Get off the sidewalk!

Source: Des Moines Bicycle Collective Commuter Corner

Every summer we get to see a new crop of cyclists trying to get to work, the store, someplace. Many of them are trying to get there on a sidewalk, no doubt thinking the sidewalk is the most secure way to travel on a bicycle. They quickly realize the bumpy ride and the constant stopping and starting of sidewalk cycling is no fun. Frequently they hang up their wheels and move on to some new means of getting around.

Some things you should know about traveling on the sidewalk:

  • in many localities the sidewalk is intended solely for pedestrians. Bicycles are prohibited and are expected to be out in traffic.
  • sidewalks tend to be extremely dangerous for cyclists.

Why is a sidewalk dangerous?

First of all, as you travel on the sidewalk, you keep passing driveways. Cars emerging from these are not expecting to see bicycles or anything moving faster than a pedestrian.

Sidewalk cyclists who travel with the flow of cars (moving on the right side of the street) always complain about vehicles that nearly run them over at intersections as they make right turns. It’s as if the cars didn’t even see the cyclist at the crosswalk. As a general rule, cars are not looking to the sidewalk for fast-moving traffic and are so busy doing other things at sidewalks, they tend to turn right without looking.

Cyclists who travel against the flow (moving on the left side of the street) are subject to even more danger. Drivers turning right on opposing streets seldom twist their necks enough to look at sidewalk traffic. Even pedestrians need to be alert to this.

Another safety issue is that a bicycle is also threatening to pedestrians. This is largely because bicycles normally travel faster than 10 mph while the pedestrian travels at 3. There is particular danger with pedestrians who are distracted walking their dogs or talking with friends. They tend not to see cyclists on the sidewalk ’till the last moment.

So, don’t travel on the sidewalk. If you do find yourself on one for any reason, travel very slowly and be very careful, especially at crosswalks and intersections. It’s much safer to get out in the street. Start traveling on side streets and get used to having traffic pass you. It’s a much more enjoyable experience