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  1. #1
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    Sidewalk vs. lane

    Howdy,

    Long time bike commuter that has to vent about another commuter. I live in Austin, TX and commute 16 miles a day, and one of the roads I ride on is a 4 lane heavily trafficked road called Lamar. It has a bike lane for most of it, and there are a ton of alternate routes that parallel Lamar that can be used when the bike lanes are inconsistant. There is one spot, however, where there are no parallel routes and it is either ride on the sidewalk or ride on the street for about half a mile. I usually choose to ride the sidewalk because it is much safer and much less rude to cars to take up a lane during rush hour.

    Yesterday, there was a guy on a recumbent bike in the right lane at rush hour going about 10 miles an hour causing a huge backup. It irritated the crap out of me and I come seeking advice and commuter bike etiquette.

    The question: When commuting on a busy street and choosing between taking a lane or riding the sidewalk, what is the better thing to do and why?

  2. #2
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    I take the lane. It's the safer, more efficient, and more legal choice.
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    There is a section of my commute that sounds similar to yours. It's four lanes (two going each way) of fast moving traffic with no bike lane. I pop up on the sidewalk for that section because there are never pedestrians walking on it, its safer for me, and I'm sure the cars appreciate it. Also, there is a bi-law in my town that allows for cycling on the sidewalk.

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    I'd take the lane, but I don't know what the laws and standard practices are like where you are. Is cycling on the sidewalk legal / normal there? Is there a shoulder?
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    If I can't go the speed of traffic (marked speed I mean, not necessarily de facto speed), I don't take the lane. 99% of those places around here have a shoulder or bike lane. Sidewalk is also legal*, which I do if I need to wrong-way, I don't wrong-way in a bike lane or on a shoulder.


    *except for one downtown business district but that's back in take-the-lane speed areas, except when my kids are on their bikes.

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    re: lostarchitect

    There is no shoulder, and barely a gutter. I don't know the legality of it, but cops have passed me many a time and never done anything. Reckon they would rather have me on the sidewalk then in a lane at rush hour.
    Last edited by amcelroy; 05-25-12 at 12:04 PM. Reason: Added the person I was replying to

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    If it's a multi-lane road and he's on the right as a slow vehicle then cars should be passing on the other lanes. If it's congested enough that it's difficult to do so passing him probably wouldn't make a huge difference in the first place. I get what you're saying as there's places where I feel is safer on the sidewalk, legal or not, but everyone's judgement is a little different, and w/ the low visibility of a recumbent I could see getting on and off the sidewalk being especially dangerous.

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    Depending on your laws, you may be breaking the law by riding on the sidewalk.



    I am all for more people riding to work, but if that guy really was only going 10mph during rush hour, then he may be a little nuts. That's a good way to get some aggressive cager to run you over.

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    Quote Originally Posted by amcelroy View Post
    There is no shoulder, and barely a gutter. I don't know the legality of it, but cops have passed me many a time and never done anything. Reckon they would rather have me on the sidewalk then in a lane at rush hour.

    Many people in the commuting forums have examples of the police officers they encounter being ignorant of the road laws pertaining to cyclists. It may be worth your time to familiarize yourself with your local laws.

  10. #10
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    What part of Lamar are you on? South Lamar has signs specifically addressing this-- BICYCLES MAY USE FULL LANE. It is there because staying on the road is way safer than trying to weave on and off between the sidewalk and bike lanes.

    To give some context to other posters: It is legal to ride on the sidewalks in most of Austin, except for several streets downtown on the University of Texas campus. FRAP applies everywhere else. Bikes are only explicitly prohibited from several major freeways/controlled entrance roads. The only real MUP that can be used for transportation runs E/W along the river downtown.
    Last edited by A10K; 05-25-12 at 12:28 PM. Reason: Info

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    Senior Member Commodus's Avatar
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    Here, riding on the sidewalk is less safe and illegal.

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    I do either , its situational, rather than Ironclad.

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    Quote Originally Posted by A10K View Post
    What part of Lamar are you on? South Lamar has signs specifically addressing this-- BICYCLES MAY USE FULL LANE. It is there because staying on the road is way safer than trying to weave on and off between the sidewalk and bike lanes.
    It is on South Lamar going south, after the bike lane ends near Manchaca. I ride sidewalk until Panther Trail and cut over to Pack Saddle Pass.

    I know I can use the whole lane on Lamar, it just seems rude to cars and gives bike commuters a bad name. One of the reasons to commute (at least for me) is to reduce my fuel usage and be a responsible citizen, it seems like causing a mini traffic jam and having people rapidly accelerate around a bike is counter to that purpose.

  14. #14
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by amcelroy View Post
    I know I can use the whole lane on Lamar, it just seems rude to cars and gives bike commuters a bad name. One of the reasons to commute (at least for me) is to reduce my fuel usage and be a responsible citizen, it seems like causing a mini traffic jam and having people rapidly accelerate around a bike is counter to that purpose.
    Meh, you have a right to be there. What gives bike commuters a bad name is when they weave around, go the wrong way, or run stop lights.
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    If it's a four-lane road, what's the big deal with taking one lane? I *like* four-lane roads because I can take the right lane without holding people up much.

    I don't like taking a lane on a two-lane two-way street with heavy traffic, but I'll do that if necessary.
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    All for the bicyclists using a lane at bicycle speeds it's safest that way. Also infrastructure won't get changed any other way.

    Illegal here to bike on sidewalk. I get off and walk my bike if I use the sidewalk with my bike even if no one is around. Same goes for red lights. I always wait for green just as if I was a car even if there is no traffic and as a pedestrian I might cross.

    I'm not a pedestrian I'm a vehicle.

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    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    SideWALK = walk
    Ride the road . . . that's where we belong.
    Yes, have ridden in heavy 6 lane traffic regularly.
    Have ridden on Interstate freeway paved shoulders (legal in some places or if no other road is available).

  18. #18
    incazzare. lostarchitect's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by amcelroy View Post
    re: lostarchitect

    There is no shoulder, and barely a gutter. I don't know the legality of it, but cops have passed me many a time and never done anything. Reckon they would rather have me on the sidewalk then in a lane at rush hour.
    Hmm. Personally I think I would take the lane. If I thought that was too dangerous, I'd walk the bike on the sidewalk for that half mile.
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    Sounds like the other commuter is riding legally, although not to the OPs taste. Perhaps you can arrange a trade; he rides the sidewalk, and you ride the bike he chooses for you, even if it's a recumbent.

    Alternatively, chill out, let it go.

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    I have a section that sound similar: 4 lanes, no shoulder, high speed, a lot of semi traffic, up a hill. In this one instance I use the sidewalk. This is a section along a retention pond, so no driveways to confuse entering cars, and I slow down when I get to the one cross street. Though even there, I only rarely see a car turning onto or off of that cross street. Once I get up the hill and across the train tracks, I move back onto the street. I'm on the sidewalk for maybe the equivalent of 4 blocks. For me this potential "illegal" usage of the sidewalk is more than made up for with my sanity.
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  21. #21
    Senior Member Digital_Cowboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by amcelroy View Post
    Howdy,

    Long time bike commuter that has to vent about another commuter. I live in Austin, TX and commute 16 miles a day, and one of the roads I ride on is a 4 lane heavily trafficked road called Lamar. It has a bike lane for most of it, and there are a ton of alternate routes that parallel Lamar that can be used when the bike lanes are inconsistent. There is one spot, however, where there are no parallel routes and it is either ride on the sidewalk or ride on the street for about half a mile. I usually choose to ride the sidewalk because it is much safer and much less rude to cars to take up a lane during rush hour.

    Yesterday, there was a guy on a recumbent bike in the right lane at rush hour going about 10 miles an hour causing a huge backup. It irritated the crap out of me and I come seeking advice and commuter bike etiquette.

    The question: When commuting on a busy street and choosing between taking a lane or riding the sidewalk, what is the better thing to do and why?
    What is the law regarding the riding of bikes on the sidewalk? Is this a regular 'bent or is it a trike? If it's a trike it might be too big to ride safely on the sidewalk.
    Last edited by Digital_Cowboy; 05-25-12 at 02:53 PM.
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  22. #22
    Senior Member Digital_Cowboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HardyWeinberg View Post
    If I can't go the speed of traffic (marked speed I mean, not necessarily de facto speed), I don't take the lane. 99% of those places around here have a shoulder or bike lane. Sidewalk is also legal*, which I do if I need to wrong-way, I don't wrong-way in a bike lane or on a shoulder.


    *except for one downtown business district but that's back in take-the-lane speed areas, except when my kids are on their bikes.
    Uh, just how often are you able to go the posted speed limit?
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    Riding on the sidewalk, ever, anywhere, is very dangerous and stupid.

    Take the lane and let 'em fume behind you. Wave and smile at those that honk.

    You don't drive a car or a bike on the sidewalk, as they are both vehicles.

  24. #24
    Senior Member Digital_Cowboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by amcelroy View Post
    re: lostarchitect

    There is no shoulder, and barely a gutter. I don't know the legality of it, but cops have passed me many a time and never done anything. Reckon they would rather have me on the sidewalk then in a lane at rush hour.
    Just because the cops aren't/might not be doing their job doesn't mean that your action is right or legal. I had a conversation a short while back with a person riding a motorized scooter on The Pinellas Trail here in Pinellas County. Part of his "logic" for riding on the trail is that he has been seen by the police plenty of times entering/exiting the trail and none of them have ever said anything to him. So he figured that it was "alright" for him to be riding his motorized scooter on the trail.

    Another part of his "logic" was that it was "safer" for him to be on the trail vs. riding on the road/over the bridge with the other traffic. The problem is that he failed to take into consideration that he was now placing the pedestrians/cyclists who were using the trail in the same danger that he was trying to avoid.
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  25. #25
    Senior Member Digital_Cowboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by amcelroy View Post
    It is on South Lamar going south, after the bike lane ends near Manchaca. I ride sidewalk until Panther Trail and cut over to Pack Saddle Pass.

    I know I can use the whole lane on Lamar, it just seems rude to cars and gives bike commuters a bad name. One of the reasons to commute (at least for me) is to reduce my fuel usage and be a responsible citizen, it seems like causing a mini traffic jam and having people rapidly accelerate around a bike is counter to that purpose.
    I presume that you work, right? So you are paying income tax which helps to support the roads that you are riding on. I presume that you live in either a house that you own or rent or an apartment that you rent, right? Then you pay property tax, which again help to support the roads that you want to ride on. I presume that you also buy goods, on which you pay sales tax. Which again goes to support the roads that you want to ride on.

    You are apparently "buying" into the thought that roads are "designed" solely for cars and anyone not in a car is just "getting in the way."

    The roads are made for EVERYONE to use, regardless of the type of vehicle that they are using.
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