More people than ever across the United States have been making the switch to riding bikes instead of driving everywhere, especially in cities. The increased interest in bicycling is great news for the climate and for riders’ health, but the transition has come with some growing pains. In most cities, heated fights between pedestrians and bicyclists who want to ride on sidewalks fall into this category.
Making the switch to bike riding in the city can be stressful, especially in places where bicyclists must share the road with often inattentive drivers. Many new riders wind up on sidewalks instead of on roads when there aren’t dedicated bike lanes. Before taking this approach, read on to find out about six things to keep in mind.
UK Readers if you’re thinking of cycling during your next United States vacation, read on:
1. Riding on Sidewalks Is Often Illegal
In most large cities, it’s illegal for bike riders over the age of 13 to use sidewalks. The reasoning is simple: riding on the sidewalk can lead to accidents with pedestrians. There are usually bike lanes in these cities, and when there aren’t, drivers are expected to share the road.
People who choose to ride on the sidewalks, whether it’s legal or not, may wind up needing assistance from Uvalle Law Firm if they injure pedestrians or damage property as a result of their decisions. Though lawyers usually handle fewer claims from pedestrians injured by bicyclists than bicyclists injured by drivers, these cases are not unheard of.
2. Pedestrians Feel Endangered When Bicyclists Ride On Sidewalks
Most bicyclists who choose to ride on sidewalks do so because they feel endangered by cars and trucks on the roads. Keep in mind, though, that pedestrians feel unsafe when they encounter bicyclists on their sidewalks. They’re not expecting to have vehicles, even small, people-powered ones, coming up quickly from behind them, and dealing with inconsiderate bicyclists can be very frustrating for pedestrians.
Expect some raised fists and voices from people walking on the sidewalks when riding bikes in their territory. If there’s no way to safely ride on the road, and there are no laws in place to prevent bicyclists from taking up pedestrians’ space, the sidewalk may still be the best option. Be polite, though, and slow down to avoid startling people or increasing the risk of accidents.
3. Sidewalks Aren’t Always Safer
It may look like the sidewalk will be a safer bet for riding on a busy road, but that’s not always the case. Riding on sidewalks doesn’t entirely remove the threat of car accidents. In fact, it can increase the chances of getting into a crash because bicyclists who ride on sidewalks are less visible to motorists, who may not notice them using crosswalks or biking past driveways.
When riding on sidewalks, slow down when passing driveways, and stop at major intersections. In an ideal world, drivers would take bicyclist safety more seriously. In the real world, it’s often up to bike riders to make sure they’re visible enough to drivers whether they’re on the sidewalks or on the roads.
4. Bike Infrastructure Is Expanding
As bike riding becomes a more popular way to get exercise and get around cities, many municipalities are expanding necessary infrastructure by installing dedicated bike paths and bike lanes. Some of these bike lanes are protected, meaning they feature physical barriers to separate cyclists from automotive traffic. Most aren’t, though, which means inattentive drivers can still cross the white line and endanger bike riders.
Unfortunately, not every city has it in the budget to expand bike infrastructure. Even installing unprotected bike lanes can cost up to $50,000 per mile. There’s not always enough room for bike lanes, either, since traffic-heavy cities can’t always afford to give up parallel parking spaces.
Given that dedicated bike lanes can significantly reduce sidewalk riding without jeopardizing the safety of bicyclists, it’s important for cities to expand their infrastructure. Bike riders who live in places that don’t have bicyclist-friendly laws and infrastructure can take action by advocating for bike lane installation in their cities.
5. There Are Many Solutions to Reducing Sidewalk Riding
Though protected bike lanes have received a lot of attention in recent years, they’re not the only solution for reducing sidewalk riding. In cities with slow-moving traffic, unprotected bike lanes will do just fine, and installing them will cause less of a burden on the city’s budget. Alternatively, if there are areas to install dedicated bike and pedestrian paths, that’s often a good way to encourage residents to get out and get active.
Dedicated bike paths usually have clearer signage, and pedestrians have the expectation that they will be around bike riders. If there’s space for bike paths in a city, this can be an excellent alternative to both sidewalks and roads.
6. Sidewalk Riding Can Be Viewed as a Growing Pain
Until recently, it was rare to see adults out riding bikes. Most people learned how to ride as children, especially if they grew up in rural or suburban areas without as many cars, but few continued to put that knowledge to good use once they got their licenses and learned how to drive.
These days, more people are adopting bike riding as a means of improving physical fitness, reducing commuting times, and minimizing carbon footprints, and that transition is bound to come with some growing pains. Sidewalk riding may be one of them.
As new bike riders become more comfortable with their skills, they often start to ride on roads where traffic allows it. Similarly, pedestrians are starting to get used to seeing bicyclists on sidewalks in places where there are no better options. Bike riders can ease these growing pains by being polite and riding safely, and pedestrians can try paying more attention to their surroundings so they aren’t taken by surprise when a bike is sharing the sidewalk.
Sidewalk Riding Is Often a Personal Choice
Most experienced bike riders prefer to stick to paved roads, even if it means competing for space with cars. On roads or in dedicated bike lanes, they can ride faster, and they don’t have to worry about harming themselves, their bikes, or
nearby pedestrians. That said, there are some circumstances where riding on the sidewalk is the only safe option. When that’s the case, be careful, be polite, and pay attention to pedestrians.