My commute is about 5 miles. It consists of 5 stoplight and one roundabout intersections, along a mile long stretch of 2 lane, 45 mph road, and the rest consisting of 4 lane 45 mph road.
I hate this commute. In the two years of commuting on this stretch, I was hit once due, in part, to a quick lapse in attention from me and a poorly designed (for bicycles, at least) intersection. I had close calls daily and at least once a week someone would try and "educate" me about where I should be riding.
Last summer, a full length side path (no more than a glorified sidwalk) was installed. While it doesn't run down both sides of the road and I hate doing the wrong way sidewalk thing, I've taken to using it exclusively. What follows is my reasoning.
Sharing a lane with a driver doing 45 mph ( yeah right, not on a 45 mph road.) necessitates the assumption that the driver is paying attention. Very little options exist when confronted from behind by an inattentive driver. And, as we're all so aware of, inattentive drivers are not in the minority. The options include swerving into a ditch in some places, or swerving into a high, straight curb in most places. My safety, in essence, is in another person's hands.
While sidewalk riding and especially wrong way sidewalk riding is statistically more dangerous than sharing the lane, I do it because the dangers posed relate to my direct actions. That is, how I operate my bicycle will directly result in me avoiding or not avoiding an accident. If I'm aware of where the danger lies, I can adjust my riding accordingly and come out fine. My safety is directly in my hands.
While it's still possible to encounter an inattentive motorist while on the side path, it's much less likely that someone will not notice the curb, the ten feet of grass, and the fact that the road is no longer under them then they will not notice that they've drifted into another lane or look down without seeing me.
The side paths may be more inconvenient for me but it's a small price to pay to have my safety in my own hands.