It seems to be one of the golden rules of bicycle riding—Don’t ride on the sidewalk. The laws vary by city and county. Some places outlaw sidewalk bicycle riding; others restrict it or don’t say too much about it at all, leaving you to rely on your own common sense.
Bicycle accident attorneys always look at the facts surrounding an accident. For example, were you riding where you shouldn’t have when an accident occurred? Or, is a motorist, pedestrian, or local agency responsible for maintaining the streets and sidewalks liable for a breach of duty?
It’s not uncommon to see cyclists riding on sidewalks. They’re often amateurs who don’t know better or are too naïve to realize they’re putting themselves and countless others in danger. Nonetheless, they’re engaging in dangerous behavior. As any bike safety advocate knows, navigating bicycles on a sidewalk is dangerous because:
- Pedestrians are in danger: Cyclists travel much faster than people who walk, children who play, or those who might be stopped to talk to a friend or eat a snack. Even a moderate-speed crash can severely injure a pedestrian and a bicycle rider.
- Cars use sidewalks too: The places cars are present at sidewalks, such as driveways and parking lot entrances/exits, are where motorists won’t see an oncoming bicyclist. Motorists tend to stop at the edge of a road, where cars may be, rather than near the sidewalk.
- Bicyclists are hidden at intersections: Cyclists who ride on the sidewalk are invisible to motorists on the road. Parked cars, trees, and various objects can obscure a cyclist, so a motorist can neither see or predict where they will be or are moving.
Why Do Cyclists Sometimes Prefer Sidewalks?
The streets can be pretty intimidating. In many cities, there aren’t any bicycle lanes to keep a cyclist separate from much larger, faster moving vehicles. A cyclist may simply feel safer on the sidewalk, when in fact that’s not really the case. Also, roadways may be poorly maintained, with potholes, uneven pavement, and grates that are raised or placed where they can be potentially hazardous. Speeding drivers make the streets more intimidating for cyclists as well.
How to Ride on the Sidewalk Safely
As a bicyclist, you always want to minimize the danger. But you always need to follow the law in your city or county. If sidewalk cycling is permitted under certain circumstances, and you have no other option, your safety can be improved by:
- Riding slowly
- Giving pedestrians the right-of-way
- Crossing intersections/driveways cautiously
- Only crossing at crosswalks
- Walking your bike whenever required
Also, helmets and other protective gear should be worn at all times, regardless of the rider’s age, no matter what the law says. A helmet can significantly reduce the chances of a head injury or fatality. But safe cycling is the only way to prevent accidents.
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