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To Ride or Not to Ride on the Sidewalk

Should You Ride your Bike on the Sidewalk?

As a regular bike rider, you’ve probably heard it before: never ride on the sidewalk. If you don’t follow this rule to a tee, then you’re more likely to crash – or so they say. In some cases, it may even be illegal. While riding on sidewalks is not outlawed throughout the state, there are many cities and counties which restrict the behavior, including Folsom and Galt in Sacramento County.

However, go down any major street in your neighborhood and chances are you’ll find a good number of cyclists riding on the sidewalk. Are they just a bunch of negligent amateurs who will eventually hurt themselves and/or others if they don’t change their ways? Maybe so, but before we reach any conclusions, let us break down the reasons why this behavior has been deemed dangerous in the first place.

Bike safety advocates assert that riding on the sidewalk is dangerous for the following reasons:

  1. Pedestrians are put at risk. Sidewalks can be full of people walking, playing, eating, and generally being oblivious to their surroundings. If a cyclist hits a pedestrian at even moderate speeds, it can result in serious injuries for both parties.
  2. It may sound counterintuitive, but cars use sidewalks all the time – at parking lot entrances and exits, driveways, and so on. And when they do, they usually stop at the edge of the road, not the edge of the sidewalk, because their primary concern is other cars. Most won’t spot a speeding bicyclist coming their way until it’s too late …
  3. Intersections become especially dangerous. As with all vehicles, visibility and predictability are the keys to safety. When a bicyclist approaches an intersection on the sidewalk, he or she may be obscured by parked cars, trees, and other obstructions, making it harder for motorists to react in time to avoid a collision.

That being said, it’s not surprising that many riders feel that they need to stick to sidewalks. After all, not all cities are equal when it comes to cycling infrastructure. When there are no adequate bicycle lanes, when the drivers are speeding, when the roads are full of potholes, grates, and other hazards – what else can you do? Sometimes, riding on the sidewalk IS the safer alternative.

We’re not encouraging bicyclists to break the law or put themselves in danger, but if you do need to ride on the sidewalk, then follow these rules to reduce your chance of hurting yourself or someone else:

  • Go slow. Period.
  • Yield to pedestrians. They have the right-of-way.
  • Exercise utmost caution when crossing intersections and driveways.
  • Only cross the street at crosswalks.
  • Walk your bike when necessary.

The bicycle accident attorneys at Wilshire Law Firm hope you have found this article useful. Please stay safe every time you go out for a ride!

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