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When does a sidewalk become a bike path?

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When does a sidewalk become a bike path?

Old 03-04-15, 08:07 AM
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When does a sidewalk become a bike path?

Breaking out part of the discussion of teaching children to take the lane and to never ride on sidewalks... I assume that the people who developed this course, teach it, and support it would not object to children riding on a bike path or MUP along a road? EG, an 8' wide asphalt path set 5' or 10' from the roadway.

If you survey elementary and middle schools for kids riding bikes the ones in suburbs with bike paths have much higher numbers than those in suburbs without bike paths. Often schools with no paths have zero kids or maybe one or two while those with paths often have dozens.

If a bike path is OK, when does it become a dangerous sidewalk (assuming it still has same driveways and minor road crossings)? When it is only 2' from the road? When it is directly adjacent to the road? When it is made of cement instead of asphalt? When has it become so dangerous that children should be told not to ride to school unless they do so in the traffic lane?

Last edited by CrankyOne; 03-04-15 at 08:38 AM. Reason: Clarification from genec about driveways.
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Old 03-04-15, 08:22 AM
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Would probably depend on where you are.

-Out here even formally designated and mapped paved "bike trail" is always concrete and never asphalt.
-"Sidewalks" out here are almost never more than 3' wide (e.g. one bicycle width). Also sidewalk are almost never maintained and are cracked and uneven as hell.
-Out here, "bike path" is always a bi-directional traffic path unto itself (6' minimum)

Which makes it pretty simple...when the sidewalk is so damn narrow and in such terrible shape you basically don't have a choice but to ride in the street, unless said street is an arterial and you have a death wish. Unsurprisingly not many kids ride, because even the neighborhood streets around schools become de-facto arterials in traffic volume with helicpoter-parents dropping kids off from 2 blocks away by car.
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Old 03-04-15, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
Breaking out part of the discussion of teaching children to take the lane and to never ride on sidewalks... I assume that the people who developed this course, teach it, and support it would not object to children riding on a bike path or MUP along a road? EG, an 8' wide asphalt path set 5' or 10' from the roadway.

If you survey elementary and middle schools for kids riding bikes the ones in suburbs with bike paths have much higher numbers than those in suburbs without bike paths. Often schools with no paths have zero kids or maybe one or two while those with paths often have dozens.

If a bike path is OK, when does it become a dangerous sidewalk? When it is only 2' from the road? When it is directly adjacent to the road? When it is made of cement instead of asphalt? When has it become so dangerous that children should be told not to ride to school unless they do so in the traffic lane?
When it becomes driveways.

Sidewalks in of themselves are not dangerous... the fact that motorists may drive across them in certain areas is what makes them dangerous... and driveways are what allow motorists to drive on sidewalks.

There are areas where sidewalks are nothing more than sidewalks for huge distances... those sidewalks are fine for peds and cyclists (as long as the cyclists watch out for the peds), but as soon as a driveway crosses a sidewalk, both peds and cyclists have to watch out for motorists... motorists who often blindly cross sidewalks as an entitlement of using driveways.

Interestingly the same areas where driveways appear can also be dangerous to cyclists riding on the road... as where right turns are allowed is also where right hooks occur... again largely due to the same "entitlement" issue mentioned above.

Thus driveways present a hazard to sidewalk riders, walkers and to those riding right most on the road. TEACH that right turns and driveways can be dangerous to peds and cyclists.

Last edited by genec; 03-04-15 at 08:37 AM.
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Old 03-04-15, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
Would probably depend on where you are. ...
Good points. I assume 'out here' is southwest somewhere? Asphalt gets too soft in heat/sun? 3' would be on the narrow side. Many of ours are 6'-8' wide and in fairly good shape (most are about 10-20 years old and I think better constructed than those in the 70's or prior).
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Old 03-04-15, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
When it becomes driveways.
Our suburban bike paths have both residential and commercial driveways. Should we be telling the hundred or so kids who ride to the local elementary that it's too dangerous on the bike path?
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Old 03-04-15, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
Our suburban bike paths have both residential and commercial driveways. Should we be telling the hundred or so kids who ride to the local elementary that it's too dangerous on the bike path?
Nope... teach to be extra cautious at the driveways... as motorists are rarely cautious due to the entitlement issues from the fact that cities are designed around cars
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Old 03-04-15, 09:31 AM
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There are hazards to be aware of when riding on a sidewalk, but they are often grossly overstated by those who are against doing it. Overall there are fewer potential hazards on the sidewalk compared to the road under most circumstances, and most sidewalk incidents involve new or unskilled cyclists who would be even worse off on the road.

Learn to walk before learning how to run, teach kids to master the challenges of riding on the sidewalk, then teach them how to master the challenges of the road.
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Old 03-04-15, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
Nope... teach to be extra cautious at the driveways... as motorists are rarely cautious due to the entitlement issues from the fact that cities are designed around cars
I drive, my city is designed for motor vehicles...why don't I feel entitled?
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Old 03-04-15, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by kickstart View Post
There are hazards to be aware of when riding on a sidewalk, but they are often grossly overstated by those who are against doing it. Overall there are fewer potential hazards on the sidewalk compared to the road under most circumstances, and most sidewalk incidents involve new or unskilled cyclists who would be even worse off on the road.

Learn to walk before learning how to run, teach kids to master the challenges of riding on the sidewalk, then teach them how to master the challenges of the road.
Excellent observation!
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Old 03-04-15, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by kickstart View Post
There are hazards to be aware of when riding on a sidewalk, but they are often grossly overstated by those who are against doing it. Overall there are fewer potential hazards on the sidewalk compared to the road under most circumstances, and most sidewalk incidents involve new or unskilled cyclists who would be even worse off on the road.
IMO, the "never bike on sidewalks" meme is an unfortunate consequence of vehicular cycling extremism. One of the advantages of cycling is that one can choose to use sidewalks when they are more efficient, convenient, or safe.
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Old 03-04-15, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by 02Giant View Post
my city is designed for motor vehicles...why don't I feel entitled?
Cognitive dissonance.
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Old 03-04-15, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by 02Giant View Post
I drive, my city is designed for motor vehicles...why don't I feel entitled?
Free parking... giant parking lots at all stores, high speed freeways, drive through windows... if you don't feel entitled, it is due to your own personal guilt.
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Old 03-04-15, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by spare_wheel View Post
Cognitive dissonance.
Originally Posted by genec View Post
Free parking... giant parking lots at all stores, high speed freeways, drive through windows... if you don't feel entitled, it is due to your own personal guilt.
Maybe it is time I see a therapist, I think I am missing out.
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Old 03-04-15, 11:41 AM
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Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
Good points. I assume 'out here' is southwest somewhere? Asphalt gets too soft in heat/sun? 3' would be on the narrow side. Many of ours are 6'-8' wide and in fairly good shape (most are about 10-20 years old and I think better constructed than those in the 70's or prior).
Midwest actually. Most residential sidewalks are all kept narrow to 3'ish. The city has paid to put down a nice concrete bidirectional system of bike path (MUT IRL), but it has large gaps in coverage ofc and generally doesn't follow residential streets to schools and the like.

Originally Posted by kickstart View Post
There are hazards to be aware of when riding on a sidewalk, but they are often grossly overstated by those who are against doing it. Overall there are fewer potential hazards on the sidewalk compared to the road under most circumstances, and most sidewalk incidents involve new or unskilled cyclists who would be even worse off on the road.

Learn to walk before learning how to run, teach kids to master the challenges of riding on the sidewalk, then teach them how to master the challenges of the road.
Again, depends on where you are.

Around here you're far more likely to get hit by an airheaded motorist backing out of their driveway riding the sidewalk versus riding the street. Also, most sidewalks (outside of new subdivisions built in last 10 years) are in a condition best described as "worse than a rock slide in the mountains". The concrete tiles are all cracked all the way through at least once, the tiles are in no way even or remotely close to being in the same plane or slope as their neighbor...so if you're a kid learning to ride or even a veteran, riding the sidewalk is an obstacle course of trying to find any line possible that doesn't pinch flat even a mountain bike.

Only things against riding the streets are that the asphalt will rend skin worse and leave road rash.
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Old 03-04-15, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by spare_wheel View Post
IMO, the "never bike on sidewalks" meme is an unfortunate consequence of vehicular cycling extremism. One of the advantages of cycling is that one can choose to use sidewalks when they are more efficient, convenient, or safe.
Yes! I've never understood the desire of some to take away a bicycles natural advantages, and turn it into a car.
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Old 03-04-15, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by 02Giant View Post
Maybe it is time I see a therapist, I think I am missing out.
For sure... you should be enjoying tons of entitlement feelings while cruising about in your rolling couch...

Perhaps you are really a closet cyclist, yearning for the freedoms of the open road offered to motorists, but held back by regular sightings of signs reminding you to "share the road."
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Old 03-04-15, 12:10 PM
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we have a sidewalk "bike path" here in town. I usually ride it when I have studs on my bike, because it takes to long to go down the street in that case and I find all the traffic to be annoying. OTOH, in that case I cut through a parking lot to an alley because going down the sidewalk for the whole block is too dangerous. People don't look before pulling out into the way of traffic on the sidewalk
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Old 03-04-15, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
Breaking out part of the discussion of teaching children to take the lane and to never ride on sidewalks... I assume that the people who developed this course, teach it, and support it would not object to children riding on a bike path or MUP along a road? EG, an 8' wide asphalt path set 5' or 10' from the roadway.

If you survey elementary and middle schools for kids riding bikes the ones in suburbs with bike paths have much higher numbers than those in suburbs without bike paths. Often schools with no paths have zero kids or maybe one or two while those with paths often have dozens.

If a bike path is OK, when does it become a dangerous sidewalk (assuming it still has same driveways and minor road crossings)? When it is only 2' from the road? When it is directly adjacent to the road? When it is made of cement instead of asphalt? When has it become so dangerous that children should be told not to ride to school unless they do so in the traffic lane?
I am from michigan, most children learn to ride on sidewalks if there are sidewalks where they live. In fact when I was growing up if the police caught us under 12 years old riding in the street, we would get a citation we had to have signed by our parents and send it in.

I ride on the sidewalks now frequently, if the traffic is bad.
Just 2 days a go a well known cyclist from West Bloomfield michigan was killed while on vacation in Hawaii riding on a hwy that had very little room for both a car and a bike. He was run down from behind by a cop.

Riding a bike is a very dangerous activity, I have been riding my entire life I dont mind jumping on to the sidewalk when the traffic or hwy is too dangerous.
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Old 03-04-15, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by kickstart View Post
Yes! I've never understood the desire of some to take away a bicycles natural advantages, and turn it into a car.
A bit off topic, but in The Netherlands it's fun to watch junctions where cars have traffic lights and bikeways go underneath and have their own non-signalized junction. Bike riders rarely even need to slow much while drivers are stopped at red lights.
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Old 03-04-15, 01:13 PM
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If there are no curb cuts, then it is a sidewalk. However, the curb cuts are now required in most places making that distinction moot.

We have a few places where the sidewalk/bike path distinction is ambiguous. About 5 or 6 feet wide, separated from the road, but also on-road bike paths on both sides of the road. No driveways for 1/4 to 1/2 mile. And very few pedestrians. One is a "Rails to Trails" project. The other is essentially an extension of that "trail".

If the city wanted to, they could post no bike signs.



However, I think that as long as there are no significant pedestrian/bicycle incidents, they leave the choice up to the cyclists.

There are often inconvenient corners in walking paths. I wonder if these were intentional, or just built by engineers with more aesthetic sense than functional sense.

Here are some Google Shots of one of the paths that I consider to be ambiguous. Marcola Road, just north-east of 42[SUP]nd[/SUP] street, Springfield, OR.

Bike paths (or road shoulders) on both sides of the road, then a Jersey Barrier and a separate path, maybe 5 feet wide or so. Concrete with expansion joints. Depending on where one gets on, there is kind of a wicked S-Turn to get to the right of the jersey barriers. No markings.

I normally stay on the road when heading south-west, but jump to the right of the jersey barrier when heading north-east. This is fairly short, maybe 1/4 to 1/2 mile, then hits a couple of driveways.

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Old 03-04-15, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
On my road bike doing a 20 mph training ride I'd be on the roadway. On my Opafiets riding 12 mph I'd be on the side path. What's the speed limit and actual speed?
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Old 03-04-15, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
If a bike path is OK, when does it become a dangerous sidewalk (assuming it still has same driveways and minor road crossings)?
That strikes me as an unlikely assumption. In most residential suburbs the sidewalks have driveways at every residence - in ours about a third of the total sidewalk space consists of wide driveway crossings. OTOH, the path/walkway through the linear park in our neighborhood runs behind people's houses and has no driveway crossings at all. And the 40 mile long MUP that goes through the neighborhood and connects to nearby towns is along an abandoned RR with road crossings at about one mile intervals and no residential or business driveways.

Collisions tend to occur at intersections where traffic paths can conflict and on a sidewalk every driveway becomes an intersection. I would consider any bike path that has just as many driveway crossings as a typical residential suburban sidewalk to be just as dangerous as the sidewalk and would avoid it.
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Old 03-04-15, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
On my road bike doing a 20 mph training ride I'd be on the roadway. On my Opafiets riding 12 mph I'd be on the side path. What's the speed limit and actual speed?
Hmmm... I'm not quite sure what the speed limit is in that section. Probably 40 or so. That is just right on the edge of town. The last (next) stoplight heading away from town is about 1/2 mile from the path entry, and beyond the end of the separate path, at which point, I think the speed limits resort to 55, but I'm not sure exactly where the transition point is.

Going around the corner and following the path into town, it is a very nice path, but then like many poorly planned paths, it ends abruptly, and for those going into town, one has to hop across a busy 2 lane road. However, the shoulders/paths of the section that is bypassed are poorly maintained with gravel, freeway entrance/exit, etc.

Anyway, I think your assessment is accurate. Fast Road Bike... straight. Slower, not worried about speed/time, take the path.

For me... heading from home to town I'm usually faster than from town to home, and thus, perhaps it is appropriate that I stay on the road heading towards town, then hop onto that section of sidewalk/path heading home.
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Old 03-04-15, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
Our suburban bike paths have both residential and commercial driveways. Should we be telling the hundred or so kids who ride to the local elementary that it's too dangerous on the bike path?
IMHO that is not a bike path, it is a sidewalk, no matter how wide.

The inherent issue with sidewalks is that if someone rides faster than a walking pace there are not visible to cars backing out or turning into drive ways. Same goes with intersections, cyclist may not be visible to even a careful driver.

I am hyper aware of this when driving and get honked at for stopping on a right turn into work, because I saw a kid on the sidewalk and know they will reaching the intersection at about the time I would turn.

I also see tons of kids going to school using the road and not the sidewalk.

So as always "safety" is situational..... lot's of busy drive ways and intersections and kids riding fast = more dangerous, few driveways and intersections and kids going slow = less dangerous.
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Old 03-04-15, 04:17 PM
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I will say that I was "tapped" by a car coming out of a commercial driveway while on the sidewalk years ago. I was probably walking my bike on the sidewalk going in the opposite direction of traffic, and he just didn't see me as his attention would have been in the direction of the traffic. No damage, nothing hurt, but it does illustrate that cars don't expect bikes to be quickly travelling on sidewalks in the opposite direction of traffic... or even those travelling at pedestrian speeds.

I suppose now I'm more likely to divert my course while walking to go behind a car that looks like it is ready to exit a drive, or stop and wait, or at least make sure a driver acknowledges me. Sometimes cut behind the first car and in front of the second car in a line of cars.
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