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Why sidewalks?

Old 02-18-11, 01:31 PM
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Why sidewalks?

I've been wondering this for a while, because if there's not a bike lane, or if the road has virtually no traffic, I stick to the sidewalk.

Why does everyone usually say the road is easier? Besides the fact that it's slightly less bumpy, of course.
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Old 02-18-11, 01:47 PM
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Dunno, but plan to get flamed soon for bringing up the topic. I say this because there are a lotta purists out there that believe that the road is theirs no matter what or when and that impeding motorists (even when legal) is a good idea. Out in these parts, the sidewalk is a good option in a lot of cases. It's legal and there's not much ped traffic on sidewalks (sidewalks are a like a MUP in many towns). It makes a good alternative when bike lanes are covered in snow. Gotta be careful, though, lots of places have ped-only ordinances for sidewalks so the mean looks you get from peds might be justified. There's one main road through town where it's illegal to ride a bike (US 287 through most of Fort Collins city limits) so you have to use the sidewalk. Be careful!
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Old 02-18-11, 01:49 PM
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I'd say the bumpiness factor here is about even for sidewalks & roads.
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Old 02-18-11, 01:53 PM
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I run the sidewalk when I'm going slow. If I plan to ride at any amount of speed though I stay off the sidewalks it seems safer in the road at that point.
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Old 02-18-11, 01:56 PM
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I tend to ride a lot faster than would be safe doing so on sidewalks.
I hate constantly having that anxious feeling and checking over my shoulder at every driveway/entrance I cross.
Sidewalks here are less smooth than the roads on average.
Sidewalks are present on only a small percentage of my commuting route and I like getting motorists used to seeing bikes on the road.
Sidewalks are rarely adequately cleared during snowy times of the year, so again, it is best to get the motorists used to seeing me on the road.
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Old 02-18-11, 01:58 PM
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Was admonished in Britain, sidewalks 'are for people and [their] dogs'..

well .. Out here the roads are for trucks full of Logs,
and without wide highway shoulders, I'm on the sidewalk.
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Old 02-18-11, 02:06 PM
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Sidewalks where I live are in horrible disrepair, and poorly laid out... they appear and disappear with no warning, sometimes there are huge trash cans, trucks, cracks, or even telephone poles smack in the middle. They are not ridable at any decent speed without risking killing yourself, and that's not including how dangerous it is to cross intersections there... cars aren't looking for traffic on sidewalks, only pedestrians (if you're lucky).

Maybe in your town the sidewalks are wide, straight, well-kept and unobstructed, but not here.
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Old 02-18-11, 02:19 PM
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A common cause of bike accidents are from cars at intersections not expecting bikes (or any kind of traffic really) coming from the sidewalk. Sidewalks are not maintained to be a smooth even surface. In my neighborhood, its not uncommon to come upon a 8" to 1' drop on the sidewalk. Even though it may feel safer, the sidewalk can be much more dangerous. Also, if you have pedestrians present, bikes can be a danger to pedestrians when sidewalks are narrow (particularly dogs, small children, strollers, ect).

Of course, these are just generalities. There are many cases where I know the area and I know the condition of the sidewalk and the road traffic is too fast and too dense to be passable. In those cases, I'll take the sidewalk, but I'm extra careful at parking lot exits and intersections. You have to assume that no one sees you when you are on the sidewalk and take it extra slow.
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Old 02-18-11, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by FunkyStickman
Sidewalks where I live are in horrible disrepair, and poorly laid out... they appear and disappear with no warning, sometimes there are huge trash cans, trucks, cracks, or even telephone poles smack in the middle. They are not ridable at any decent speed without risking killing yourself, and that's not including how dangerous it is to cross intersections there... cars aren't looking for traffic on sidewalks, only pedestrians (if you're lucky).

Maybe in your town the sidewalks are wide, straight, well-kept and unobstructed, but not here.
That sounds like the roads in boise
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Old 02-18-11, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by cpt. Howdy
I've been wondering this for a while, because if there's not a bike lane, or if the road has virtually no traffic, I stick to the sidewalk.

Why does everyone usually say the road is easier? Besides the fact that it's slightly less bumpy, of course.
Cars are not looking for vehicle speed traffic on side walks especially headed in the opposite direction.
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Old 02-18-11, 02:37 PM
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As an example, one day I was riding down a block-long hill. There was a girl riding on the sidewalk about 30 feet in front of me at about the same speed.

Then a car pulled out of the alley at the bottom of the hill and stopped as she was supposed to to make a right turn onto the street I was on. The girl ran smack into the side of the car and got thrown over the hood. Since I was the oncoming traffic that the car stopped for, I guess that I was to blame for the accident.

Sidewalks are dangerous places to ride. There are many impediments that can happen suddenly and without warning. Sidewalks are designed for a top speed of just a few miles per hour, slower than a bike goes. As the girl demonstrated, drivers are not looking out for you barreling along a sidewalk. And, for example, here in Little Rock, it's illegal to ride on a sidewalk in a business district.

And, in general, the street is faster.
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Old 02-18-11, 02:41 PM
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Riding a sidewallk increases your chances of getting hooked or crossed. Get out on the road where cars can see you/are looking for other vehicles.
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Old 02-18-11, 02:44 PM
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Jerks who ride on the sidewalks roll over my shrubberies to avoid peds. The street is a designated Bike Boulevard no less.
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Old 02-18-11, 02:50 PM
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I almost got hit by a car while riding on the sidewalk. I was on the sidewalk, going across a side street (going in the same direction as traffic) when a car started making a right turn onto that same side street. Luckily we both hit the brakes when we were about 2 feet away from each other, so no one was hurt. But the driver called out "Sorry, I didn't see you!" I'm sure that if I had been riding in the road, he would have seen me.

That was the turning point that got me to start riding in the street.
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Old 02-18-11, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by cpt. Howdy
I've been wondering this for a while, because if there's not a bike lane, or if the road has virtually no traffic, I stick to the sidewalk.

Why does everyone usually say the road is easier? Besides the fact that it's slightly less bumpy, of course.
A friend of mine got T-boned crossing a blind driveway on the side walk.
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Old 02-18-11, 03:26 PM
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In urban areas there are crosswalks at intersections that cars must stop behind. Drivers are used to seeing peds crossing at intersections and will look for them. However, bikes aren't allowed on sidewalks in many urban areas.

In residential areas where bikes are allowed on sidewalks, there are fewer signals at intersections, fewer marked crosswalks, and fewer peds. Cars pull into the area where a crosswalk normally would be in order to get a better view of traffic coming from the left. They aren't looking for faster moving traffic entering the intersection from the sidewalk.
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Old 02-18-11, 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by cpt. Howdy
Why does everyone usually say the road is easier? Besides the fact that it's slightly less bumpy, of course.
1. In my area you are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk if you are over the age of 16 I believe (no need to get hassled by cops)
2. People not recognizing if something is moving at speed when backing up or pulling into driveways and/or parking lots (no need to get hit)
3. No need to dodge walkers, joggers, baby carriages, dogs on leashes, or any other normal obstruction on sidewalks.
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Old 02-18-11, 03:39 PM
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Sidewalks are very different from location to location. I remember some time ago somebody here posted a picture of a "sidewalk" next to a very busy 4-lange highway. From the picture it looked like a very well maintained, wide, completely empty sidewalk. I wouldn't have a problem riding on something like that (I probably would mistake it for a MUP).

But than there are sidewalks in busy commercial/shopping districts that are crowed with pedestrians, and you probably would get lynched riding your bike there. Like other's have said, some are in bad disrepair and you'll get a flat. Often you will find that if you decide to go on a sidewalk you have to go as slow as pedestrians for your own safety and that of pedestrians (esp. children).

Also, remember if you merge from a sidewalk into the street you have to be very cautious because no motorist will expect you to jet out from nowhere.

Last but defintely not least it is illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalk in many parts of the world.
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Old 02-18-11, 03:42 PM
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The only time I have ever been hit by a car when riding a bicycle was when I was on the sidewalk.

Car drivers are often focused looking at the road traffic and not sidewalk traffic. A pedestrian is slow enough to stop on their own and dodge. Bike speeds can make it too late for you to stop.

In my case, the truck drove over the bike. I reacted quickly enough to get off the bike when it was already partially under the wheel. Driver heard a crunching sound, so he backs up over the bike a SECOND time. Thus, I could have been run over TWICE in one day.

For that reason, I dislike sidewalks unless I am travelling very slowly.
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Old 02-18-11, 03:57 PM
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I guess I'm one of the lucky ones. I live in Jacksonville (The biggest city in the USA, by landmass) which makes getting from one end of town to the other around 30 miles by bike, but most of it is very well paved for sidewalks, they are wide, empty(If there is a pedestrian I'll yield to the grass between the road and pavement), and level, (Except for bumps at every driveway, and parking lot of course.) I stop at every crosswalk, even if I have the signal, and double check, just to be sure. I guess in that respect it would be alot easier to ride in the road, other then that, when weighed with the overly aggressive drivers here, I've always personally thought I was safer on the pavement than the asphalt.
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Old 02-18-11, 04:04 PM
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I tend to ride a mix of road and sidewalk here in DC. If it is a major road, I stick to the sidewalk because the traffic is either too much or moving too fast for me to feel safe. However, I prefer riding in the street because it is less bumpy and I don't have to worry about hitting a pedestrian. I should note, I have never hit a pedestrian, it's more just an annoyance to have to basically stop and say excuse me (saying "on your left" only confuses most pedestrians) every time I try to pass someone.

If there is a bike lane, that is by far my favorite (although not perfect, I believe bike lanes in DC should go on the other side of parked cars so that taxi's don't just use it as a place to pull over, but that is a whole other debate).
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Old 02-18-11, 05:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt
Cars are not looking for vehicle speed traffic on side walks especially headed in the opposite direction.
^This.
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Old 02-18-11, 07:56 PM
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if there was significant sidewalk bicycle traffic, motorists would change their mind about the advisability of sidewalk riding. Just as an example, there is one road that I cross occasionally in my car. I have to check for traffic right/left/straight, check for cyclists in the bike lanes both right way and wrong way, and then check for sidewalk riders, both right way and wrong way. There is just enough traffic that it's really impossible to know that you aren't going to collide with a sidewalk rider.

There is a bike path on my commute that goes for one block along a sidewalk. One day, I was almost hit by a motorist doing a right turn on red, a motorist coming out of a restaurant (wrong way), and a motorist coming out of a bank. That was one of the incidents that led me to take to the road. That really hasn't been too bad even though the motorists probably think I should be on the sidewalk/bike path.

Pedestrians and bicycles are a much worse mix than cyclists and cars. 4' is really about the minimum space needed by a bicycle. The idea that we should share a 4' sidewalk with pedestrians seems laughable to everyone but road planners.

The idea that we impede traffic to any degree is really overblown. I think I slowed down one motorist on my 10 mile commute; they were going to turn right about a block after they caught up with me so they didn't pass. This probably cost them 10 seconds.
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Old 02-18-11, 09:38 PM
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I've read over and over that cyclists tend to be hit more crossing an entrance into a lot/driveway on the sidewalk than they do on the road because motorists aren't looking for something going that fast on a sidewalk.
I don't know how accurate that is but if it is true, I'll stick to the roads where the cars can actually see me.
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Old 02-18-11, 09:39 PM
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Originally Posted by musikguy
I've read over and over that cyclists tend to be hit more crossing an entrance into a lot/driveway on the sidewalk than they do on the road because motorists aren't looking for something going that fast on a sidewalk.
I don't know how accurate that is but if it is true, I'll stick to the roads where the cars can actually see me.
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