Sidewalk Bicycling Safety Issues
Lisa Aultman-Hall and M. F. Adams, Jr.
TRANSPORTATION RESEARCH RECORD 1636, Paper No. 98-0645
The use of sidewalks by bicyclists is a contentious issue. On the one hand, researchers have repeatedly found that incident rates are higher on sidewalks (1–3). However, on the other hand, the subjective perception of many bicyclists and nonbicyclists is that cycling away from traffic is safer (4,5). For this and other reasons, many cyclists choose to bicycle on the sidewalk.
Bicycle route and safety data sets for 2,963 commuter cyclists in Ottawa and Toronto, Canada, containing cyclist characteristics, collision and fall history, and regular commute route, are used for this analysis. Previous analyses found sidewalk collisions and fall and injury rates significantly higher on sidewalks than on roads or paths.
Of the 52 events reported on sidewalks, none were reported to police and would, therefore, not be found in a police accident database. These events did result in injuries, and in two cases major injuries.
Sidewalk cyclists reported proportionally more near misses with bicycles in the previous month. A relatively large number of sidewalk collisions are with other bicycles. The most significant result of the analysis is that sidewalk cyclists have higher event rates on roads than nonsidewalk cyclists.