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  1. #1
    Senior Member LiteraryChic's Avatar
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    Bike Lane vs. Sidewalk

    Alright, I have a funny question - sort of - for you guys. I live in Ann Arbor, and frequently see people riding in the bike lanes, on the side of the road, in the middle of the road, on the sidewalks etc. Basically, they ride anywhere and everywhere. Well, I am in the middle of reading Bike Snob: Systematically and Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling by Bike Snob NYC, and he mentioned about people riding on the sidewalk, how he dislikes them, how other cyclists dislike them, how pedestrians dislike them etc. This is a great read, by the way, funny, yet informative. Next up, is the sequel, The Enlightened Cyclist: Commuter Angst, Dangerous Drivers, and Other Obstables on the Path to Two-Wheeled Transcendence.

    My question is this: "How do others feel about riding on the sidewalk?" I will admit, since I am relatively new to city cycling, and have ridden on the sidewalk, due to nervousness about riding on the streets (my own inexperience/stupidity - with my disablity/minor balance issues - & drivers).

    Answers? Thoughts? Tips? Suggestions?
    Last edited by LiteraryChic; 05-31-13 at 09:12 PM.

  2. #2
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    My coworker got pulled over and ticketed by the police for riding on the sidewalk a few weeks ago so that's clearly not an option where I am

  3. #3
    johnliu@earthlink.net jyl's Avatar
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    The sidewalk is for pedestrians, not cyclists.

    What are the exceptions?

    - If there are no or very few pedestrians on the sidewalk, I'll ride there for a few yards to start or end my trip - like from a convenient curb cut to/from the door of the store I'm going to.

    - Sometimes there will be a high traffic, high speed street with no bike lane that is rather hairy to ride on, but has a sidewalk that is hardly used by pedestrians - not uncommon, since those sort of streets aren't usually in "walking neighborhoods". Then I'll ride on that sidewalk if I feel unsafe on the road.

    But otherwise, stay off the sidewalk. Pedestrians move unpredictably, they stop and turn and back up and dart right and left, it is dangerous to ride around them. Children and dogs are the worst. You can get plenty hurt bouncing off a pedestrian and falling into a parked car or a plate glass window, and worse yet you can hurt someone else. For a little kid or an elderly person, being rammed by a bike and rider is not a minor thing.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member PatrickGSR94's Avatar
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    There are zero sidewalks anywhere on my 14.5 mile commute one way, save for the first 2/10 mile coming out of my neighborhood. To say my area cares little about bikes or even pedestrians is an understatement.
    2011 Felt Z85 105 | Ultegra | KMC | Selle Italia | Vuelta | Topeak
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  5. #5
    Senior Member AusTexMurf's Avatar
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    I only ride on extradordinarily useful sidewalks...........
    Sometimes bike lanes......
    Often just still take the lane......fast as i/we can go.........
    Last edited by AusTexMurf; 05-31-13 at 09:46 PM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member LeftinFlint's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jyl View Post
    The sidewalk is for pedestrians, not cyclists.

    What are the exceptions?

    - If there are no or very few pedestrians on the sidewalk, I'll ride there for a few yards to start or end my trip - like from a convenient curb cut to/from the door of the store I'm going to.

    - Sometimes there will be a high traffic, high speed street with no bike lane that is rather hairy to ride on, but has a sidewalk that is hardly used by pedestrians - not uncommon, since those sort of streets aren't usually in "walking neighborhoods". Then I'll ride on that sidewalk if I feel unsafe on the road.

    But otherwise, stay off the sidewalk. Pedestrians move unpredictably, they stop and turn and back up and dart right and left, it is dangerous to ride around them. Children and dogs are the worst. You can get plenty hurt bouncing off a pedestrian and falling into a parked car or a plate glass window, and worse yet you can hurt someone else. For a little kid or an elderly person, being rammed by a bike and rider is not a minor thing.
    +1
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  7. #7
    bill nyecycles the sci guy's Avatar
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    the only place i rode on the sidewalk during my commute was up a mile long hill that kills me every time, and i don't want to be going so incredibly slow in traffic.

  8. #8
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    I stay off the sidewalks. The drivers here, at least the downtown drivers, seems to be fairly used to cyclists.

    Pedestrians are unpredictable, and there are times that cyclists bike on sidewalk, buzz by me without even a bell or a heads up, and I get upset at those people.

    If the street is real busy, see if you can find a quieter parallel street to bike on instead.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by calyth View Post
    I stay off the sidewalks. The drivers here, at least the downtown drivers, seems to be fairly used to cyclists.

    Pedestrians are unpredictable, and there are times that cyclists bike on sidewalk, buzz by me without even a bell or a heads up, and I get upset at those people.

    If the street is real busy, see if you can find a quieter parallel street to bike on instead.
    Route planning is key

  10. #10
    Senior Member Shimagnolo's Avatar
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    Check state *and* local laws.
    Example: CO state law allows cyclists on the sidewalk, but the city/county of Denver prohibits it.

  11. #11
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    There is a sticky thread in A & S that deals with the pros/cons of riding on the sidewalk- http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...walk-bicycling

    My thoughts mirror those of jyl.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyril View Post
    Ride what and in what manner pleases you. Those that mind don't matter, and those that matter don't mind. srsly.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by rms13 View Post
    Route planning is key
    Agreed.

    It's quite lucky now that where I want to go would mostly have MUPs to get there, and short distances on the road. The salt does make the roads more annoying than Vancouver roads.

  13. #13
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    Where I am (NYC), I believe it isn't legal to ride on a sidewalk unless you are under 13 and aren't riding a bike with wheels larger than 26inches. It is looked down upon but, in my experience, I've never seen anyone get ticketed or policed for it. Being that I'm in the most suburban and driver friendly boro (Staten Island), there are not many bike lanes on the majority of the island (only near the ferry and around the beaches, excluding other small sections for the most part), or many streets very suitable for bike travel (either narrow, unkept, high speeds, and unruly drivers), most people are more inclined to take the sidewalk here and is just normal to not have many bikes on the road, nor do the inhabitants want them (normally verbally expressed). I generally never take the sidewalk unless if necessary to access another route (my mup enters from a sidewalk), or if I'm hopping a curb to park. I do take the sidewalk on a short section of my commute that includes a concrete bridge over a creek (which at the next curb gives access to the mup), due to the fact that there's no shoulder and many sewer drains, it's a high speed street, as well that it's the main road to the mall and many supermarkets and department stores and connects close to my college (which means unsavory college drivers), so not much space is given and the sidewalk at this section is 95% empty all the time and quite unkept with many over grown plants and bushes and untrimmed trees overhanging the barrier from the wetlands below. One time I was riding back from a supermarket at dusk with my blinkies on, and as I was exiting this section there were cops walking in the direction towards me, so I slowed further and moved over with my foot out with the intention to stop and let them pass, but they moved aside to give me the space and I passed by without incident. In my opinion I wouldn't push your luck and don't ride it unless if necessary for some legitimate reason and always exercise caution (more than enough caution so the pedestrian can notice), and give pedestrians the right of way, well before they are close.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Mr. Hairy Legs's Avatar
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    Every now and then the sidewalk makes sense, but in general I avoid them. I don't give a lick about what's legal since the laws are never enforced anyway where I ride (not even for drivers).

  15. #15
    Senior Member Astrozombie's Avatar
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    Doesn't matter where you're riding, people are going to give you **** no matter what.

  16. #16
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    I don't ride on sidewalks and I try to not hate on those who do. I don't always succeed, at least that's what my wife tells me. Sidewalk riders reinforce the motorist entitlement complex that is already far to pervasive, IMO.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Mr. Hairy Legs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    Sidewalk riders reinforce the motorist entitlement complex that is already far to pervasive, IMO.
    Agreed. But on the other hand, they are usually only travelling at 10 mph and the road isn't always an appropriate place for that.

  18. #18
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    First, move to Columbus Oh, everything is better there
    Second, sidewalks are for pedestrians, not for adults on bikes. It's less safe all the way around, because once you give up your spot on the road, eventually you are challenged with reclaiming it, which means potentially darting out in front of a car.
    Third, cars don't look for bikers on sidewalks, so if you go over a cross street, they may make a right turn and run you over.
    Fourth, initially, I was sheepish about taking up road space and 'holding back the car drivers'. All it takes from them is a little patience and a punch on the gas pedal and they are past you (except for that type of driver who is scared to pass someone on a bike, but that's another topic).
    Now that being said, there are a few spots in my commute where I do hop on the sidewalk, but they are all leading up to traffic lights, no bike lane, and cars right up to the curb, such that I either have the choice of possibly sitting through two red lights to be a proper rider, or hop the sidewalk and get to the front of the queue for the green light. However, if I do encounter a pedestrian on the sidewalk, I either get back on the road, or stop and let them walk past me. It's not fair for walkers to have to dodge bikes on the sidewalk.

  19. #19
    i'll probably break it 91MF's Avatar
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    first off, riding a bike on a sideWALK is just a straight jackass move. someone could be seriously injured or even killed.

    secondly, i dont like bike lanes at all. its a false sense of security and i feel they are a step backwards when trying to convey our rights on the road as cyclists to the non-cycling public. this isn't holland, and NEVER will be.



    so my 2c: TAKE THE ROAD.
    bike. throw. #MFDCR

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by jyl View Post
    The sidewalk is for pedestrians, not cyclists.

    What are the exceptions?

    - If there are no or very few pedestrians on the sidewalk, I'll ride there for a few yards to start or end my trip - like from a convenient curb cut to/from the door of the store I'm going to.

    - Sometimes there will be a high traffic, high speed street with no bike lane that is rather hairy to ride on, but has a sidewalk that is hardly used by pedestrians - not uncommon, since those sort of streets aren't usually in "walking neighborhoods". Then I'll ride on that sidewalk if I feel unsafe on the road.

    But otherwise, stay off the sidewalk. Pedestrians move unpredictably, they stop and turn and back up and dart right and left, it is dangerous to ride around them. Children and dogs are the worst. You can get plenty hurt bouncing off a pedestrian and falling into a parked car or a plate glass window, and worse yet you can hurt someone else. For a little kid or an elderly person, being rammed by a bike and rider is not a minor thing.
    To this I would add that sometimes you might have to ride on a sidewalk for a bit when transitioning between the road and an MUP, or between MUPs over a bridge, or something like that. Here, I can think of at least one spot where cyclists are actually directed to use the sidewalk, then cross traffic in the crosswalk to get from a cycle track to an MUP.

  21. #21
    Senior Member SouthFLpix's Avatar
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    In Florida you can ride on the sidewalk. It's useful at times, but in general the 'back roads' are where you want to be.

  22. #22
    Don from Austin Texas
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    Quote Originally Posted by 91MF View Post
    first off, riding a bike on a sideWALK is just a straight jackass move. someone could be seriously injured or even killed.

    so my 2c: TAKE THE ROAD.
    What total nonsense. It depends entirely on the nature of the sidewalk and how it is ridden. We have lots of sidewalks in Austin with virtually no pedestrian traffic and very few driveways, some of them adjacent to streets that are not very friendly. Riding on such a sidewalk at something less than racing speed and scanning the occasional driveway for traffic -- includes looking behind you on the street for someone who might turn in, or ahead, depending on which direction you are going-- and being prepared to yield to anything and everything is not jackass.

    Nobody hold a *** to your head and forces you to behave like a jackass because you are on the sidewalk.

    Don in Austin

  23. #23
    Senior Member David Bierbaum's Avatar
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    I think it depends on where you are. If you are in suburbia, where hardly anyone actually uses these serially-placed squares of cement, then I don't see any problem, as long as you just go slow and keep an eye out for kids and driveways. Even then, I'd prefer the road, since the tree roots always push/sink squares by 1/4 inch or more, making for an exceedingly bumpy ride.

    In Cities, or areas where there are pedestrians galore, then the bike should only be on the sidewalk if you are at it's side, walking...

  24. #24
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Sidewalks are for pedestrians and the occasional child cyclist who isn't going very fast. Unfortunately, our country has a lot of "adult child" cyclists, too.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
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  25. #25
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    A lot of 'strong' opinions here -- none of which I care about at ALL. "Adult child", "jackass", etc...don't worry, your balls WILL drop someday, and you won't have to be so 'tough'.

    I ride a full-suspension MTB for every purpose, because: a.)I have a bad back, can't take the hardtail pounding to my joints; and b.)it's what I like, if I decide to get silly on a ride, I can do so. I ride sidewalks on my 'short' commute route to work, because the adjacent street has been rated the most dangerous mile of road in the city, and because it's LEGAL here. Also, since almost NO ONE in this cesspool of obesity WALKS anywhere, the sidewalks are pretty much deserted. Other, longer (and more fun) routes to work combine sidewalk, street, and MUP; my route on a daily basis depends on available time, weather, and my mood.

    There are painfully few bike lanes in this town; they get sparse use. Sometimes, when they do, it's a family or a couple riding against traffic (one is a 2-way street, has a 1-way lane on each side of the road). My kids and I have used every bike lane in the city, and they work pretty well. With nearly 70 miles of well-made MUP, there are lots of alternatives for pleasure riding, but the small handful of bike lanes and sidewalks do offer an alternative for commuting.

    I communicated with a PAO with the local cops, and he agreed with my assessment of traffic here: on any given day, 50,000 cars on the road; 30,000 have no clue about bike traffic laws, and 5,000 would not be averse to enforcing their opinions with a front fender.

    I don't need to 'stand up and claim my right to the road' to make the testosterone flow.

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