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Sidewalk riding in inexperienced bikers

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Sidewalk riding in inexperienced bikers

Old 12-30-12, 08:37 PM
  #1  
noonsun
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Sidewalk riding in inexperienced bikers

I learned how to bike a few months ago because I'm a Boston college student who can't drive and doesn't want to spend hours per day walking everywhere. I am pretty okay at cycling now (and really like it! I'm really glad I learned), but I mostly go pretty slowly and very carefully in sidewalks because I'm scared as hell of the drivers in Massachusetts. I've been doing research and found out that sidewalk cycling is way more dangerous (in terms of accident frequency, not extremeness/deaths) than cycling on a road, but I'm really conflicted since I'm new-ish to riding. All my friends tell me to get off the sidewalks but I'm not sure at what point it is a good idea for me to do that since I am way, way less experienced than them, having only learned how to ride when I was 18 and all.

Basically, I'm afraid on sidewalks of pedestrian-related accidents/injuries, but in the roads, I'm just afraid of dying, due to reckless driving and (possibly) my own inexperience leading me to being unable to avoid dangerous situations. About a month into my biking-as-transportation experience, riding on the sidewalk of the Harvard Bridge (was way too scared to go in the bike lane there -- cars go so fast and so swervily, it's outrageous!), a guy once walked into my bike despite me telling him I was on his left, etc., making me crash into the railing and hurting my self-confidence (and hand -- I got an avulsion fracture in my pinky) really badly in the process. Of course it's super bad that he couldn't tell I was there and I got hurt, and I shouldn't have been in the sidewalk, it's for pedestrians, yadda yadda, but I shudder to think of what would have happened with a car having similar ignorance of my position, especially since I don't feel as nimble as some of my other friends -- like I would probably be dead or at least have way worse injuries. Do you guys have advice for me? How can I get really good at maneuvering properly/safely when all the places to bike are swarming with pedestrians and cars?
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Old 12-30-12, 08:51 PM
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Adrian_
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I mean this in the nicest way possible, stop being a wuss. I also learned to ride at a late age(16 and i'm 17 now) and in New York they give tickets to adults riding on the sidewalk. At first I would get scared and wobbly when cars pass by but I got used to it. You can't get better at something if you don't try. Are there any parks or calmer roads where you live? Practice riding there, also try and avoid big main streets and stick to smaller side streets until you gain some more confidence.
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Old 12-30-12, 09:07 PM
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Question- are you a local resident or live on campus? If on campus, I'll take it that your family's home is too far to drive to campus several times a week. Why not just ride near your family's place during the semester breaks/holidays?
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Old 12-30-12, 09:23 PM
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I live just off campus -- like 20 minutes walking but more like 5-10 if you bike.

It's also really hard to bike in calm areas to get more experienced, because most roads within a reasonable distance of where I live are really high-density, frequent intersections, etc. Since I have to cross a bridge every day, that's automatically having to go through a lot of traffic no matter what right there.
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Old 12-30-12, 10:11 PM
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Welcome to cycling and to this forum!

I think you may have alot of options for local cycling classes -- your bike shop and people on this forum can probably give you some leads.
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Old 12-31-12, 04:44 AM
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With winter coming, visibility and traction dropping in Boston I would opt for the bus. 20 minutes is not a humongous amount of time to spend walking and consider that being at college is a investment in your future. Getting to class in one piece is better than trying to cut time using something you are not too familiar with. And yes, Boston riding can be tricky. Not sure which bridge you are going over - but some of the bridges are nutz with rushing knuckleheads and driving over the bridges, and tight Cambridge roads is no fun.

Last edited by Essex; 12-31-12 at 07:33 AM.
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Old 12-31-12, 07:06 AM
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Get a BRIGHT set of front & rear blinkies.
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Old 12-31-12, 10:34 AM
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Originally Posted by noonsun View Post
I learned how to bike a few months ago because I'm a Boston college student who can't drive and doesn't want to spend hours per day walking everywhere. I am pretty okay at cycling now (and really like it! I'm really glad I learned), but I mostly go pretty slowly and very carefully in sidewalks because I'm scared as hell of the drivers in Massachusetts. I've been doing research and found out that sidewalk cycling is way more dangerous (in terms of accident frequency, not extremeness/deaths) than cycling on a road, but I'm really conflicted since I'm new-ish to riding. All my friends tell me to get off the sidewalks but I'm not sure at what point it is a good idea for me to do that since I am way, way less experienced than them, having only learned how to ride when I was 18 and all.

Basically, I'm afraid on sidewalks of pedestrian-related accidents/injuries, but in the roads, I'm just afraid of dying, due to reckless driving and (possibly) my own inexperience leading me to being unable to avoid dangerous situations. About a month into my biking-as-transportation experience, riding on the sidewalk of the Harvard Bridge (was way too scared to go in the bike lane there -- cars go so fast and so swervily, it's outrageous!), a guy once walked into my bike despite me telling him I was on his left, etc., making me crash into the railing and hurting my self-confidence (and hand -- I got an avulsion fracture in my pinky) really badly in the process. Of course it's super bad that he couldn't tell I was there and I got hurt, and I shouldn't have been in the sidewalk, it's for pedestrians, yadda yadda, but I shudder to think of what would have happened with a car having similar ignorance of my position, especially since I don't feel as nimble as some of my other friends -- like I would probably be dead or at least have way worse injuries. Do you guys have advice for me? How can I get really good at maneuvering properly/safely when all the places to bike are swarming with pedestrians and cars?
Statistics about sidewalk cycling vs. in-the-street cycling mean absolutely nothing. Too many variables, what kind of street, what kind of sidewalk? Most of all, what kind of rider? The typical sidewalk rider is NOT the same rider as the typical street rider. Sidewalk riding is as dangerous or as safe as you choose to make it. "On your left," will not cut it. You have to yield to EVERYTHING on the sidewalk. You have to check driveways for people pulling out and ASSUME THEY DO NOT SEE YOU. Likewise check the street for vehicles pulling in. There are bike safety courses out there, and I highly recommend you take one.

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Old 12-31-12, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Worknomore View Post
Get a BRIGHT set of front & rear blinkies.
Can't hurt, but he needs much more.

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Old 12-31-12, 10:46 AM
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My advice is to stop bicycling if you can't do it responsibly; sidewalk riding isn't an acceptable option (yada yada yada). Try riding on MUPs to gain confidence perhaps.
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Old 12-31-12, 10:52 AM
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As Adrian mentioned, it is illegal to ride on the sidewalks in his area. It is in mine and I think in most places. If the traffic is intense and there isn't a lot of room I try to look for alternate routes. It does sound like you are in a dense city area and that might be difficult, so I'm not being much help.

Nothing wrong with walking though. I've had a couple of times in my life when I walked about 2 miles each way to work. The technology of walking is more advanced than bicycling. You are at least getting exercise so it isn't a complete waste of time. Less time sitting down improves your life stats by a bunch.
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Old 12-31-12, 10:55 AM
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Using a mirror really helped me a lot. Buy one. They're inexpensive.

Get off the sidewalk. It makes you look like an idiot, and it's really unsafe. I don't know about your state, but it's illegal in some. I'll admit I was a bit skiddish when I started riding on the main roads. Right now I don't get the slightest bit scared. I commuted on Christmas Eve when there's heavy traffic. It didn't faze me one bit, but hey I got over two years road riding. Just take it easy, and you'll get used to it.
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Old 12-31-12, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by noonsun View Post
Basically, I'm afraid on sidewalks of pedestrian-related accidents/injuries, but in the roads, I'm just afraid of dying, due to reckless driving and (possibly) my own inexperience leading me to being unable to avoid dangerous situations.
Your greatest danger on the sidewalk isn't pedestrian accidents, though that's how you're most likely to injure someone else. (Especially if you expect ordinary pedestrians to respond predictably to "on your left" -- they aren't in conversation with you, they won't make out "on your", all they'll hear is "left", and a significant fraction of them will step to their left as requested.)

Your greatest danger on the sidewalk is from motor vehicles -- every driveway becomes, essentially, an uncontrolled intersection where motorists are not looking for vehicular traffic when they cross your path. If you're riding no faster than pedestrian speed, that won't be too much of an issue, because motorists crossing sidewalks generally are looking for pedestrian-speed traffic.

But if you're going any faster than a pedestrian, you're at significantly increased risk of being hit, either by a motorist pulling out of a driveway, or by one turning into a driveway.

At actual road intersections, again, if you move no faster than walking pace and obey all the pedestrian rules, you're not at great risk. But if you're entering the intersection faster than a pedestrian, motorists won't be looking for you coming off the sidewalk at vehicular speeds, so you're at greater risk from both cross-traffic and turning traffic.

You'll be much safer, have a faster commute, and reduce your stress level if you learn to control a lane of traffic on your bike. A safety course would be a good place to start -- google for CyclingSavvy or LAB courses near you. Having an experienced instructor lead you through safe traffic cycling skills will get you up to speed years faster than simply trying to learn it on your own.
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Old 12-31-12, 06:29 PM
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IMO, it's better to ride on the sidewalk than not at all, but even better still to ride on the street.

While you continue to ride on the sidewalk, I'd suggest getting a bell to alert pedestrians before you get close. Then, as you get within passing distance, just say 'excuse me' instead 'on your left'. Pedestrians don't even know what that means.

As your confidence increases, try riding in the streets on quieter stretches of roads. Get some lights and ride like you're a car. Soon you will be playing in traffic!

Last edited by frantik; 12-31-12 at 06:33 PM.
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Old 12-31-12, 06:39 PM
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Riding on the sidewalk is the perfect location to get creamed by cars turning int/out of driveways.
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Old 12-31-12, 07:36 PM
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Originally Posted by agent pombero View Post
Riding on the sidewalk is the perfect location to get creamed by cars turning int/out of driveways.
it's not like you can't slow down and watch for cars when you approach a driveway.. in urban areas there aren't always driveways every 100 feet

I strongly encourage riding in the street but I think riding on the sidewalk can be done safely too. You have to go much slower and be more cautious, which is fine for beginning riders. But once you start moving at speeds where you can't brake in time to dodge pedestrians, then you need to get off the sidewalk

at night here the roads are way less busy.. if you have lights you can ride safely without nearly as many cars on the road

Last edited by frantik; 12-31-12 at 07:43 PM.
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