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  1. #1
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    Is it legal to ride bikes on the sidewalk in your area?

    I'm not clear on the legalities of this. I would like to ride my downtown without putting myself at risk by riding on the street. But I am worried I might get a ticket for riding on the sidewalk.

    Does anyone from Houston, Austin, and San Antonio know what the laws are in these respective cities regarding this?

  2. #2
    Senior Member zachdees's Avatar
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    clearly i dont think there would be a problem with you riding on the side walk thats stupid if they made a law not to ride on the sideway because if your riding on the street you are indeed at risk of being hit by a vehicle
    but again on the sidewalk you have to watch out for pedestrians
    so its kinda an iffy

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by zachdees View Post
    clearly i dont think there would be a problem with you riding on the side walk thats stupid if they made a law not to ride on the sideway because if your riding on the street you are indeed at risk of being hit by a vehicle
    Whether it's stupid or not it is the case that some cities (such as the one I live in) have a rule against riding on sidewalks in "business districts." The curbs are marked. And generally ignored. What the rule is in Texas, I have no idea. My guess is that you could look up the cities' web sites and check the PD section, or the city ordinances if they're online.

  4. #4
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    IT is ILLEGAL to ride your bike on some sidewalks in Austin.
    http://bicycleaustin.info/laws/austi...ingonsidewalks
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  5. #5
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zachdees View Post
    clearly i dont think there would be a problem with you riding on the side walk thats stupid if they made a law not to ride on the sideway because if your riding on the street you are indeed at risk of being hit by a vehicle
    but again on the sidewalk you have to watch out for pedestrians
    so its kinda an iffy
    I have no problem with little kids riding on the sidewalks in residential neighborhoods, but adults? In downtown or business districts, sidewalks are for pedestrians, not vehicles. Adults on bikes are riding vehicles, and need to ride in the street or on a bike path.

  6. #6
    Senior Member neilfein's Avatar
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    http://bicycleaustin.info/laws/, specifically the "Can't ride on certain sidewalks" section.

    Except in very specific situations, it's generally more unsafe to ride on the sidewalk than the road. If Austin is anything like Houston, I can see why you'd feel unsafe on the roads.
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    You are much more likely to be in a collision with a motor vehicle if you are riding on the sidewalk. Drivers will not see you on the sidewalk.

    Read this: http://www.bikexprt.com/streetsmarts/usa/index.htm

  8. #8
    Senior Member SunnyFlorida's Avatar
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    neilfein gave you a good link that should answer your question.

    As for me, it's legal to ride the sidewalk in Florida and I do take advantage of it.

    BTW, I have not had any problems with cars not seeing me. However, I'm probably go slower than most cyclist, which I think is a big factor here.

    Also, the sidewalks where I live are practically empty of peds. Infact the people I see on the sidewalks are other cyclists.

    Nevertheless, whether or not you can ride the sidewalks downtown, doesn't matter if the sidewalks are full of peds. In that case, I'd take the street or walk your bike on the sidewalk for your safety as well as theirs.

    P.S. When I'm approaching downtown where I work, I take the streets but the bulk of my ride is pure empty sidewalk. However, if their was a bike lane available on my route I'd take it, not because it's any safer but because the ride is a lot smoother.

  9. #9
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by austin-rider View Post
    Does anyone from Houston, Austin, and San Antonio know what the laws are in these respective cities regarding this?
    Look it up yourself!!

    http://www.google.com.au/

  10. #10
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    Smart, safe, courteous, and legal vary by location. Downtown, you're likely to lose on all counts; in other words, you should be on the road. Around here, it is legal to ride on the sidewalk, but it is not always smart.

    In some cases, it is safer (despite the stats, which lump many situations into one category) to be on the sidewalk. We have many gated neighborhoods here, where the driveways can be a half mile apart, the sidewalks are 6 feet wide (imagine passing a golfcart!), and the roads have no shoulders.

    In contrast, in small city downtowns, where doors open onto 4 foot wide sidewalks full of pedestrians, you don't need to see the law to know it's not right to be on the sidewalk.

    If you pick the spots where it makes sense to be on the sidewalk, you're very unlikely to get a ticket, no matter the letter of the law.
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  11. #11
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    In Houston it's illegal to ride on the sidewalk in business areas like downtown.

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    In New York City it is illegal for an adult to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk. If you are ticketed, you must appear in at a hearing.

    —AC 19-176 Bicycle operation on sidewalks prohibited.
    a. For purposes of this section:
    (1) The term "bicycle" shall mean a two or three wheeled device upon which a person or persons may ride, propelled by human power through a belt, a chain or gears, with such wheels in a tandem or tricycle, except that it shall not include such a device having solid tires and intended for use only on a sidewalk by a child.
    (2) The term "sidewalk" shall mean that portion of the street, whether paved or unpaved, between the curb lines or the lateral lines of a roadway and the adjacent property lines, intended for the use of pedestrians. Where it is not clear which section is intended for the use of pedestrians the sidewalk will be deemed to be that portion of the street between the building line and the curb.
    (3) The term "child" shall mean a person less than fourteen years of age.
    b. No person shall ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk unless permitted by an official sign. A person who violates this subdivision may be issued a notice of violation and shall be liable for a civil penalty of not more than one hundred dollars which may be recovered in a proceeding before the environmental control board

  13. #13
    long time visiter Alfster's Avatar
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    I live in Cambridge, Ontario (Canada). Here's our bylaw that affects riding bikes on sidewalks:

    No person shall drive a bicycle having a wheel or wheels more than 50 centimetres in diameter or ride a skateboard on any boulevard or sidewalk except on a driveway.

    btw, 50 cm's = 20 inches. I assume this is to allow kid's bicycles to be used on sidewalks.

    http://www.cambridge.ca/byLaws/By-la...%20revised.pdf
    Last edited by Alfster; 07-22-10 at 08:14 AM. Reason: added link

  14. #14
    xtrajack xtrajack's Avatar
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    If I feel a compelling need to be on the sidewalk with my bike, I am walking with it. I can not understand why folks feel a compelling need to ride on the sidewalk.
    I am not saying that they don't have a compelling need, I am saying I don't understand it. But, then again, I live in smallish college town in a semi rural area. If I lived in a large city I might feel a compelling need to be on the sidewalk.

    I am kind of curious, I wonder how many folks that feel safer on the sidewalk, have and/or use mirrors. I would think that the percentage would be low. I remember when I first started riding, I didn't have a mirror, and I was nervous about the traffic on the road. The guy at the LBS suggested a mirror, when I was talking about how nervous I was. What a difference it made, after a short time, I was no longer as nervous being on the road.
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  15. #15
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    Many cities post their municipal codes on their websites, and the local code should be available at your public library.

  16. #16
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    I've actually seen bicycle policemen riding on the sidewalks the wrong way in Dallas downtown. Not sure if that makes it okay, or if they're just clueless.
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    Yes it's illegal in my town. But not a neighbouring town. That town legalized sidewalk riding because they don't have the appetite to fund bicycle improvements on their road infrastructure. How convenient.
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    http://www.sfbike.org/?sidewalks

    Being that it's against the law in San Francisco, I assume it is just as illegal across the bay here. However, my local police force knows essentially zero about cyclist laws, so riders, young and old, ride on the sidewalks, through the crosswalks, etc. It makes me sad, because we have bike lanes.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by xtrajack View Post
    If I feel a compelling need to be on the sidewalk with my bike, I am walking with it. I can not understand why folks feel a compelling need to ride on the sidewalk.
    I am not saying that they don't have a compelling need, I am saying I don't understand it. But, then again, I live in smallish college town in a semi rural area. If I lived in a large city I might feel a compelling need to be on the sidewalk.

    I am kind of curious, I wonder how many folks that feel safer on the sidewalk, have and/or use mirrors. I would think that the percentage would be low. I remember when I first started riding, I didn't have a mirror, and I was nervous about the traffic on the road. The guy at the LBS suggested a mirror, when I was talking about how nervous I was. What a difference it made, after a short time, I was no longer as nervous being on the road.
    Suburban semicommercial sprawl (the nasty mix of apartments, housing developments, malls, shopping centers, car dealerships, etc.) is worse than either downtown city space or rural roads, IMO. It often has wide (5 lanes and up), high speed (45 mph and up), high volume thoroughfares with next-to no space between the white line and the curb. On the flip side, where sidewalks exist they are often very lightly used and have good visibility into driveways and intersections.

    I have a mirror, and it does help, and I do ride on the road fairly often, but in the situation described above I see nothing wrong with using the sidewalk. If there was a bike lane I'd use that. If there was a decent shoulder I'd use that. Given the options, though, I'll use the sidewalk. That said, I'm not a fast rider; If I'm maintaining 15 mph, I'm making better than average time. I also obsessively defer to pedestrians.

  20. #20
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcanum View Post
    Suburban semicommercial sprawl (the nasty mix of apartments, housing developments, malls, shopping centers, car dealerships, etc.) is worse than either downtown city space or rural roads, IMO. It often has wide (5 lanes and up), high speed (45 mph and up), high volume thoroughfares with next-to no space between the white line and the curb. On the flip side, where sidewalks exist they are often very lightly used and have good visibility into driveways and intersections.

    I have a mirror, and it does help, and I do ride on the road fairly often, but in the situation described above I see nothing wrong with using the sidewalk. If there was a bike lane I'd use that. If there was a decent shoulder I'd use that. Given the options, though, I'll use the sidewalk. That said, I'm not a fast rider; If I'm maintaining 15 mph, I'm making better than average time. I also obsessively defer to pedestrians.
    In that situation, I agree, somewhat, though I think 15 mph is still way too fast for a sidewalk. I try to avoid roads like that as it isn't much fun riding such roads.

    One of my clients just got stopped and ticketed for riding on a sidewalk in Milwaukee. Unfortunately, he also had some pot on him.

  21. #21
    Starting over CraigB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SunnyFlorida View Post
    BTW, I have not had any problems with cars not seeing me. However, I'm probably go slower than most cyclist, which I think is a big factor here.
    I don't know what direction you ride on sidewalks, but the best way to do it safely and visibly is to ride in the direction of the street traffic. No motorist making a right turn on red is going to be looking to the right for anything on the sidewalk that's moving faster than a pedestrian. I know. I was that motorist once. I looked left (clear), looked right (clear), looked left again (clear) and proceeded into the intersection. In only the time it took me to take that last look to the left, a bicyclist came from the right, on the sidewalk, and I hit him. I thank God every day that he was unhurt, as was his small child who was in a kiddie seat over his rear wheel. It was the single most horrifying moment of my life. The cop was sympathetic, and understood that in that jurisdiction cyclists were not allowed on sidewalks, but he said he couldn't ticket the cyclist, and gave me a citation for failure to yield. I thought if I fought it I'd look like an a$$, so I took it.

    Ride on the sidewalks if you must, but please, please, PLEASE ride in the direction of the street traffic.
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  22. #22
    Senior Member fredward's Avatar
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    it's not legal here, but still the police do nothing about it.

  23. #23
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CraigB View Post
    I don't know what direction you ride on sidewalks, but the best way to do it safely and visibly is to ride in the direction of the street traffic. No motorist making a right turn on red is going to be looking to the right for anything on the sidewalk that's moving faster than a pedestrian. I know. I was that motorist once. I looked left (clear), looked right (clear), looked left again (clear) and proceeded into the intersection. In only the time it took me to take that last look to the left, a bicyclist came from the right, on the sidewalk, and I hit him. I thank God every day that he was unhurt, as was his small child who was in a kiddie seat over his rear wheel. It was the single most horrifying moment of my life. The cop was sympathetic, and understood that in that jurisdiction cyclists were not allowed on sidewalks, but he said he couldn't ticket the cyclist, and gave me a citation for failure to yield. I thought if I fought it I'd look like an a$$, so I took it.

    Ride on the sidewalks if you must, but please, please, PLEASE ride in the direction of the street traffic.
    A textbook example of how riding on a sidewalk isn't safe. If it went down as you describe it, that accident wasn't your fault. If something would have happened to the kid, it would have been the cyclist's fault.

  24. #24
    Senior Member travelmama's Avatar
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    It is only illegal around here when the cops decide to hand out citations.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by zachdees View Post
    clearly i dont think there would be a problem with you riding on the side walk thats stupid if they made a law not to ride on the sideway because if your riding on the street you are indeed at risk of being hit by a vehicle
    but again on the sidewalk you have to watch out for pedestrians
    so its kinda an iffy
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