an incident from one bikers use of the sidewalk today. I was stopped in the traffic lane at the front of the line at a red light. I wanted to turn right. After the light turned green I began pedaling and proceeded to turn right. Just as I approahed the crosswalk while turning, a cyclist riding on the sidewalk whom I did not see pedaled across the crosswalk based on the crosswalk signal which signaled 'WALK.' We avoided a collision, but it left me wondering if I did something wrong.
It doesn't get any easier, you just get faster. - Greg LeMond
However, a runner can easily be doing 8-10mph so be aware of relatively fast sidewalk users, not just walkers.
Last edited by gpburdell; 04-15-15 at 08:07 AM.