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  1. #1
    Mr. cost-benefit analysis
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    I've hit bottom and I'm swearin' off the sidewalk.

    In a policy shift tantamount to the Bush administration pulling out of Iraq and embracing same sex marriage, I have decided that the sidewalk is not the place for this adult cyclist.

    For years I have been an ardent defender of every cyclists right to utilize the sidewalk (where legal) as part of their overall commuting strategy, wherever he or she feels it might be appropriate. I simply believed that there was a right way and a wrong way to ride there. The difference between some teenage-hooligan-urban-jumpster slaloming between terrorized elderly pedestrians, and a seasoned cycle commuter cautiously using an empty stretch of sidewalk, should be obvious. Either you're casually cruising or you're riding recklessly - simple as that. Employ a little common sense and the sidewalk should be looked upon as an asset.

    So what brought about this 180? Well if you've looked at the accompanying image you might have guessed why Iíve changed my tune. And though itís pretty humbling to go public with my crash and resulting epiphany, I believe that if doing so saves just one cyclist from repeating my fate, or worse, itís worth it. And please, feel free to throw me a big olí rhetorical ďWE TOLD YOU SO!Ē.

    I set myself up because I believed that I could observe a given stretch of sidewalk, render a quick risk benefit analysis, and decide if it was safe to use. And so I got into the habit of riding one particular 3 block stretch of sidewalk, against the flow of traffic, near the end of my homeward bound commute. I thought that since it saved me from making 2 left hand turns across major 4 lane roadways within blocks of each other, it was worth the risk. Well I found out the hard way that the line between cautious cruising and reckless riding can become pretty narrow in a hurry, and often moves altogether at the most inopportune instant.

    The fact is I donít remember the collision... or the ambulance... or the trauma room. One moment I was turning for home, the next I was coming to in an elevator as they were transferring me upstairs for a night of observation. Two to three hours were gone, and havenít come back. They say I started talking in the ambulance, but I have no recollection until much later on.

    However I can tell you that Iím a creature of habit, and so i rode this particular stretch much the same way on any given evening. I had to cross two streets against traffic using the crosswalk. I was aware that any driver entering the main road from either of these streets would be looking primarily in the other direction. And so I was in the habit of looking for traffic approaching those two stop signs, and slowing in order to allow them to clear the intersection. I donít think I ever road these couple blocks at more than 5 or 10 mph.

    Of course something went terribly wrong. Assuming I was moving at my usual modest speed, I can only suspect that the woman whom I collided with rolled the stop while looking in the other direction. The investigating officer did question why she was not able to look both ways, and thus see me coming, before proceeding. There were no other witnesses. However, somehow she brought some additional speed into the mix. My injuries simply are not consistent with riding into a stopped vehicle at 10 mph. I know because unfortunately I did that and worse on several occasions during my reckless, misspent youth. Of course all my supposition is a moot point. Since I was on a bicycle, and by definition operating a vehicle against the flow of traffic, Iíll be awarded at least 90% of the fault. And Iíll not argue with that. But what if Iíd been a jogger, or in a motorized wheelchair?

    Ultimately, I have to count my blessings. Sure, I got a good shiner, a few stitches, a cracked molar, and lots of bruises. Iíll be pretty sore for a couple weeks. But it could have been much, much worse. Had I impacted at a different angle I might have woken up paralyzed, or with a major head injury, or maybe not at all. One thingís for sure though; if I ever tangle with a car again, I will be in in the lane and headed in the right direction.
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  2. #2
    RacingBear UmneyDurak's Avatar
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    You were on a side walk riding againt traffic??? Sorry I can't visualise what happened.
    Anyway I'm glad you saw a light.
    I see hills.... Bring them on!!!
    Stay calm and bring a towel.

  3. #3
    Mr. cost-benefit analysis
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    Quote Originally Posted by UmneyDurak
    You were on a side walk riding againt traffic??? Sorry I can't visualise what happened.
    Anyway I'm glad you saw a light.
    What I mean is that I was riding in the wrong direction, but up on the sidewalk as opposed to in the street. Then I met up with a car as I came out into the crosswalk.

    DanO

  4. #4
    Commuter First newbojeff's Avatar
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    Sorry this happened and glad things weren't worse.

    As a rule I avoid the sidewalk and 3 blocks is a long way to ride on the sidewalk. However, I still think there are some circumstances where we are better off or safer taking a quick turn on a sidewalk.

    Your experience confirms the advice of many others on these forums and my own experience that if you are crossing a street going the wrong way off of a sidewalk assume you will not be seen, even if someone is looking right at you.

    Again, glad things weren't worse. Heal fast. Look forward to having you back on the bike.

  5. #5
    BF's Level 12 Wizard SingingSabre's Avatar
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    I'm glad you're okay.

    I wouldn't dump the sidewalk 100%, but rather cut back on it and/or switch up your route. Heck, changing your route can be a fun, invigorating exercise and show you things a street or two down you haven't seen before!

  6. #6
    Jet Jockey Banzai's Avatar
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    I'm sorry for your accident.

    That is precisely why so many say that you should never ride on the sidewalk, nor should you be a wrong way cyclist. Remember that 95% of drivers out there rate themselves as "above average", and for most of those "above average" sorry slobs any kind of wrong way or out of the ordinary traffic will NEVER enter their crosscheck, especially when routine traffic hardly enters their crosscheck.

    Get well soon, and good luck to you!
    Good night...and good luck

  7. #7
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    wow. I'm glad you're ok.

  8. #8
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    Wow, sorry about the mess. Get well! I'm glad you aren't worse!

    Like the others said, I might not discard the sidewalk 100%, but one has to be super-extracautious around intersections (including driveways). Cross them at a pedestrian speed only, and only when the way is clear. You might even want to dismount sometimes. If that takes longer than making two left turns - well, maybe you should make the left turns. Or maybe you should accept this small delay...

  9. #9
    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    Evil Kneival was asked after one of his incredible feats (and crashes), "What are you going to do next?". His answer was, "Heal." I have sympathy for all the hurts but especially the cracked molar.
    This space open

  10. #10
    tsl
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    Plays in traffic tsl's Avatar
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    There's a section of road I have to traverse a couple of times a week. Part of it is a chokepoint bridge over to an expressway, including its on/off ramps. The only other choices are similar chokepoints a mile on either side. It then dumps into a commercial section with tons of driveways and three major cross-streets, all within not much more than a quarter-mile.

    When I lived in that neighborhood as a pedestrian, at least once a month I was nearly hit, even though I rigorously followed all the rules and walked defensively. One day in particular I came into contact with two bumpers while walking to work. In the vast majority of cases, it was drivers turning right into traffic or turning right-on-red and looking only to the left. I was on their right. The others were just the opposite--I was on the left and the drivers were turning left out of traffic or to a cross street.

    The lesson being that it's turning vehicles that don't see (or look for) you.

    When I started cycling, I feared this section mightily and took the sidewalk through there, rejoining traffic on the other side. You know what? I had the very same problems as when I was a pedestrian in that neighborhood. Not only do I feel safer within the flow of traffic there now, but I've had zero problems since, even though I'm now exposed to a narrowing from four lanes to two through a railroad underpass, then have to stay left to avoid a right-turn-only lane immediately after.

    Go with the flow...
    Last edited by tsl; 06-05-06 at 12:35 PM.

  11. #11
    Master Shake zapb42's Avatar
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    Maybe I'll quit using crosswalks. I know, bad idea in the first place, but in town here there are convenient bike paths that at times seem a far better choice than tangling with four lanes of busy traffic. The signage indicates cyclists should use the crosswalks and hit the button and all that, and usually I wait until I get the "walk" signal. Even then there's the geniuses turning right on red without stopping, both ahead and to your right and behind and to your left. I always am sure I make eye contact with them before pulling out in their path, but sometimes they just arent paying attention.

    Anyway I've just been thinking a lot about what my alternatives are and the poster brought up a good case against doing this anymore.

  12. #12
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    IMO the best way to avoid accidents with cars is to drive predictably on the road. Cars are looking for other cars and they are expecting behaviours similar to other cars. Riding on sidewalks, riding across ped crossings, riding the wrong way, taking erratic short cuts, running stop signs etc...all put you at higher risk.

    Where I live (Calgary Alberta) I feel safer on the road than I do on the sidewalk or MUP.
    safe riding - Vik
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  13. #13
    commuting Canuck habernac's Avatar
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    I'm also a Calgarian. The sidewalk thing is very dangerous. Especially when you throw a crosswalk in there. Walk your bike across all intersections where there's a crosswalk. All the MUPs have signage indicating this here in town. I can ride 95% on bike paths to work (which is amazing seeing as my commute is a 40 km round trip).

  14. #14
    That darn Yankee TexasGuy's Avatar
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    Amazing how many dumb adults out there who can't fathom why you would never ride against traffic and never ride against pedestrians.
    Life is about hanging onto what you think is important and finding out what really is important.
    "Stop Ruining my joke!", "No, a joke implies humor attached at no additional cost"
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  15. #15
    Senior Member Neist's Avatar
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    I may do the same thing. First week of my bike. Sidewalk + Me = Crash.

    At least the bike didnt get hurt. Not enough to complain about it.

  16. #16
    No-Pants Island bbonnn's Avatar
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    Hah, and just this week I caved in to my riding partner's request and took the sidewalk for a few hundred yards on a high-traffic road. Normally I'm vigorously anti-sidewalk but my partner is not an advanced traffic navigator. Luxuriously, there were no driveways or entrances/exits on this stretch, just a highway overpass followed by a stoplight, at which time we got back on the road. It was deliciously wicked.

    Sorry to hear about your injuries. Seriously, when you've gathered all the details, consider contacting your local cycling advocacy group or other groups to offer your story as a cautionary tale that can happen even to seasoned sidewalk gauchos.

  17. #17
    J E R S E Y S B E S T Jerseysbest's Avatar
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    How fast were you going? If using a sidewalk kept me from crossing a busy highway twice for a three block stretch, I'd probably use it. Just keep the speed down
    Quote Originally Posted by SingingSabre View Post
    Cheating: a symptom of the problem.

  18. #18
    SoCal Commuter DanO220's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerseysbest
    How fast were you going? If using a sidewalk kept me from crossing a busy highway twice for a three block stretch, I'd probably use it. Just keep the speed down
    Perhaps the most frustrating part of this whole episode is that I have absolutely no memory of the colision whatsoever. But I can tell you what I normally did on this section of my daily commute. I knew the risk that riding in a crosswalk against the flow of traffic posed, so I was in the habbit of looking for cars coming to a stop at the limit line, which I might need to slow or stop for. If the intersection was clear I'd ride through at probably 10 mph.

    It's my guess that the driver was coming pretty fast and either rolled well past the limit line, or ran the stop altogether, while looking the other way for bigger things. Ultimately, I just don't remember a car aproaching at all. One thing riding a bike for 30 years and beefing it countless times has taught me; my injuries weren't sustain simply by running into a stopped car at 10 mph. Someone brought some more speed to the party.

    I don't have a police report yet, but my brother is an officer for another department and he gave the investigating officer a call out of curiosity. The report will show me driving my bike in the street against the flow of traffic, which is bad. Of course I was unconscious and unable to say I'd been on the sidewalk initially. But I don't know if it would really make any difference. The investigating officer did go on to say that he was unable to get a satisfactory response when he asked the driver why she had been unable to confirm that it was clear in BOTH directions before proceeding. After all, like I said, I could have been a pedestrian, jogger, or in an electric wheelchair. I imagine she told him she did look... and that I just came out of nowhere... yada, yada, yada. There were no other witnesses. He indicated that the driver was pretty upset. I said "Sure, I was laid out there not moving. Of course she was upset." My wife was a bit more cynical. She said "Women get upset when they know they screwed up."

    Ultimately I may never know. It sounds as if the driver may get just a bit of the blame. But it doesn't matter to me. I'll heal and the bike sustained little damage. I'll call it a draw.

    DanO
    That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

  19. #19
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    Glad you are doing okay. There are places in west Houston where a cyclist MUST ride on the sidewalk. Six or eight narrow lanes of traffic moving at 40 mph to 50 mph simply makes riding in the road a death wish.

    But, I've learned to walk my bike across streets when using the sidewalk. For some reason, drivers either see me better when I'm walking, or are more courteous when I'm walking. Yes, walking is slow, but sometimes slow is safer. Now, if I were at an intersection and no cars were within a hundred yards inany direction, riding through a crosswalk would be okay...but in Houston, that would be a very rare event.

  20. #20
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    I pretty much avoid sidewalks, but also occasionally let myself slip when the alternative is inconvenient. I think it might be useful to divide sidewalk dangers into dangers at intersections and dangers between intersections. The between intersections dangers may not be all that significant, if say you have a clear stretch with limited entry and exit points. But even in those cases, the intersection dangers are about the same, as you painfully know. So maybe a fair compromise would be to continue to use that stretch of sidewalk, if it's fairly safe between intersections, but get off your bike and walk it across the crosswalks as a pedestrian. Now you can consider if that is still more convenient that the 2 left turns across 4 major roadways.

    Glad you're okay!

  21. #21
    domestique squeakywheel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DanO220
    ...
    It's my guess that the driver was coming pretty fast and either rolled well past the limit line, or ran the stop altogether, while looking the other way for bigger things.
    ...
    Yea, probably she blew the stop sign. You looked, went, then she came "out of nowhere". That happened to me in a car once. Came to a stop. The road kind of bent there, but the speed limit is like 25 mph since its a residential neighborhood. Started to go. Emergency stop half way into the intersection as a car going 90 "comes out of nowhere". He swerved to miss me. I caught my breath and went on. A few moments later the same car passes me, runs me off the road, and the guy wants to go fist to cuffs. Definitely on some high powered stimulants.

    I suspect she blew the stop sign at a significant rate of speed.

    Its funny, I used to ride on the wrong side of the street or on the sidewalk, or both. I've learned my lessons without collision. There were a couple awkward moments and emergency stops. New riders are definitely drawn to the sidewalk. I see it all the time. I've seen my own family do it instictively.

    I rode the wrong way on the sidewalk two days ago while downtown. I came off the MUP and ended up on a sidewalk wanting to go left. It was kind of creapy after all I've learned from this forum. Man did I go slow. I could have walked faster. I crossed walking through a crosswalk at the next intersection and got on the right side. It was really unsettling.

    I'm glad you are OK. Don't be so sure she would have missed you if you were on the other side of the road. I'm not an angry cyclist. For the record, I've blown stop signs before as a motor vehicle operator (by accident). I remember arriving at school one morning with my car pool buddies (who were sleeping). One says, I don't remember the stop sign at the county road. Hmmm, me neither.

    Edit: I still say sidewalks are OK. Even going the wrong way. You just have to behave as a pedestrian. Tic tic tic you can hear me coast like I'm trying to track stand when I'm on the sidewalk. I always walk through the cross walks, though. There is no wrong way when you are walking.
    Last edited by squeakywheel; 06-05-06 at 10:36 PM.

  22. #22
    Urban "Dirtbag" chennai's Avatar
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    Sorry you were hurt.

    I'm also sorry to report that I have seen many stopped cars nearly hit cyclists moving the "wrong way" through a crosswalk. A driver can even look both ways but, since drivers are typically only checking the sidewalk for pedestrians, they really don't see cyclists who are moving much more rapidly. They check right quickly looking for walkers near the intersection, focus left, and go when it's clear.

    It is not a problem that is solved by walking one's bike through the crosswalk. If you ride up to the intersection, it poses the same problem for the driver (and for the cyclist.)

    This sort of thing is one of the reasons that the practice of designating some sidewalks as bike routes (as is done in Denver) is so dangerous.

  23. #23
    domestique squeakywheel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chennai
    It is not a problem that is solved by walking one's bike through the crosswalk.
    Are you saying pedestrians should be on the right side of the street too? Cross 3 streets when they could just cross one on the left side of the street?

    I don't see the difference between walking your bike and just walking. I think maybe your point is that a cyclist could approach the intersection on the sidewalk at high speed, jump off the bike with feet landing in the gutter, and walk through the cross walk. I guess it could be done that way, but it doesn't seem natural.

  24. #24
    45 miles/week Eggplant Jeff's Avatar
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    chennai's point is that drivers only check for obstacles (pedestrians, etc) with a quick glance at the first 10-20 feet of sidewalk, then focus left until they can go. A pedestrian probably won't close that 10-20 feet in the few seconds the driver pauses before proceeding, but a bike can easily. So even if you ride up, dismount, and start to walk your bike across, the driver may still never notice you because you were farther away when they first glanced to the right.
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  25. #25
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    95% of all my issues involve sidewalk (or offset MUP\sidewalk) riding.
    Most drivers do not see a cyclist when you cross shopping center entrances and crosswalks.
    One particular area that I fell like I am forced to not ride in the street has additional issues. Mainly that if I do not pay attention I can end up riding at almost 30 mph on a sidewalk. Anyhow, my street riding skills and comfort level have increased to the point that I am replacing the few sidewalks with street riding.
    Plus, the streets tend to be smoother than the sidewalks. You can go faster and drivers tend to avoid hitting me (knock on wood). My arse appreciates the streets.

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