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  1. #1
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    Confused.. Read an article saying Sidewalk is more dangerous than driving on the road

    So I read an article that was telling me that I am safer being on the road in traffic rather than driving on the sidewalk. This is slightly confusing to me. I would think a sidewalk (encountering 1-4 people on the ride tops) would be safer than on the road.

    I am about to begin bike commuting and just want to clear it up where I should be.

    Driving in the middle of traffic. It would be slow moving all three miles until I hit the bike trail that takes me to my job.

    Driving on the sidewalk, Driving against traffic 90% of the way (other side doesn't have a sidewalk the whole way). Driving this road not much traffic is coming against anyway (everyone heading to the city to go to work. Every morning I see maybe 4-5 people if any on the sidewalk. There is about 2 crosswalks that would be tricky but I know to "walk" these not ride them. A large amont of the sidewalk has a decent grass patch separating it form the road.

    So anyone care to she some insight?
    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Member RichMac's Avatar
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    Riding on the sidewalk, the danger comes when you cross an intersection, or cross any driveway. Vehicles are not expecting a bicycle. You're not safe coming through intersections unless you come to a complete stop, and even then you're less safe than a pedestrian.

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    Ok, there arent any driveways either but I see your point. But I dont see how that makes me safer then driving my bike In traffic.

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    I've never seen three miles of sidewalk with no homes or businesses for it to connect to- I guess they just do things differently in Florida.

    What RichMac said is THE reason, however. If you're lucky enough to live in an area with no blind driveways, no tall fences for clusters of poles around intersection corners, few pedestrians, and just lots of visibility all around, you might just be an exception to the rule.

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    Senior Member 009jim's Avatar
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    Sidewalk is safer if you're riding slow enough to stop if someone in a car crosses in/out of private property. Slow is the key. Naturally if the road is quite wide and cycling can be done away from danger then the road will be better.

    In my case I use both and change my speed accordingly.

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    Well, sidewalks can be quite dangerous. The reason is simple. To a motorist, a pedestrian at 3 mph is almost motionless. Most cyclists will be riding at far higher speeds. This takes the bike out of the "scan" range of the motorist who is pulling into a driveway, turning into a side street and so on.

    Now there are exceptions. There is a wide, smooth sidewalk near me on a road that is 2 lanes and divided which often has high speed traffic (far in excess of its speed limit). That sidewalk goes for stretches approaching half a mile without any interruptions. On top of this, pedestrians virtually never use the sidewalk. So it is essentially a narrow ad hoc bikeway. A cyclist can easily and safely maintain speeds up to 20 mph on it.

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    Senior Member irwin7638's Avatar
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    In my experience, sidewalk has to be judged by the number of driveways. Motorists practically ignore sidewalks and, as has been mentioned, the last thing they expect is a bike flying at them at 10-15 miles per hour. It's more dangerous because more accidents happen at intersections than from behind on the road. More driveways=more intersections=more accidents.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by GoUSF View Post
    So I read an article that was telling me that I am safer being on the road in traffic rather than driving on the sidewalk. This is slightly confusing to me. I would think a sidewalk (encountering 1-4 people on the ride tops) would be safer than on the road.

    I am about to begin bike commuting and just want to clear it up where I should be.

    Driving in the middle of traffic. It would be slow moving all three miles until I hit the bike trail that takes me to my job.

    Driving on the sidewalk, Driving against traffic 90% of the way (other side doesn't have a sidewalk the whole way). Driving this road not much traffic is coming against anyway (everyone heading to the city to go to work. Every morning I see maybe 4-5 people if any on the sidewalk. There is about 2 crosswalks that would be tricky but I know to "walk" these not ride them. A large amont of the sidewalk has a decent grass patch separating it form the road.

    So anyone care to she some insight?
    Thanks!
    It might also get you clobbered by irate pedestrians when you don't give way.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by GoUSF View Post
    So I read an article that was telling me that I am safer being on the road in traffic rather than driving on the sidewalk. This is slightly confusing to me. I would think a sidewalk (encountering 1-4 people on the ride tops) would be safer than on the road.

    I am about to begin bike commuting and just want to clear it up where I should be.

    Driving in the middle of traffic. It would be slow moving all three miles until I hit the bike trail that takes me to my job.

    Driving on the sidewalk, Driving against traffic 90% of the way (other side doesn't have a sidewalk the whole way). Driving this road not much traffic is coming against anyway (everyone heading to the city to go to work. Every morning I see maybe 4-5 people if any on the sidewalk. There is about 2 crosswalks that would be tricky but I know to "walk" these not ride them. A large amont of the sidewalk has a decent grass patch separating it form the road.

    So anyone care to she some insight?
    Thanks!
    It depends on the definition. If you are talking about the narrow (usually less than 10') strip of concrete in front of houses and business (i.e. a real sidewalk) then, yes, riding in traffic is much safer. Most places have rules against riding on those kinds of sidewalks.

    If, on the other hand, you are talking about a strip of concrete that is wider than 10', doesn't conflict with houses and business, and is separated from a motorway, the answer becomes "It depends". If you have many "at grade crossing" or possibility that turning motorists don't see you, then you aren't really all that safe and should probably just ride in the road. If the...shall we call it a 'bike path'...is fully separated from the motorway and has its own crossing without conflicts or even fewer conflicts, I'd consider it to be much safer than riding a roadway.

    Of course, riding the roadway isn't always unsafe. Again, 'it depends'.
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    Your answer is in the word "sidewalk". It is meant for walking. If you walk beside your bike for this portion, then it's perfectly ok. You would be considered a pedestrian. If you plan on riding your bike, you would probably be breaking some laws. Bicycles are considered vehicles, therefore they belong on the road. You wouldn't drive your car on the sidewalk, would you?
    Regarding safety, how safe are you driving your car in traffic? Motor vehicle collisions kill countless people each year. It's not really a safe activity.

  11. #11
    Senior Member mikeybikes's Avatar
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    It really depends. In my experience, sidewalks are slower going and more dangerous than the road. Your results may vary.
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    It can go either way. It's important to learn the potential problems of each and be aware of your surroundings. Some of the sidewalk dangers are not obvious. For instance, riding the wrong direction on a sidewalk. A driver may not look in your direction when crossing the sidewalk and getting ready to pull into traffic. Of course if you look for this as you ride and react appropriately it's not dangerous, but if you miss just one you may get hit.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    Car-bike crash data from police reports show sidewalk cycling to be associated with the most common types of car-bike collisions in many urban and suburban areas. The most common cause of car-bike crashes in my city and some of the adjacent ones involves cyclists traveling contra-flow on the sidewalk, then being hit by right-turning drivers who aren't looking for contra-flow traffic.

    It's hard to get accurate numbers to compare the number of miles of sidewalk cycling versus roadway cycling. In surveys of "avid" cyclists, the number of sidewalk miles is always tiny compared to the number of roadway miles. One commonly cited survey that measures crash frequency at different locations is here: http://www.bicyclinglife.com/library/moritz2.htm

    The vast majority of car-bike collisions occur at intersections, or involve cyclists crossing roadways, and sidewalk cycling complicates these maneuvers. Overtaking collisions are pretty rare, especially in urban areas where drivers are traveling more slowly and must pay more attention to avoid crashing into anything and everything from pedestrians to congested car traffic. As the frequency of intersections increases in denser areas, the safety benefits of riding on the roadway compared to the sidewalk become especially important.

    Just make sure you use lights at night and follow the traffic rules.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by GoUSF View Post
    Ok, there arent any driveways either but I see your point. But I dont see how that makes me safer then driving my bike In traffic.
    Everyone gave you reasons why the sidewalk isn't safer... it all comes down to their perceptions of what a sidewalk is... in their minds sidewalks tend to be narrow, filled with people and stuff... the stuff ranging from sign and light poles to fire hydrants to benches; the sidewalk has unmarked intersections, such as business driveways and private driveways... all these things mean that you have to go slow, avoid the obstacles and be wary at all crossing points.

    Now if the sidewalk you are considering using is nothing like that described, then likely it may be far safer than riding in the street... especially if the street is a wide multi-laned fast arterial road with narrow lanes and inattentive motorists that are just looking for addresses or on ramps.

    I have seen sidewalks that are in relatively undeveloped areas, with no driveways; since there were no business or homes about, there was no one on these sidewalks. Wide, empty sidewalks that have few if any crossing points for cars can be quite safe and usable... it is all about judgment... what does your sidewalk look like?

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    As mentioned above, sidewalk riding CAN be relatively safe, but it depends on a lot of details involving the design of the sidewalk, the level of vehicle and pedestrian traffic, the number of conflict points with vehicles, and your behavior as a bicyclist. There are a few places where I briefly use sidewalks occasionally (mainly because the alternative there is riding on an 8-lane high-speed arterial, jam-packed with traffic, with no shoulders, and lined with businesses and parking lots). BUT, when I do that, I slow down to not much more than walking speed, and pause and look for cars from all directions VERY carefully at all parking lot entrances that cross the sidewalk. In other words, I assume that motorists will NOT notice me, and will treat me like a pedestrian even if they do, whenever I ride on a sidewalk.

    If you're traveling very fast at all, sidewalks are usually more dangerous than riding in the road because they exacerbate the factors (lack of visibility, threats from turning or pulling out motorists) that are the biggest dangers for cyclists while only decreasing some dangers (such as being hit from behind) that aren't really the likeliest threats to your safety anyway.

  16. #16
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    Choosing between the sidewalk and the road depends heavily on your situation.

    That being said, the road is safer in the majority of cases. Here are two sources that really helped me to learn how to drive my bicycle safely in traffic and reduce anxiety around cars.

    Cyclist's Eye View
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFjCza5e1kw

    How to Not Get Hit by Cars
    http://bicyclesafe.com/
    -C.T. Hill

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pat View Post
    Well, sidewalks can be quite dangerous. The reason is simple. To a motorist, a pedestrian at 3 mph is almost motionless. Most cyclists will be riding at far higher speeds. This takes the bike out of the "scan" range of the motorist who is pulling into a driveway, turning into a side street and so on.

    Now there are exceptions. There is a wide, smooth sidewalk near me on a road that is 2 lanes and divided which often has high speed traffic (far in excess of its speed limit). That sidewalk goes for stretches approaching half a mile without any interruptions. On top of this, pedestrians virtually never use the sidewalk. So it is essentially a narrow ad hoc bikeway. A cyclist can easily and safely maintain speeds up to 20 mph on it.
    Which road is this?

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    As I travel the road (by car) the next few days I will take into account more the "obstacles" that I would encounter on the sidewalk.

    Coming to mind there are a few business's that have an entrance that impedes the sidewalk in a few areas (about 5 over a three mile distance and 2 major intersections. The thing to consider with the business's however is that none of them are open at 7AM (except the one gas station).

    Also speed was a big factor mentioned here, I cant imagine what 15mph feels like on my bike the best I'm getting is 8MPH (as indicated by my GPS)

    I will review the links you all provided later on (I cant do to much research at work or I wont have a job to commute to )

    Perhaps if I get over my fear of driving on the road then this whole question will be null. the thing about driving on the road the cars (as well as me) are in very slow moving traffic at the time id be doing my ride so does that make it safer or not? I would assume yes but then again I am inexperienced. I know myself when its so slow, I'm barely paying attention to the traffic at all just when I can move forward some more.


    Ill keep checking back for more feedback! thanks again!

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by nelson249 View Post
    It might also get you clobbered by irate pedestrians when you don't give way.
    A friend pushed a cyclist riding on the sidewalk over and the cyclist crashed. My friend was running a marathon the following week and thoughts of three months of training was shot when he pictured the cyclist running in to him. He yelled and the cyclist went right, he went, right, the cyclist went left, he went left, and then he pushed the bike over to avoid the collision. I admist he over-reacted and he did too.
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  20. #20
    Domestic Domestique UnsafeAlpine's Avatar
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    Studies done tend to show that most collisions occur while the cyclist is riding on the sidewalk. I have little options on my commute so I take the bike path/glorified sidewalk but I always make sure that a collision WILL NOT happen, meaning, if I can't see far enough, I slow down. If I see a car coming out of the intersection or attempting to make a turn into it, I slow down. I make sure that I have scrubbed enough speed so that I can stop if I need to.

  21. #21
    Senior Member squirtdad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GoUSF View Post
    snip Driving on the sidewalk, Driving against traffic 90% of the way (other side doesn't have a sidewalk the whole way). Thanks!
    I am taking this to mean that you are on the sidewalk, going against the traffic direction, not riding on the road against traffice? Riding against traffic on the road is not good.

    As noted the issue with sidewalk riding at any sort of reasonable commute speeds is that drivers won't see you when you cross roads and your are at greater risk of getting hit.
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by GoUSF View Post
    Coming to mind there are a few business's that have an entrance that impedes the sidewalk in a few areas (about 5 over a three mile distance and 2 major intersections. The thing to consider with the business's however is that none of them are open at 7AM (except the one gas station).
    Don't be mollified by this, ANY intersection is a danger spot. Employees coming to work, deliveries to businesses all will use the driveway when its not business hours. And it only takes one.

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    You are correct, I would be riding "against" traffic on the sidewalk, but if I take the roadway I would be riding on the road With traffic.

    The sidewalk is also up higher than the road, and there there are no "blind" areas i can think of with the exception of those areas with pedestrian crossing signals (that I would be walking).

    ill keep an eye out for other things I hadn't thought of before while driving home tonight.

    I anyone would like to zoom in on Google maps here is the route I am looking at
    Please note I dont know how to make multiple destinations so if you look the trip it looks like this. overall about a 7 mile commute (some reason takes me about an hour to do!)
    A-B My house to the bike trail
    B-C Bike Trail
    C-D end of bike trail to my job

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&sour...&z=14&lci=bike
    Last edited by GoUSF; 11-17-10 at 01:11 PM.

  24. #24
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    I count 11 intersections..... That is a lot of getting off and walking. Why not just take a lower traffic route? Nothing says that you have to take the same road you would take if you were driving a car. The route to the my inlaws house is about 16 miles by car. I ride a 21 mile route on my bike just to take the lower traffic route. I enjoy the extra mileage and less traffic. One of the detours I take is an extra 2 miles just to avoid a crazy stretch of road that is maybe 400 feet.
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  25. #25
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    Have you considered cutting through here to avoid the busy road? http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&sour...&z=14&lci=bike .5 miles and 3 minutes longer according to google.

    Even better, there seems to be an unmapped section of a college/school? through there, as seen here: http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&cp=27....=Tampa%2C%20FL That connecs Bray road (continuation of independence parkway) to the neighborhood I linked to above. Would be worth scouting out to see if its open and viable.
    Last edited by SCROUDS; 11-17-10 at 12:47 PM.

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