[Nothing on this blog should be confused for legal advice. I am not a lawyer, public official, or officer of the law. You, the reader, are liable for your own behavior and knowledge.]

Monday, July 23, 2012


Why don't cyclists just ride on the sidewalk?

In virtually all municipalities, it is explicitly against the law to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk (except for young children). It is prohibited for a reason. People regularly underestimate how fast most cyclists travel. Competitive cyclists can reach speeds above 40 miles per hour on a flat stretch of road. Even beginner-level riders, those out for casual rides, and people on recovery rides will travel at average speeds above 10 miles per hour. Even these relatively slow speeds make walking unsafe for the pedestrians for whom sidewalks are intended. Anyone who has been buzzed, let alone struck, by a cyclist on a sidewalk knows how terrifying this can be.

Even if it weren't unsafe, it is simply impractical for cyclists to travel on the sidewalk. There are curbs and other impediments to navigate and hidden driveways that can pose serious danger. Further, there simply aren't enough miles of sidewalk in most places to satisfy the distances that most cyclists cover. Bicycles are vehicles and belong in the road.

I work on a college campus and live in a college town where bicycles tend to be more numerous, but sadly, this increased prominence of bicycles is not regularly accompanied by well-behaving bike owners. Many casual or novice cyclists are simply unaware that riding their bikes on the sidewalks is unsafe, illegal, and rude so it is incumbent on all of us to educate them in a neighborly manner. If you see a person riding his or her bike on the sidewalk, politely inform them of the law. Don't be afraid to contact your local police or sheriff's department and ask that they more consistently enforce the existing laws against bike-riding on sidewalks.

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