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    Senior Member nostalgic's Avatar
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    Sidewalk riding inevitable

    A long while back, I made a post about the legalities of riding a bicycle on the sidewalk, and found what is true about my area. It is not declared illegal, but it is not encouraged.

    My new work commute causes me to have to take the sidewalk. I have to ride alongside a road where cars are going 45-55 mph, and there is no bike lane. My only other option is to take the neighborhood streets, which are not well lit at night, and wind around in a way that takes me farther away from work.

    Has anyone else come up against this situation or something similar?

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Just be careful! Cyclists may feel the sidewalks are safer, but they do have their own risks, mainly at driveways and cross streets.


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    Wookie Fred chewybrian's Avatar
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    ^Watch the roll off the edge; it can rip the bike right out from under you.

    In the situation, I would prefer the long way on the side streets. They don't have to be well lit if you are.
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    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Sidewalks can be very dangerous... I was out in Iowa City (Coralville) and the bike "lanes" are actually part of the sidewalk along a multi-lane road. I much preferred riding in the road to the sidewalk, I came close to getting nailed more than once by drivers turning into driveways without looking, that convinced me that whoever designed the damned thing was clueless.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chewybrian View Post
    ^Watch the roll off the edge; it can rip the bike right out from under you.

    In the situation, I would prefer the long way on the side streets. They don't have to be well lit if you are.
    Been there, done that, got a big scar on my knee to prove it.

    I would try the side streets also. You can ride faster than you can on a sidewalk, so that might make up for the greater distance.


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    Are there reasons, save for the lack of bike lanes and the posted speed limits, for being forced on to the sidewalks or side streets? I regularly ride on shoulderless roads with 55MPH speed limits without any issues (not counting the occasional close pass because that can happen anywhere). I just run adequate lighting and keep an eye on my mirror when I hear approaching vehicles.

    Now if it's heavy traffic that's the problem, I'd probably go with the side streets before I took to the sidewalks. I have no problem taking the lane, but I wouldn't want to cause backups during rush hour.

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    Senior Member nostalgic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TomCat_Ford View Post
    Are there reasons, save for the lack of bike lanes and the posted speed limits, for being forced on to the sidewalks or side streets? I regularly ride on shoulderless roads with 55MPH speed limits without any issues (not counting the occasional close pass because that can happen anywhere). I just run adequate lighting and keep an eye on my mirror when I hear approaching vehicles.

    Now if it's heavy traffic that's the problem, I'd probably go with the side streets before I took to the sidewalks. I have no problem taking the lane, but I wouldn't want to cause backups during rush hour.

    Yes. I live in Phoenix, AZ, and I head to work in heavy traffic. There is also a canal that separates my origin from my destination, and the side streets get cut off by that. When I have time, I will take the path that is on the side of the canal. I followed my gut today and rode on the sidewalk. I encountered a few pedestrians along the way, and crossing streets was not a problem. Taking my cruiser on a major road would have gotten me knocked onto the sidewalk.

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    Senior Member Mobile 155's Avatar
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    No problem for me. It is against the law in my area(Prohibited in my community) and I would even point out offenders to traffic cops when I see them. We do have the three foot law and if a street seems unsafe to me I would rather ride a side street than endanger pedestrians and children by riding on the sidewalk. Cars can and most often do have a lot more room to pass you than it might seem. But as harsh as it may sound I tend to be of the mindset that sidewalks are for walkers so if you have your bike on one walk. As far as riding on the street goes, you have as much right to the street as a car do. But if you can't run with the big dogs, (as it is said) stay under the porch. Because if we allow cruisers on the side walk why not pacelines of road bikes? Why not electric bikes and small motorcycles? Why not Recumbent Trikes? Those pesky pedestrians can just jump out of the way can't they? Why do they need a place to walk?
    Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein.

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    Senior Member nostalgic's Avatar
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    Well I'll have to relocate to a more bicycle friendly place. I refuse to drive my car again.

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    Roadmaster Snobbery Club bhtooefr's Avatar
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    How many lanes of travel are there on the 45-55 mph roads?

    If there's two lanes in one direction, and bicycles aren't banned on that route, it may be worth trying to take the right lane, rather than messing with the sidewalk - first try this on a holiday where there's reduced traffic (but still most people going into work) - a national holiday that isn't observed widely would be a good one.
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    Pedalin' Erry Day lasauge's Avatar
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    Personally, I almost never ride on the sidewalk, with a very small number of exceptions like the couple hundred feet of sidewalk on my daily commute which cuts almost half a mile, two traffic lights, and a nasty left turn that requires merging across 3 lanes of 50mph traffic from my morning commute. When I do get on that section of sidewalk for a few seconds, I slow down to pedestrian speed, give way to anyone walking, and am extremely cautious when I return to the regular pavement.

    That said, I don't mind riding on major high-speed roads because my commuting and errand running bikes are road bikes and I'm a strong enough rider that I can sustain a decent speed. I would not ride those same streets on a mountain bike or cruiser, the difference of speed between myself and the rest of the traffic would be too great for safety and convenience. When I ride a mountain bike through town I pick back streets, bike paths, unpaved areas I can cut through, and sometimes I cheat and hop the medians of major roads to shortcut across them.

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    Fixed Kitty wipekitty's Avatar
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    Under most circumstances, the only times I'll take the sidewalk are if (a) it is a fast street with (b) a big hill and (c) the sidewalk does not have many places where cars might cut through.

    The sidepath is another issue. In the town where I currently live, the main north/south route up to the area with most of the shopping is a state highway with heavy traffic, aggressive driving, and no substantial shoulder. In order to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists, they've built a "sidepath" next to the road, but it's nothing more than a glorified sidewalk (with numerous driveways and business entrances cutting in and out.) I can avoid most of it, but there's still a mile or so where I have to ride very sloooowly...or walk the bike. They don't plow the sidepath in the winter, either.

    I just wish that there would be enough of a cultural shift that roads could be constructed for shared use by bicycles and cars - or, at least, that drivers could learn to share better!

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lasauge View Post
    Personally, I almost never ride on the sidewalk, with a very small number of exceptions like the couple hundred feet of sidewalk on my daily commute which cuts almost half a mile, two traffic lights, and a nasty left turn that requires merging across 3 lanes of 50mph traffic from my morning commute. When I do get on that section of sidewalk for a few seconds, I slow down to pedestrian speed, give way to anyone walking, and am extremely cautious when I return to the regular pavement.

    That said, I don't mind riding on major high-speed roads because my commuting and errand running bikes are road bikes and I'm a strong enough rider that I can sustain a decent speed. I would not ride those same streets on a mountain bike or cruiser, the difference of speed between myself and the rest of the traffic would be too great for safety and convenience. When I ride a mountain bike through town I pick back streets, bike paths, unpaved areas I can cut through, and sometimes I cheat and hop the medians of major roads to shortcut across them.
    I know that the speed difference between a MTB going 14mph and a road bike going 20 mph is pretty significant to the cyclists. But I'm not sure that the difference is noticeable to drivers overtaking them both at 50 mph.

    The truth is, all street cyclists are going to inconvenience motorists on occasion. But we do have a legal right use the roads anyway. Most jurisdictions allow you to "take the lane" when required for safety. So that's what I do--regardless of my cruising speed.


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    Quote Originally Posted by nostalgic View Post
    A long while back, I made a post about the legalities of riding a bicycle on the sidewalk, and found what is true about my area. It is not declared illegal, but it is not encouraged.

    My new work commute causes me to have to take the sidewalk. I have to ride alongside a road where cars are going 45-55 mph, and there is no bike lane. My only other option is to take the neighborhood streets, which are not well lit at night, and wind around in a way that takes me farther away from work.

    Has anyone else come up against this situation or something similar?
    I've had that situation many times in the past. While I don't mind taking the lane while riding on such roads, I am happier to avoid the hassle of dealing with ignorant motorists. My coping mechanism has involved taking a longer route that was less unpleasant and also varying my work schedule to allow me to ride to/from work at times when the traffic is less of a hassle.

    However, there are many times when I've had to be at work at the same time as the horde of carbarians. When that happens, I ride in the safest place I can, which is generally smack in the middle of the travel lane when there isn't a ride-able shoulder and the lane isn't wide enough for a motorist to pass me safely while staying in the lane. Sure, I've been honked at and received hand signals that seem to indicate I'm number one, but if someone is homicidal enough to run a person down who is riding lawfully, they would probably drive up on the sidewalk to do it too.

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    Senior Member nostalgic's Avatar
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    Update: I took an alternate route to work yesterday on side streets, and I discovered a bike path behind a neighbourhood that I have been passing all this time! My commute was quiet and smooth for the most part, except for where I had to take the sidewalk of a major road that led to the bike path.

    I won't be taking that route at night though, because there is no light whatsoever on the path.

    When you take the lane on a major road, about how fast are you going? I want to chance it and see how motorists respond.

  16. #16
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nostalgic View Post
    Update: I took an alternate route to work yesterday on side streets, and I discovered a bike path behind a neighbourhood that I have been passing all this time! My commute was quiet and smooth for the most part, except for where I had to take the sidewalk of a major road that led to the bike path.

    I won't be taking that route at night though, because there is no light whatsoever on the path.

    When you take the lane on a major road, about how fast are you going? I want to chance it and see how motorists respond.
    Whatever my normal riding speed is... varies from 12mph-18mph depending on bike, load, terrain, and weather.

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  17. #17
    Senior Member Dave Cutter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chewybrian View Post
    ........ I would prefer the long way on the side streets. They don't have to be well lit if you are.
    +1 A few more minutes on the bicycle.... is just a little more fun. Crossing those parking lot and driveway entrances... is dangerous.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nostalgic View Post
    Well I'll have to relocate to a more bicycle friendly place. I refuse to drive my car again.
    +1

    I would have moved long ago from that town. However, I would like to see the sidewalk the OP is riding on. Sometimes we envision sidewalks being crowded with people, dogs, cars etc. However, I've seen sidewalks next to the highway and there isn't anyone using them! Maybe the OP can tell us the street he uses before we all assume the worse.

  19. #19
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    +1

    I would have moved long ago from that town. However, I would like to see the sidewalk the OP is riding on. Sometimes we envision sidewalks being crowded with people, dogs, cars etc. However, I've seen sidewalks next to the highway and there isn't anyone using them! Maybe the OP can tell us the street he uses before we all assume the worse.
    Yeah, come to think of it, the same qualities that make the vehicle lanes of stroads so bad for riding on, make their sidewalks better for riding on:

    1. The general sprawl means fewer driveways and cross streets.
    2. Lack of pedestrian amenities clears the sidewalks of obstacles. (No trees, benches, bus shelters, trash cans, etc.)
    3. Pedestrians are so often buzzed by fast cars that they don't mind so much when a bike buzzes them.
    4. There rarely are pedestrians to get in the way, due to 1, 2, and 3.


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  20. #20
    Senior Member nostalgic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    +1

    I would have moved long ago from that town. However, I would like to see the sidewalk the OP is riding on. Sometimes we envision sidewalks being crowded with people, dogs, cars etc. However, I've seen sidewalks next to the highway and there isn't anyone using them! Maybe the OP can tell us the street he (*she) uses before we all assume the worse.

    Thanks for bringing this up. The sidewalks I have been riding on are not crowded at all. There are apartment complexes and businesses nearby. The houses do not face the main road, so there is no way for anyone to back their car out. Here, on any main road, if houses do face the main road, there is a smaller street in front of those houses to make it safe to back out, if that makes sense.

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    On my way from work to home or to the local coffee house, it is best to ride on the sidewalk for .4 to .7 miles. Not the best, but it allows me to not have to wait for two long signals. The downside is if I encounter a pedestrian I stop, only two driveways to contend with, the road has no shoulder or apron, no parking permitted and the speeds are basically 45-55 mph, (posted 40). Sometimes it is the choice of least risk and best benefit.

    Beyond that one section I take service streets. I am willing to ride in the lane but I am realistic as to my chances.

    By the way, in California at least the insurance minimums have been the same for decades, there are lots of drivers (85% or so) who carry the minimum. If you get hit, consider how fast that $15k could get used up. If YOU have a higher uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage up to your policy limit, (I use 500k) your insurance kicks in if you are hit on a bike after theirs has been expended. Hopefully I never need it, but it is there.
    The cost to increase it is in the grand scheme of things pretty cheap.

  22. #22
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    A rather small town , with 4 lanes of highway.. the sidewalk is the path of least resistance..
    Until in the downtown shopping blocks then the street's lights control traffic .
    and its split into 2 lanes of one direction. separated from the opposite flow, a block away..

    I. ride at a modest pace and so I am quite compatible with the pedestrians, because of that..

  23. #23
    Senior Member Mobile 155's Avatar
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    A lot of this sounds like rationalization for riding on the sidewalk. Not many pedestrians on so we will just take to the side walk. I guess it would be ok for motorcycles and scooters to do the same? Or better yet if the road is crowded with cars, small cars in a hurry might think, "why not take any open bike lane and just force bikes onto the sidewalk where they obviously belong?

    If you give up your rights for the street is it little wonder others don't take transportation cycling seriously? I can't count the number of times I have been to a city planning meeting to propose bike lanes only to hear from some well meaning citizen, "why do they need a bike lane? Can't they use the side walk?" Good thing some of you weren't at those meetings. You make their case perfectly.
    Last edited by Mobile 155; 02-16-14 at 03:24 PM.
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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
    A lot of this sounds like rationalization for riding on the sidewalk. Not many pedestrians on so we will just take to the side walk. I guess it would be ok for motorcycles and scooters to do the same? Or better yet if the road is crowded with cars, small cars in a hurry might think, "why not take any open bike lane and just force bikes onto the sidewalk where they obviously belong?

    If you give up your rights for the street is it little wonder others don't take transportation cycling seriously? I can't count the number of times I have been to a city planning meeting to propose bike lanes only to hear from some well meaning citizen, "why do they need a bike lane? Can't they use the side walk?" Good thing some of you weren't at those meetings. You make their case perfectly.
    It's just folks trying to get places...sorry you see them as an enemy. Besides mocking them, is there any way to convince cyclists that the high traffic street is the best place to ride a bike?

    And yes, I am a cyclist who almost always rides in the street. But I'm not willing to say that my approach is the best approach for all other people.


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  25. #25
    Senior Member Mobile 155's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    It's just folks trying to get places...sorry you see them as an enemy. Besides mocking them, is there any way to convince cyclists that the high traffic street is the best place to ride a bike?

    And yes, I am a cyclist who almost always rides in the street. But I'm not willing to say that my approach is the best approach for all other people.
    No Roody it is just people thinking they can do whatever they want as long as it makes them feel better. We develop systems and rules so society can function together. If they can make their own rules to invade unused pedestrian space how are they any different than those that feel cyclists don't need a bike lane just because it isn't used at the time? The fact that the bike lane in my area isn't in use doesn't make it another lane for cars and trucks. It is a bike lane and unless marked otherwise should not be crossed into by a car.

    Until we we grant the sidewalks the same status we want for bike lanes we are simply pedestrians on toys best kept off of the street. I am not asking anyone to agree with me because when I walk on a sidewalk and a fellow cyclists comes bombing past me I feel like kicking a trash can in front of them. My opinion of course but one that separates me so far from sidewalk riders that makes them my enemy. Almost as much as wrong side of the road riders and night ninjas.

    It it has nothing to do with my way being better only that there has to be a set of rules we follow to avoid chaos. Sure with so few cyclists in the US it doesn't seem to matter but if the day ever comes where we do get more than a toehold it will.
    Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein.

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