Commuting in traffic... Sidewalk anyone?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Commuting in traffic... Sidewalk anyone?

    Hello everyone,

    Never done it, but I am getting very curious about the possibility of commuting 14 miles each way to and from work. I want to for health reason, but do I dear to?

    Main deterrent is that i would have to ride the whole way in three lane traffic in the land where people can't drive in a straight line: South East Florida.

    So, my main question: anyone uses the sidewalk to commute? how annoying does it get to go around pedestrians, etc.?

    Any other advice you may have is also most welcome.

    Thanks in advance.

    J

  2. #2
    Medi
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    When I have to share the road with cars, I use sidewalks instead. The more you commute, the higher your chances of getting hit by a car.
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  3. #3
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    it may be illegal for you to do so. keep in mind.

    lots of discussion about how it is also less safe to do so for very specific reasons (namely, auto traffic exiting/entering side streets/driveways).

    where I live, it is not illegal to do so. still, I avoid it as much as possible. too many close calls. I choose my routes wisely to avoid auto traffic as much as possible.

    inhabiting roads with cars requires paramount attention to visibility, though. lots of discussions here about maximizing visibility here, too.

  4. #4
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    I live in boca raton, and commute all around here, and to delray frequently. I started on the sidewalks, but found out quite quickly that the sidwalks are just as dangerous, if not more dangerous than the road because drivers DONT pay attention to the people on the sidewalks. Weather it be pedestrians OR cyclists. Slowly I made my way to the bike lane, now its pretty comfortable. When there is no bike lane, and you have to share the road it makes you a little more nervous. I usually save that for the daytime, good visibility days.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    lots of discussion about how it is also less safe to do so for very specific reasons (namely, auto traffic exiting/entering side streets/driveways).
    That was another question... do you guys think it is safer on the sidewalk right next to oncoming traffic? At least you can see the cars going in/out of streets and driveways...

    Thanks again,
    J

  6. #6
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    ^^Yeah, you can usually see them, but can you see EVERY car, always? And do you want to stop for every driveway you pass? Figure this- when you`re rolling along, each car comming up behind you is potentially going to turn into one of those driveways, most of them aren`t going to signal before they do it, and some will make the turn at racing speed. If you happen to be just about to ride in front of that driveway at the wrong moment, you`re going to be able to inspect the guy`s exhaust system. From the side of the road, there`s already a big shcnce that you won`t register in a driver`s mind. From the sidewalk, its even less, and if you`re riding "salmon" (against traffic), it`s almost a given that nobody will see you because they`re not even looking in your general direction.

    I occasionally ride a sidewalk too, but be sure you consider first that you`re going to be less visible there than on the street. The more turnoffs and driveways you pass, the worse it gets. That`s where you`re most likely to get nailed.

  7. #7
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    If I wanted to go really slow, break the law, have to dodge pedestrians and make myself less visible, the sidewalk would be a perfect place to ride.
    :wq

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Javier View Post
    That was another question... do you guys think it is safer on the sidewalk right next to oncoming traffic? At least you can see the cars going in/out of streets and driveways...

    Thanks again,
    J
    few things piss me off more as a cyclist than salmon bike riders. minor annoyance when I'm driving, but when I'm riding my bike, the salmon riders are always too scared to be in the road to begin with so they press to the curb and FORCE me out into the lane whether I want to be there or not.

    I heavily favor roads with speed limits of 35mph or slower but I have and will continue to use faster roads when necessary. if you are visible, there is not that much to worry about. no more than you have to worry about if you're driving those same roads.

  9. #9
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    +1 for the 35mph roads. Just curious, are you in west palm?

  10. #10
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    other routes? Google maps by (bike)

    Are you positive the busy road is your only option? Don't think in terms of "most direct route" for your bike commute. The route I drive to work involves freeway and several miles of 6 lane retail/commercial area of town. That route is 9 miles.

    My bike commute is 13 miles. Before attempting the commute I was disappointed in the lack of a "safe" direct route to ride my bike. I found my route by going to google maps, and choosing bicycle as my mode of transportation, (this option is right above where the addresses are typed) .

    The route google picked I had not considered because it seemed to take me so far "out of my way". I was apprehensive of this route because the extra miles seemed counter-intuitive. Turns out the route is wonderful. I've tweaked it a bit, added more distance to avoid traffic, but I really enjoy my ride.

    I don't even think about the extra miles. I think I am lucky, but I avoid heavy traffic and narrow roads on 10 of the 13 miles. Of the 3 remaining miles only one mile lacks a wider shoulder.

    Good luck, and please post how it works out.

    Charlie

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    few things piss me off more as a cyclist than salmon bike riders. minor annoyance when I'm driving, but when I'm riding my bike, the salmon riders are always too scared to be in the road to begin with so they press to the curb and FORCE me out into the lane whether I want to be there or not.

    I heavily favor roads with speed limits of 35mph or slower but I have and will continue to use faster roads when necessary. if you are visible, there is not that much to worry about. no more than you have to worry about if you're driving those same roads.
    AMEN!!!
    salmon riders suck - and sidewalk riders...that's not any practical way to commute - bumpy, slow n go, you have to eye every driver
    what a pain
    Honestly... ahh I give up

  12. #12
    Teen Wolf
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    roads and visibility and balls

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by muayteg View Post
    +1 for the 35mph roads. Just curious, are you in west palm?
    Indeed.

    J

  14. #14
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    Two weeks ago in the next county where the city has sidewalks, I had a guy riding a delta trike salmon style on the sidewalk with his kid in a trailer shake his head at me after I had stopped at the stop line on a red light, saw no pedestrians, and looked left for traffic before my right turn. He was still 20 feet away from the intersection, so no harm no foul. I think that there was a good case to be made for child endangerment, actually.

    BrianMc

  15. #15
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    If I'm on the sidewalk, I'm walking my bike. And never on a commute.
    Amolan

  16. #16
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    In CA, I never rode on sidewalks even on my BMX bike. Even on narrow roads with little to no shoulder, I always stayed on the road. A big reason for that was that the speed limit almost never exceeded 35 mph. I did get mirrored by a car once, but I kept riding in the road and didn't really let it faze me much.

    Once I moved to Va Beach, VA commuting on a bike got way more complicated. Almost every street in town has a 45+mph speed limit. There are generally no shoulders or bike lanes in the road. There are also plenty of terrible drivers. The city widened many sidewalks to make them bike accessible and laid down sections of asphalt bike path around town. If I commute on my road bike, I stay in the road the entire time with the exception of one bit of bike path. If I ride my MTB, I mix in more bike path and some extended side walk because I'm slower.

    The sidewalks are dangerous because drivers pay little to no attention to anyone on them. Intersections and driveways can be very dangerous. If you are in the road, drivers have no choice but to deal with you. However, you are really putting your life in their hands honestly. For that reason, I don't do much road riding out here other than my commute. I stick to the trails for the most part.

    My best advice is to pick your route wisely.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Javier View Post
    Hello everyone,

    Never done it, but I am getting very curious about the possibility of commuting 14 miles each way to and from work. I want to for health reason, but do I dear to?

    Main deterrent is that i would have to ride the whole way in three lane traffic in the land where people can't drive in a straight line: South East Florida.

    So, my main question: anyone uses the sidewalk to commute? how annoying does it get to go around pedestrians, etc.?

    Any other advice you may have is also most welcome.

    Thanks in advance.

    J
    Sidewalks definately have a use when commuting...

    It all depends on the hazards that exist...

    Basically you have to evaluate several different routes (a good bike route almost never follows a good car route)....

    You evaluate each route (sidewalks etc) for all the hazards that are preesent.

    Then you mitigate each hazard....

    Then you select the "best" route and cautiously begin to ride it....as you learn more you will almost certainly adjust the route.

    I have several sections where riding the sidewalks make a lot of sense....I also have places where riding a sidewalk is ridiculous and hazardous...

    Some of the sidewalks I ride have now been signed to allow bike riders on them (normally here it is illegal to ride on a sidewalk). Cops are very forgiving here and unless you are scaring the crap out of people they will leave you alone.

  18. #18
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    My mirror helps a lot.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Javier View Post
    That was another question... do you guys think it is safer on the sidewalk right next to oncoming traffic? At least you can see the cars going in/out of streets and driveways...

    Thanks again,
    J
    Yes it is often safer to ride facing oncoming traffic.....that way you can see the idiots coming...

    On the other hand when crossing an intersection it can massively confuse drivers and thereby cause addtional hazards...

    Every situation is going to be different.

    Most new riders will favour sidewalks and then "graduate" to more road riding....

    It takes guts to "grab a lane" and hold it sometimes, but often that is the smart thing to do.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffscott View Post
    Sidewalks definately have a use when commuting...

    It all depends on the hazards that exist...

    Basically you have to evaluate several different routes (a good bike route almost never follows a good car route)....

    You evaluate each route (sidewalks etc) for all the hazards that are preesent.

    Then you mitigate each hazard....

    Then you select the "best" route and cautiously begin to ride it....as you learn more you will almost certainly adjust the route.

    I have several sections where riding the sidewalks make a lot of sense....I also have places where riding a sidewalk is ridiculous and hazardous...

    Some of the sidewalks I ride have now been signed to allow bike riders on them (normally here it is illegal to ride on a sidewalk). Cops are very forgiving here and unless you are scaring the crap out of people they will leave you alone.
    This is absolutely true.

  21. #21
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    Stay on the road. It's safer for all involved. Be visible, and pay attention. If you are not capable of riding without being scared, you'll need to work on that. Confidence is key. Get a mirror if you need one. Find an alternate route. I'll find myself on a sidewalk if I get a chance to cross the street a block or two early, but almost always on the road on the right side. Sidewalks are for pedestrians, and kids on bikes.
    Gets chain-ring tattoos on both legs!

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by nachomc View Post
    If I wanted to go really slow, break the law, have to dodge pedestrians and make myself less visible, the sidewalk would be a perfect place to ride.
    This. Pedestrians, moms with strollers, joggers, kids on bikes, and other scared commuter cyclists will be on the sidewalks, not to mention that sidewalks arent smooth and frequently have roots and holes in them.

    Sidewalks are more dangerous than the roads by far. And slower. If you're worried about the road, get a few blinking lights and a bright yellow jersey so that you're visibile.

    And dont be afraid to take the lane if you need to. My commute has a bunch of nasty torn up neighborhood roads and half the time I'm taking the lane just to avoid sinkholes in the right side of the lane.

  23. #23
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    The key is that there are lots of different kinds of sidewalks.

    Around here, this is what the burbs typically look like:





    In the first case the sidewalk is a multi-use trail where bikes are allowed. In the second case it's just a sidewalk where bikes are technically not allowed.

    In both cases you will almost never see a pedestrian on the sidewalk. On the extremely rare occasion that you do, you will have blocks and blocks and blocks to decide how to pass them. In both cases the distance between intersections, driveways, or any other potential interactions with drivers is anywhere from 800' to half a mile.

    If those are the types of sidewalks that you're talking about, then I would absolutely ride them. They'll be a bit slower, but you'll be pretty safe from morons with cellphones.

    Sidewalks in builtup, urban, mainstreet areas are a different story though.

  24. #24
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    Where I live we actually have some sidewalks designated as bike paths in the City. These still present the same challenges and dangers as riding on other sidewalks. These are used to connect other trails together.

    This year I've actually reworked my commuting routes to include more streets I feel safe riding versus taking the sidewalk.

    On my longest commute (I work at 2 different offices) I've added a few more miles but am now riding more side streets. My commute is now about 85% bike trail or side streets. The other 15% is still sidewalk as I would not feel safe riding on those streets as they are too narrow and the speed limit is too high.

    My shortest commute consists of 99.9% bike trail. I actually ride about 200 yards of sidewalk from my neighborhood entrance to the trailhead. This is unavoidable.

  25. #25
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    The only sidewalks available to me are the 4 ft wide variety and they suck. I never touch them unless the roads are bad when its snowing or freezing rain. Those instances I slow it down anyway, but I know I can't trust drivers not to get out of control and hit me. If the conditions are good, I am in the road no matter what really.
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  26. #26
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    If I'm on a sidewalk with my bike, I'm walking my bike.
    If you're over the age of ten and aren't supervising someone who is under that age, you shouldn't be riding on the sidewalk.
    (yes, it's a generalization, but sidewalk riders are one of the many easily avoidable reasons people hate cyclists.)

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Javier View Post
    Hello everyone,

    Never done it, but I am getting very curious about the possibility of commuting 14 miles each way to and from work. I want to for health reason, but do I dear to?

    Main deterrent is that i would have to ride the whole way in three lane traffic in the land where people can't drive in a straight line: South East Florida.

    So, my main question: anyone uses the sidewalk to commute? how annoying does it get to go around pedestrians, etc.?

    Any other advice you may have is also most welcome.

    Thanks in advance.

    J
    Before I found a "safe" route from my house I used to drive a short distance to a place I could start from. You may want to consider exploring this idea to avoid most if not all of the three lane traffic.

  28. #28
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    Google Map pic

    Thank you all for all the responses. Maybe not very encouraging at times, but I appreciate the honesty. Keep them coming...

    I liked the idea of posting the pic from google map for everyone to see what the commute would be like, so here you go:



    There really isn't an alternate route that would take me through parks, etc. When I Google the bike route, the differences are minimum. The picture shows you what 95% of my commute would be like.

    I don't think it is illegal to ride the sidewalk here, but I know I hate the slow/stop and go and the up and down of the driveways.

    Having said that, I still don't understand what the big deal is with salmon riding on the sidewalk. Maybe a cultural thing...

    Thanks again,
    J

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Javier View Post
    Thank you all for all the responses. Maybe not very encouraging at times, but I appreciate the honesty. Keep them coming...

    I liked the idea of posting the pic from google map for everyone to see what the commute would be like, so here you go:



    There really isn't an alternate route that would take me through parks, etc. When I Google the bike route, the differences are minimum. The picture shows you what 95% of my commute would be like.

    I don't think it is illegal to ride the sidewalk here, but I know I hate the slow/stop and go and the up and down of the driveways.

    Having said that, I still don't understand what the big deal is with salmon riding on the sidewalk. Maybe a cultural thing...

    Thanks again,
    J
    Most times riding on the sidewalk is more dangerous especially at driveways. Drivers tend to watch the street and not the sidewalks. Most bikes are traveling way faster than walkers would be so the drivers don't see you coming, and can turn into the driveway and hit you as you cross.

    I've rode sidewalks for years, most have had little to no pedestrian traffic on them at all. I just had to be careful at the driveways. Given that danger, I've now started to take side streets when I can and eliminate as much of the sidewalk riding as I can.

    Good luck, and I'm with you, I probably wouldn't feel safe on that road as well, but it may be worth giving it a shot. Be sure to wear "LOUD" colors that make you stand out and always, always, always wear your helmet.

    By the way, what is the speed limit on that road?

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Javier View Post
    Thank you all for all the responses. Maybe not very encouraging at times, but I appreciate the honesty. Keep them coming...

    I liked the idea of posting the pic from google map for everyone to see what the commute would be like, so here you go:



    There really isn't an alternate route that would take me through parks, etc. When I Google the bike route, the differences are minimum. The picture shows you what 95% of my commute would be like.

    I don't think it is illegal to ride the sidewalk here, but I know I hate the slow/stop and go and the up and down of the driveways.

    Having said that, I still don't understand what the big deal is with salmon riding on the sidewalk. Maybe a cultural thing...

    Thanks again,
    J
    I see absolutely nothing wrong with that road.
    Honestly... ahh I give up

  31. #31
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    I'm probably not qualified to comment as I can't think of a road around here with 4 lanes of traffic on 1 side of the road, but I will say this... if a motorist is trying to find an opening to turn across 4 lanes of traffic into a business etc., , they are probably not going to have too many brain or eyeball cells left to look for a cyclist on the sidewalk, they tend to floor it when they see an opening in "traffic". Can you avoid rush hour by adjusting your hours a bit? If that road is emptier at certain times, the extra lanes may give them plenty of room to go around a cyclist safely.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by highdelll View Post
    I see absolutely nothing wrong with that road.
    no kidding! I see plenty of wide lanes and a nice shoulder. biggest possible issue I see is from drivers thinking cyclists should be IN the shoulder.

    here is a pic of the busiest street in my area that I avoid if at all possible.

    the worst thing about it are the narrow lanes. the speed limit here is 35, and most people go less than that so speeds aren't the problem. the city has signs telling cyclists to get on the sidewalk, which is what creates part of the issues. if cyclists were IN the road and drivers expected that behavior, there wouldn't be so much issue.

    I will ride this road, but I avoid it if I can. I mostly just cross it, but I regularly ride a section a few hundred feet long without issue. in fact, I was riding on it the other day and I was behind a car at a stoplight, and the car wouldn't move. I had to yell, "honk" at them. no clue what they were doing. I hope they were checking out my bike. yeah, that's it.

    because of all the driveways here, riding the sidewalk is sketchy. really sketchy. it's not in good shape, for that matter. since it's encouraged by the city, it's legal. but doing so safely requires you to go very slowly (I'd say less than half the speed I'm capable of doing on the open road) with frequent stops or at least decelerations for cars at those driveways...because even though you have the right of way, you cannot be certain that they even see you unless they stop and wave you through.

    salmon on the sidewalk is really a "meh" issue. the sidewalk itself is generally considered 2-way traffic. the complaint with riding salmon has to do with people riding salmon IN THE STREET. it's technically illegal and people should get a ticket for it. I don't think the city police care. the campus cops are aware and I've been told that they try to enforce it, but rarely catch cyclists after witnessing a violation. but more than that, riding salmon in the street is a DEATHWISH. you are not as agile as a pedestrian (the correct way to walk in the street is to go salmon) who can simply step to the side if necessary, so you are less able to get out of the way if necessary. but worse is that you force cyclists who are riding CORRECTLY out into the middle of the street increasing the danger to them. I would have no qualms shoulder checking salmon riders into the ditch on the side of the road if the situation presented itself.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Commuting in traffic... Sidewalk anyone?-northst.jpg  


  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by highdelll View Post
    I see absolutely nothing wrong with that road.
    Yeah... It looks pretty good in the picture. But it normally is packed with cars mostly going well over 45mph when I drive it in the early morning.

    Part of that could be avoided by leaving really early, which I would have to do anyway if I want to get to work on time, but then we would have to add the darkness factor...

    J

  34. #34
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    It can be very intimidating when you first start riding in traffic. Try to do the route a few times and see how it goes. If you aren't comfortable and want to ride on the sidewalk, you have to be very careful and aware of whats happening at all times because it is dangerous.

    Eventually you'll be feeling more comfortable and want to ride with traffic instead of the sidewalks. It's tough to jump in there without doing it a few times.

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