Bike Lanes and Sidewalks

Discussion in 'Commuting and Road Safety' started by Steve7, Sep 20, 2011.

  1. Steve7

    Steve7 New Member

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    Let me start by saying I'm new to commuting and I haven't even started yet but have a bike on order and plan to start in the next month or so.

    Today I drove down the roads that I mapped out for my commute. Most of the reason why I picked this road is because it's labeled as bike friendly and has a little bike lane. It's pretty high traffic and not unusual for traffic to be at a standstill for a few minutes here and there before anyone moves.

    One thing I noticed as I was driving down this road is there were a ton of people halfway in the bike lane while traffic was at a stop, so much so that even on a bike there probably wouldn't be room to pass without running into the curb or into their vehicle.

    So my question is when is it acceptable to ride on the sidewalk instead of the bike lane? Do I stop at each vehicle that is in the lane, hop over the curb and on the sidewalk then off the sidewalk again and back in the bike lane? Or do I ride on the sidewalk (there are little to no pedestrians) and avoid having to go back and fourth? There were a few other cyclists using the sidewalk instead of the bike lane, but it was my understanding that it's not good practice.

    When is it acceptable (if at all) to use a sidewalk instead of a bike lane?
     
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  2. jpr95

    jpr95 Active Member

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    I totally avoid sidewalks.
     
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  3. dabac

    dabac Well-Known Member

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    It's usually not only "not good practise", but actually illegal to ride on the sidewalk. Obviously, doing so will not make you public enemy no 1, so you may well get away with it anyhow - but who knows?
    But while it'd probably take a really grumpy cop to stop you if you're only using the sidewalk in order to pass an obstacle, there'd be quite a few more ready to act if you're using the sidewalk as your preferred lane of travelling.
     
  4. whuppingboy

    whuppingboy New Member

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    I am a bit biased as i've been on the end of a fine because i went on the pavement when no cycle lane was available.
    So here's my guidelines.
    If a car is in the bike lane scrawk ya handlebars down the side, if a car totally blocks the cycle lane then lift ya bike up on ya shoulder and walk over the car.

    No only joking... I would not go on the pavement just hang behind them and bring it to their attention when you take over...'Old chap, would you mind not positioning your automobile over ones cycle lane? as one finds it terribly difficult to pass when you are stationary. Thankyou kindly.'


    LOL
     
  5. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    Ride on the sidewalk? No thanks. Cars are at least an order of magnitude more predictable than pedestrians are. Besides, the lane, which ever I take, is wider on the road than on a sidewalk.
     
  6. Moto700

    Moto700 Member

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    I guess that depends on what you mean by good practice. And it depends on where you live as to what the law says so making a statement like "actually illegal to ride on the sidewalk" is a bit overstated. Fact is it may be illegal in some jurisdictions but not in others. Here, in Houston, the only restriction against riding on sidewalks is that it is illegal to do so in a business district. As facr as cars being more predictable than pedestrians, don't forget who drives those cars. Pedestrians. Behind the wheel. Of 2-3 tons of steel, rubber and plastic.
    Sometimes drunk.
    Do you have the right to a traffic lane? Absolutely. But what is this a question about? The right to travel in the same lane as cars or doing so safely. My answer is sometimes you can't have both. I am fortunate enough that in my daily commute I can take side streets through residential areas and I'm on the street. But there are times when I need to take a major traffic route. I only do so long enough to get from one side street to another and then I am on the sidewalk and sometimes passing by cops who wouldn't be on the street on a bike themselves and also have better things to do.
    My advise? Find out what your laws and ordinances say . Next use your own good judgement. It's not someone else out there risking injury/death, it's you.
    There is such a thing, as I heard recently, as being dead right.
    BTW, the ones who say they never ride the sidewalk are the ones who probably never rode there bike across campus while in college.
     
  7. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    Incorrect assumptions about what people actually said aside, you've made some presumptions that just don't stand up to scrutiny. For example, your statement about who apparently hasn't pedaled across a college campus has no factual basis and really doesn't support your position at all. It does detract from your credibility. It's likely that a fair number of people--certainly a few here on this forum--are well aware of potential dangers associated with riding on the road. It's also likely that a lot of folks are cognizant of potential dangers of riding on sidewalks.

    As for the predictability of pedestrians versus car drivers, I'll stand by statements. Traffic flow is pretty well confined to traveling in well defined directions and operating with codified behavior. Is this always the case? Of course not, but the divergence of traffic from well defined lanes and directions of travel is likely much less than the quasi-random behavior of pedestrians who are not required to travel in any particular direction on a sidewalk. This idea of quasi-random pedestrian behavior is easily seen while pedaling across some of the college campuses across which you claim some folks must never pedal. From my experience pedaling across and around college campuses (umm, not on sidewalks), I feel much safer on the roads.
     
  8. Moto700

    Moto700 Member

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    Well, I guess I've been put in my place by the forum troll. LMFAO/img/vbsmilies/smilies/ROTF.gif
     
  9. An old Guy

    An old Guy Member

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    Sidewalks and multi-use-paths seem to be different names for the same concept. People seem to get along well on multi-use-paths regardless of what they are using - bicycles, skateboards, strollers, shank's mare.

    It does seem ill advised to attempt to keep up speed on a bicycle where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic or lots of places where people can enter the sidewalk (like business entrances). But then it seems ill advised to bicycle on roads under certain conditions.
     
  10. nfeht

    nfeht New Member

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    I ride with the cars. I establish my lane and defend it with a vengence. I dont really differentiate what roads are bike friendly (save highways) I commute in philly everywhere by bike (i have no car) and if there isnt a lane i just set myself up in the lane and the cars deal. I travel faster than the cars in the city anyway (red lights are yields to me). The more you ride with traffic the more comfortable you get. I also find riding with taxi's is safer. sounds counter productive with their aggressive driving but they look for bikes more often before turning or changing lanes and avoid contact with you. until your comfortable with cars nearly touching you at times i'd stick to roads with a bike lane and just hold the lane. if they go into the lane at a light just go around to the front of the red light if there is room and it is safe to move around the cars. otherwise just sit behing the car and wait for the light to change. as I became more comfortable and a more skilled rider i ride through smaller spaces to the front without hesitation but that took a lot of time.

    Also another good habit I've found is that even if you can track stand if you are waiting behind a car or at a light/stop sign for any bit of time or to allow a car to cross/ pedestrian, put a foot on the ground. its a very simple way for the car or pedestrian to realize that you are actually coming to a complete stop.

    If a car is trying to merge into my lane ahead of me and is hesitating because im in the lane I give a thumbs up and motion to signal that its ok (if there is room). I used to just motion that it was ok but cars kept missinterpreting that as a "get out of my way" and didnt like it.
     
  11. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    Wow! None of that is good advice for anyone. Your generalizations and assumptions have pretty much no basis in reality. Perhaps you'll learn and won't end up under a car, a bus, or even one of those super reliable taxis that are driven by cab drivers that look out so much more for bike riders.

    Meanwhile, support for cycling likely decreases when people watch you blow lights. You are aware, aren't you, that if you get creamed blowing one of those lights, you'll have little legal recourse. Yeah, I know you're super aware and super experienced, but alas, it doesn't show in much of what you claim you do. You probably look way cool doing it though, and that's one of the most important aspects of posing. The ignorance is just an added bonus.
     
  12. Ike90

    Ike90 New Member

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    As you can clearly see, the debate as to whether bicyclists should ever use sidewalks generates passionate responses from those who are simply too rugged and macho to ever ride on a sidewalk, and from those who have determined that only their opinions and advice are valid.

    I use sidewalks when they are purposed as access points to bike paths, but otherwise I avoid them. I would say use them if they make you feel safer, but that's generally not a good idea in commercial/business districts.
     
  13. Moto700

    Moto700 Member

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    As I've pointed out in this thread I try and avoid major streets and when I must I use sidewalks. But 90% of my biking is on side streets. Here in Houston the only local ordinance, that I am aware of, that pertains to bike on sidewalks is that the cannot be on sidewalks in a "business district". Problem is Houston does not have zoning laws that identify what a business district is. As a general rule when I am downtown among the high rise office buildings I'm on the street. I feel more comfortable on the streets downtown than I do on a major street outside of downtown. I agree with your post which is to use my best judgement and much of that is time of day, where the sun is in the sky in relation to my direction of travel, weather and traffic conditions. One of the biggest influences in my decision is the condition of the road itself. The are some streets in Houston that even if the where a bike only surface I wouldn't use. Yeah, they are that bad.
     
  14. BikeCommuter

    BikeCommuter New Member

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    [SIZE= medium]From my long experience as a bicycle commuter I know that sidewalks are no place to ride a bicycle. Sidewalks are more dangerous than riding on the street. Other vehicles or people are not expecting to see a bicycle on the sidewalk or crossing the many interruptions to the sidewalk such as entrances and exits to shopping or intersections. I have seen bicyclist hit by cars when coming off a sidewalk more than once. Cars do not expect a bicycle to come off the sidewalk at intersections and are not looking for it. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE= medium]When riding on the street with traffic you can move more efficiently and faster, much faster. You flow with the traffic. You don’t have all the interruptions and obstacles. My goal as a bike commuter is to move down the road, not fight an obstacle course dodging whatever might be on the sidewalk. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE= medium]Where I live (Washington DC and surrounding area) it is illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk for very good reason. People have been killed on sidewalks when hit by bicycles. It happens. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE= medium]Another very good reason to stay off the sidewalk is when you are riding a bicycle on the sidewalk you give up all your legal rights as a vehicle. On the street you are considered a vehicle and have all the rights a vehicle on the road has. If you are in an accident you have legal rights. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE= medium]As referred to in an earlier post and probably the most important reason to stay off the sidewalk with a bicycle is there are rules on the road that keep travel consistent and predictable. There are no rules on the sidewalk![/SIZE]
     
  15. BikeCommuter

    BikeCommuter New Member

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    [SIZE= medium]I agree with you. I yield at lights. It’s better for me and its better for traffic. When running a light, I usually separate myself from traffic. Traffic like everything moves in bunches; there are a bunch of cars/trucks then none. Yielding at lights puts you in these breaks in traffic. [/SIZE]
     
  16. Moto700

    Moto700 Member

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    I've lived and worked in DC for several years in the past. Try explaining your rights to a foreign diplomat or a cab driver from Biafra. Nothing can convince me that drivers in DC are more "civilized" than other major metro areas. After all driving the beltway around DC id where I learned to change lanes and reload at the same time. Come to Houston, the 3dr laregst metro area in the US, and you'll be riding the side streets within a week.
     
  17. BikeCommuter

    BikeCommuter New Member

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  18. Cory Roussel

    Cory Roussel New Member

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    In most places riding on the sidewalk is both dangerous and illegal however, the decision does take careful consideration, and some may actually justifiably decide it safer to ride PRIMARILY on the sidewalk, though any serious cyclist will very rarely use it. The most important justification for riding on the sidewalk is: speed.. If you're the type who likes to ride a bike at a slow, leisurely pace, perhaps a beach cruiser or cheap "NEXT" wal-mart mountain bike, you're better off keeping your speed below 7mph, and very carefully staying on the sidewalk or on neighborhood streets, careful to yield COMPLETELY to any drivers pulling in or out of driveways, as well as pedestrians. There are reasons more serious cyclists / commuters may want to ride the sidewalk:

    - You may want to ride the sidewalk IF:
    - You're anything but VERY VISIBLE. If cars can't see you, get off the road or eventually you will get hit!
    - You're riding 25mph slower than passing vehicles on busy roads. That means if you're on a busy 35mph road, and you can't maintain 10-15 mph, you should just get off onto the sidewalk.
    - You've got a damaged bike, bad brakes and the like
    - There will be a lot of drinkers on the road. Here in Baton Rouge, near LSU, that means in certain times and places I'll ride slow on the sidewalk just because I'm surrounded by 18 year olds full of liquor driving like maniacs everywhere...

    - When you do ride the sidewalk:
    - Don't exceed 5-7mph.
    - Since you're using a surface not intended for you, YIELD TO EVERYONE COMPLETELY, expect no one to yield to you, you're in the wrong.
    - Be aware that drivers backing out of driveways are likely to pull out right in front of you
    - Be aware small children and pets can pop out when you least expect them
    - Alert any pedestrians or other cyclists to passing, give them plenty of room, and don't pass to fast
    - Only jump into the road if the car behind you will have PLENTY of time to react, and even then may be offended that you would do that, even if you're capable of matching his speed.

    There are more than a few reasons for not riding the sidewalk: pedestrians, legality, unexpected obstacles, curbs, abrupt ends to the sidewalk, even worse surfaces than the road, more difficult to maintain speed, even more unpredictable to drivers who are constantly wondering if you'll veer out into the road, people turning into and out of driveways at high speed that don't want to yield to you since you're not following the law nor are you visible, the list goes on...

    Like I said, I find I very rarely have to ride the sidewalk now that I ride a bike efficient enough to maintain 12mph+, know to wear bright neon colors and have learned about cycling safety
     
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  19. Moto700

    Moto700 Member

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    After reading your post you make some excellent points and agree with everything you say, however I would add that you should know what your local laws are as well. You make the point "In most places riding on the sidewalk is both dangerous and illegal...". Here in Houston the local bicycle ordinance states "No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk in the City of Houston within a business district or where prohibited by sign." Local law enforcement generally interpets this to mean the downtown Houston area. In downtown Houston the safest place to ride is on the street. My point is to check local and state ordinances that apply to where you live. Ironically enough when I ride the streets in residential areas I am more likely to encounter more people walking down the street, not sidewalks, at certain times of the day then I am cars.
     
  20. cheezyc

    cheezyc New Member

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    The problem with riding on side walks is visibility, cars see cars on the road and if your on the road they notice you, when you go on the sidewalk your less likely to be seen by a car turning into a driveway you are crossing, however if the traffic is that slow you may not have a problem. My personal opinion is to mount spring loaded hammers on to your left handle bar to leave a polite little destroyed tail light on any cars in your path. But seriously I prefer to always stay on the road and follow laws and etiquette of the cars.
     
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