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Polling Beliefs about Bicycles on Roads and Sidewalks

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Polling Beliefs about Bicycles on Roads and Sidewalks

Old 02-11-23, 08:12 AM
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Polling Beliefs about Bicycles on Roads and Sidewalks

There are plenty of anecdotes about people who believe bicycles belong on, or are required to be on, sidewalks and not roads. From this, it seems like a common belief, but how common? Does anyone know of any polling data on this topic, that shows just how prevalent this misconception is? (I guess I'm particularly interested in the US.)
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Old 02-11-23, 09:40 AM
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There are plenty of laws on the books about how bikes do belong on the roads; however, if people continue to show fear in riding on the roads and cyclists remain a very infrequent user of roadways, then more and more people will incorrectly believe that bikes belong off the roads.

Only we cyclists can convince motorists that we are lawful vehicles on the roads, not by words, there are enough words proving this fact.



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Old 02-11-23, 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by UnCruel
There are plenty of anecdotes about people who believe bicycles belong on, or are required to be on, sidewalks and not roads. From this, it seems like a common belief, but how common? Does anyone know of any polling data on this topic, that shows just how prevalent this misconception is? (I guess I'm particularly interested in the US.)
I forgot to answer the question. I don't know of any polling data and I'm afraid to ask for people's (non-cyclists') opinion this subject.


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Old 02-11-23, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by work4bike
... and I'm afraid to ask for people's (non-cyclists') opinion this subject.
Yeah, I've thought about asking people I know, but I feel like the people I know wouldn't really be a representative cross section of the American populace. Plus, most of the people I know are aware that I bike, which would tip them off to answer differently than they might otherwise.
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Old 02-11-23, 11:21 AM
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I ride in Falmouth, MA most weekends during the summer. We have the Shining Sea Bikeway that I use a lot, but it really doesn't go to many destinations that I need. I try to use my bike for all errands when I'm in town, and that involves a few miles of roads. Being a "vacation" type town, there are a lot of people that don't pay all that much attention when driving, or are perpetually lost.
I've been squeezed to the curb in a bike lane more than once, so I tend to keep to the sidewalks on the more-travelled roads. Most town roads are relatively narrow and winding, but sidewalks are prevalent throughout the town. I stop or dismount when approaching pedestrians, and ride on the road for short distances when overtaking them. I'm also not zipping around, most of the time it's a leisurely pace, enjoying the time on the bike.
Pretty sure the law in MA is bikes aren't allowed on sidewalks, but no one has said anything to me about it yet.
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Old 02-11-23, 11:43 AM
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My observation: in polls like this how questions are phrased can be just as important as what questions are asked.

In human factors evaluations such as testing a new traffic sign or symbol, open-ended questions such as "what does than sign or symbol mean?" or "what would you do in response to seeing this sign or symbol?" often get more-informative responses than questions with choices or prompts that could be used to shape the received responses.

I haven't looked in TRID to see if a survey similar to what you're asking is on file.

Activism has taken a strong role in cycling research in the US and elsewhere over the past 15+ years, and so it's possible that surveys (depending on desired results) might have questions such as "Knowing that sidewalks are narrow, full of obstructions, and often poorly maintained, do bicyclists belong on them?" or "Knowing that roadways are full of fast-moving cars and trucks with distracted drivers, should bicyclists ride on these roads or instead on sidewalks?" Now there could be good objective surveys out there, but based on my assessment of the current state of activism & research, any study based on surveys should have its assumptions and questions carefully reviewed before using it as a reference.

Disclosure: I'm a former member of the TRB Committee on Bicycle Transportation, and still in the peer review pool for manuscripts assigned to that committee.
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Old 02-11-23, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by work4bike
...however, if people continue to show fear in riding on the roads and cyclists remain a very infrequent user of roadways, then more and more people will incorrectly believe that bikes belong off the roads.

...



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Do those polls ask pedestrians, specifically, if they agree to have cyclists riding on sidewalks if they don't think cyclists belong on roads?
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Old 02-11-23, 12:04 PM
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If you think a considerable percentage of the population thinks bikes should not be on the roads, but instead, on side-walks, you are talking and listening to the wrong people. Those individuals are part of an extremist sub-set.
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Old 02-11-23, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Daniel4
Do those polls ask pedestrians, specifically, if they agree to have cyclists riding on sidewalks if they don't think cyclists belong on roads?
"Those polls" on this subject are imaginary so they ask anything of anybody you wish to imagine and get whatever responses you would like to see.
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Old 02-11-23, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by 1989Pre
If you think a considerable percentage of the population thinks bikes should not be on the roads, but instead, on side-walks, you are talking and listening to the wrong people. Those individuals are part of an extremist sub-set.
If the poll allowed them to give an open ended response to where cyclists should be and a considerable number said bike lanes, I'd be surprised and encouraged.
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Old 02-11-23, 03:29 PM
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Until we get bicycle safety and law into our drivers education system in this country, there will remain a spectacular breadth of stupidity in our driver's knowledge.
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Old 02-11-23, 06:07 PM
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To me it depends on the bike and the speed of the bike.
Kids on bikes on the sidewalk are not a problem, adults on slow moving bikes, same thing.
If you're going over 5 MPH, get in the road.
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Old 02-11-23, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by 1989Pre
If you think a considerable percentage of the population thinks bikes should not be on the roads, but instead, on side-walks, you are talking and listening to the wrong people. Those individuals are part of an extremist sub-set.
I really have no idea what percentage of the population thinks that, which is what leads me to look for data. However, I am skeptical that they are only an "extremist sub-set". I live in the suburban mid-west, and I feel (but do not know) that it is a prevalent attitude here. Heck, members of this forum, who I had assumed were all in agreement on the matter, are already debating it on this thread, which surprises me, and which I did not intend. You may be right that such attitudes are few, but they receive much attention, because our interactions with them tend to be memorable and often newsworthy.
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Old 02-11-23, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul Barnard
Until we get bicycle safety and law into our drivers education system in this country, there will remain a spectacular breadth of stupidity in our driver's knowledge.
Missouri's Driver Guide, which is the study guide offered to people seeking to obtain a new driver's license, has a seven page chapter on "Sharing the Road", about 2˝ pages of which is applicable to bicycles. However, I haven't been subjected to driver's education since the 1980s, and most drivers are in more or less the same situation.
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Old 02-11-23, 09:08 PM
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Originally Posted by 1989Pre
If you think a considerable percentage of the population thinks bikes should not be on the roads, but instead, on side-walks, you are talking and listening to the wrong people. Those individuals are part of an extremist sub-set.
I dunno about that. I think it's an extremist sub-set known as "an awful lot of drivers".
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Old 02-12-23, 06:06 AM
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Originally Posted by retswerb
I dunno about that. I think it's an extremist sub-set known as "an awful lot of drivers".
Are there that many mal-adjusted people? I suppose everyone is entitled to their opinion. The best we can do is stay to the side, there-by being courteous riders of the road. This should prevent any conflict from hot-heads.
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Old 02-12-23, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by 1989Pre
Are there that many mal-adjusted people? I suppose everyone is entitled to their opinion. The best we can do is stay to the side, there-by being courteous riders of the road. This should prevent any conflict from hot-heads.
Carry that to the extreme, though, and you're increasing your chances of getting right-hooked or doored. When it comes to lane
​​​​​​position, one-size-fits-all-roads is not a method I'm going to use. Most states have standards for when riding to the right is not required or recommended.
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Old 02-12-23, 09:20 AM
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Old 02-12-23, 10:07 AM
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I ride anywhere I am allowed to keep my self safe, or try to any way. Cities ban bike from sidewalk in many places to try to protect pedestrians. But if you look at it logically, a bike rider and a pedestrian are pretty close to the same weight, OTOH forcing bikes into the street puts them out there with 4 or 5 thousand pound cars seem doing 25 to 30 mph seems to me as kind of stupid. The smart thing to do would be in congested areas to limit bike speed.
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Old 02-12-23, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by rydabent
I ride anywhere I am allowed to keep my self safe,
..., OTOH forcing bikes into the street puts them out there with 4 or 5 thousand pound cars seem doing 25 to 30 mph seems to me as kind of stupid. The smart thing to do would be in congested areas to limit bike speed.
If the area is congested, cyclists won't be able to go very fast either. If drivers don't like me filtering through them at 5km/hr, give me my own protected safe space on the side so I can go faster (or slower) without bothering them.

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Old 02-12-23, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by UnCruel
Missouri's Driver Guide, which is the study guide offered to people seeking to obtain a new driver's license, has a seven page chapter on "Sharing the Road", about 2˝ pages of which is applicable to bicycles. However, I haven't been subjected to driver's education since the 1980s, and most drivers are in more or less the same situation.
And I dare say quite a few drivers never took any driver education course. If anything at all more than developing skills for parking and other such for the actual driving test, then it was just the necessary stuff needed to pass the written test. Minimum score is all that is needed.

I'm encouraged though that you say Missouri goes into some detail in their driving guide. Many don't.
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Old 02-12-23, 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by ralphs
I ride in Falmouth, MA most weekends during the summer. We have the Shining Sea Bikeway that I use a lot, but it really doesn't go to many destinations that I need. I try to use my bike for all errands when I'm in town, and that involves a few miles of roads. Being a "vacation" type town, there are a lot of people that don't pay all that much attention when driving, or are perpetually lost.
I've been squeezed to the curb in a bike lane more than once, so I tend to keep to the sidewalks on the more-travelled roads. Most town roads are relatively narrow and winding, but sidewalks are prevalent throughout the town. I stop or dismount when approaching pedestrians, and ride on the road for short distances when overtaking them. I'm also not zipping around, most of the time it's a leisurely pace, enjoying the time on the bike.
Pretty sure the law in MA is bikes aren't allowed on sidewalks, but no one has said anything to me about it yet.
Having ridden in downtown Falmouth on a summer weekend, the biggest issue I remember was having to do track stands in order to keep with the "flow" of traffic.
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Old 02-13-23, 12:35 AM
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Originally Posted by rydabent
I ride anywhere I am allowed to keep my self safe, or try to any way. Cities ban bike from sidewalk in many places to try to protect pedestrians. But if you look at it logically, a bike rider and a pedestrian are pretty close to the same weight, OTOH forcing bikes into the street puts them out there with 4 or 5 thousand pound cars seem doing 25 to 30 mph seems to me as kind of stupid. The smart thing to do would be in congested areas to limit bike speed.
There are some significant differences between pedestrians and bicyclists, even if weight is similar. A pedestrian can stop and turn instantly, whereas a bicyclist has a turning radius based on speed (and bike-handling ability) and a stopping distance based on speed and perception-reaction time. A pedestrian's effective field of view is significantly wider due to their low speed and ability to stop instantly and look, whereas a cyclist has a cone of vision that varies with speed. Also, a relaxed cyclist has a travel speed comparable to a very athletic pedestrian, and enters intersections much faster than a typical pedestrian. Given all these factors, a cyclist's travel performance is much more akin to that of a slower vehicle than a fast pedestrian.
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Old 02-13-23, 08:22 AM
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Originally Posted by rydabent
I ride anywhere I am allowed to keep my self safe, or try to any way. Cities ban bike from sidewalk in many places to try to protect pedestrians. But if you look at it logically, a bike rider and a pedestrian are pretty close to the same weight, OTOH forcing bikes into the street puts them out there with 4 or 5 thousand pound cars seem doing 25 to 30 mph seems to me as kind of stupid. The smart thing to do would be in congested areas to limit bike speed.
From the standpoint of the pedestrian, you are wrong here.
Even if the weight is identical, the kinetic energy of the bicyclist going 10-15 mph is much higher than the pedestrian going 3-4 mph. Forcing bicyclists to ride at walking speed would be absurd, no one would keep to it. Also, sidewalks are not generally constructed with sightlines when entering in mind. For example, a pedestrian may be emerging from a door that exits directly onto the sidewalk, or stepping out from behind shrubbery. Finally, pedestrians often have strollers, walkers, canes, etc. that make it difficult for them to dodge bicycle traffic. Sidewalks are designed for a walking pace, anything that goes faster is really out of place there.
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Old 02-13-23, 12:07 PM
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While you guys are debating the laws of physics that apply theoretically, don't forget to check in with reality.

What really happens when a cyclist collides with a pedestrian: someone gets hurt.
What really happens when two pedestrians collide: "Oops. Sorry."

I am honestly surprised that this debate is even taking place here. I thought it was only non-cycling drivers that needed education about the rules of the road.
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