Top 5 Rules for Riding on the Sidewalk

The subject of riding bikes on the sidewalks continues to be a hotly debated topic. Despite your stance on the subject, the fact remains that it’s going to happen, so I want to share the top five rules that must be followed when choosing the sidewalk over the road.

Fear is, by far, the biggest motivator for choosing the sidewalk over roads.

Some commuters refuse to ride in the road no matter where they are. While I’ve addressed this subject, many people aren’t comfortable exercising their right to the road and want the perceived safety of riding on the sidewalk.

There are also other riders (me included) that ride the road 99% of the time, but will hop on the sidewalk in certain instances like a long climb on a two lane road or going around blind turns where the danger of getting hit by a car goes way up.

But before you choose to ride on the sidewalk, there are a couple things to consider…

  • It’s illegal – The law in most areas of the country require bicycles to follow the same rules of the road as other motor vehicles. In essence, riding your bike down the sidewalk is the same as if you hopped the curb and started rolling it in your car.
  • It’s dangerous – Riding the sidewalk has it’s own set of dangers that many people never think about. Getting right hooked, cars pulling out of driveways, hitting pedestrians, etc are all things that have to be carefully watched for.

I’m in no way encouraging you to break the law or put yourself in danger, but if you do decide to ride your bike on the sidewalk, following these five rules and will greatly reduce your chance of getting a ticket or getting hurt.

  1. GO SLOW – This is the chief of all rules for riding on the sidewalk. All the other rules fall under this one. You should never ride faster than a relaxed jog. The sidewalk is built for pedestrians, so you should not be going faster than them. Pedaling fast down the sidewalk is a perfect way to get hurt, hurt someone else, or get pulled over by a cop.
  2. Yield to pedestrians – If you come up behind people walking, be very polite and wait for a good time to ask them to let you pass. Never come up behind them yelling, ringing a bell or anything else that could startle or scare them. You are trespassing on their terrain so be courteous.
  3. Check every cross street and driveway – This is the dangerous part! Drivers are used to pulling all the way up to the road before coming to a stop and turning onto the street you’re following. Make sure when coming up to a driveway or cross street that you slow down and check to make sure a car isn’t coming. They aren’t looking for fast moving vehicles to be coming off the sidewalk, so you have to be watching for them!
  4. Only cross the street at crosswalks – A good way to get hit by a car is to come darting off the sidewalk into the street randomly. Again, remember that drivers aren’t looking for people to jump off the sidewalks into traffic randomly. If you need to cross the street, wait until you get to a cross walk and do it there.
  5. Be willing to walk your bike – If you regularly ride on the sidewalk, there are going to be lots of times where the best decision is to get off your bike and walk for a bit. This is usually due to congestion. When there are just too many people around that you risk hitting one of them, it’s time to walk. Constantly keep it in your mind that you can get off your bike and walk if things seem “iffy”.

If there’s ever a time that you decide it’s better to ride on the sidewalk than the street, follow these rules to stay safe and avoid a ticket.

Photo Credit: moriza

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