the dreaded sidewalk post- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
    i call it a kaiser blade
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    the dreaded sidewalk post

    roadies hate it when you ride on sidewalks. in urban situations where sidewalks are used for pedestrian use, on college campuses, and in densely populated areas, i can totally understand, but in suburban areas where sidewalks are essentially bike trails/pedestrian paths off of the road they seem to be a much safer choice.

    i've been tagged by cars twice riding on the road, once by a girl who was texting and essentially did a hit and run on me and run off of the road by some prick who felt that his left turn had the right of way to my going straight at an intersection.

    in my bike friendly city sidewalk riding away from the center of town is never really an issue, these are even clearly labeled as sidewalks and bike paths, except when some spandex-wearing roadies commented on it yesterday. they told me to get off the sidewalk (which really is just an asphalt path off of the road no one really walks on unless their car breaks down).

    i think the road activists are somewhat crazy, while i appreciate the CONCEPT that bikes are vehicles and have all the rights of one, eventually physics of 3 tons of pickup vs soft human meat catches up with you.
    how durable a bike or component is usually has a lot to do with how heavy and ugly it is.

  2. #2
    Wierdo
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    Personally I won't ride on a sidewalk because I think it's MORE dangerous than riding on the road. At every intersection, be it road or driveway, drivers turning in or pulling out are going to be looking on the ROAD for fast-moving cross traffic, not on the sidewalk. If you are a pedestrian, you are typically moving slow enough to see the car coming and get out of the way - a bicycle not so much. But if you feel safer on the sidewalk, have at it.

  3. #3
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    Forget now where I saw it (I'll do some digging this evening), but a study of bike/car accidents showed that riding on the sidewalk had about twice the risk as in the road. Doing so against traffic was around 3x as hazardous. Reasons cited were exactly as Woodway mentioned - combined with the fact that cars are "trained" that it's OK to roll through the sidewalk and only start looking for cross traffic once their nose is entering the road.

    None the less, sometimes cautious use of the sidewalk can be the safest thing to do. When I do that, I ride very slowly and even more defensively than normal.

  4. #4
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    stay off the sidewalk while on your bike
    Mike
    Toronto, Canada
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  5. #5
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    The Lycra seems to be thick in here...

  6. #6
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    There are very very few situations that I would get up onto the sidewalk for. Fact I can`t think of any off hand. But there ya go, eh?
    Cheers, Dave

  7. #7
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    I think there are general rules and then there are specific reasons/situations to break them. I have seen that sidewalk data somewhere as well that says it is about 2X as dangerous and 3X if in the wrong direction. Riding on the road the wrong direction was even more dangerous. In Indiana, they couldn't be bothered to bring 80 year old bike laws into the 21st Century and address bike safety such as a 3 foot rule or making it legal to use DT shifters, so it is up to me to be as safe as I can be. I will use a sidewalk if safety forces it, otherwise, no. As far as admonishing anyone else doing it? Not my job, man.

    Unless the idiot almost or does runs me down.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by eat_dirt
    in suburban areas where sidewalks are essentially bike trails/pedestrian paths off of the road they seem to be a much safer choice.
    If we're talking wide, swoopy, mostly free-flow, subruban arterials, then the intersections are probably anywhere from a 1/4 mile to a 1/2 mile apart? So even if a cyclist is moving at a pretty good clip they would only have to deal with an intersection every minute or two. Compared to riding "downtown" you can cross an intersection every 150', with short blocks, alleys, driveways and storefronts. That's a potential threat every few seconds.

    So Downtown vs. Suburban has completely different risk profiles, but all the stats for road/sidewalk safety mix the two. (as an example, the wrong-way stat is entirely about downtown one-ways - it's irrelevant on suburban arterials because only crazy/drunk people would ever do that on those type of roads.)

    Most my riding is centrally on the streets, but if I were riding suburban arterials I'd probably use the sidewalks more. It's easy to be extra-diligent and to yield like your life depends on it when you're only crossing an intersection every few minutes. And swoopy, suburban roads are where drivers seem to get the most bored and inattentive.

    Just as examples: here or here or here.

    On roads like that the risk of riding on the sidewalk can be made essentially zero. Riding on the road it's really low too, but all it takes is one moron who can't find a song on their ipod.
    Last edited by newfangled; 05-02-2011 at 10:29 PM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by newfangled
    If we're talking wide, swoopy, mostly free-flow, subruban arterials, then the intersections are probably anywhere from a 1/4 mile to a 1/2 mile apart?

    ...snip...

    So Downtown vs. Suburban has completely different risk profiles, but all the stats for road/sidewalk safety mix the two.

    ...snip...

    Just as examples: here or here or here.

    On roads like that the risk of riding on the sidewalk can be made essentially zero. Riding on the road it's really low too, but all it takes is one moron who can't find a song on their ipod.
    Good points, to be sure. I think we all fall somewhat into the trap of thinking about what our own local situation is like when we respond to others' ideas here. There is essentialy *nowhere* near my commute that looks like that. We have very wide streets, but lots of alleys/driveways with restricted sight lines near the sidewalks. Clearly the risk posed by riding on the sidewalks you have shown is very different than riding the ones near me.

    I guess it always comes down to the same thing: be aware of the real risks of the choices you make. What works in one place won't necessarily in another. Do what works and is safe/courteous in your area.

  10. #10
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    I don't have any sidewalks on my commute, so I don't have to worry about it.

    On my old commute, I experimented with riding a sidewalk on a busy street. I eventually ended up riding the extra mile to forgo the whole stretch of road. The sidewalk didn't feel safe to me. I was later hit by a car crossing that street...

  11. #11
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    No sidewalks on my commute either. But I did have them when I lived in Los Angeles County... I confess I rode them at times... I was guilty of going from "I'm a car" mode to "I'm a pedestrian" mode to get through lights, crosswalks, etc faster. I was also youger and invincible-er. The sidewalks never felt safe to me. Entering intersections was scary, and there were too many day-laborer types on one-size-too-small full suspension walmart bikes with the bar ends turned straight up. "I'm a car" is safer 89% of the time in my opinion.
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  12. #12
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    On my commute the sidewalk is safer/more enjoyable 3% of the time. Of the 15mi RT, I ride the steepest 1/2mi uphill on the sidewalk, against traffic. I'm only going about 5mph so it's easy to check for cars turning or not stopping on sidestreets, but there usually aren't any. It was a narrow road before they squeeezed the sidewalk in (on 1 side) a few years ago, so I have a lot more elbow room to climb, a smoother surface, and don't have cars squeezing by. The sidewalk ends at 1/2 mi and I cross back over to ride the right side of the roadway. The biggest obstacle is the occasional garbage can or dog walker. Using the same sidewalk on the way down would be suicide, as you can go 40+mph.

  13. #13
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    Riding a bike on the sidewalk is not safer, and for the sake of pedestrians, I would never do it. True multi-use paths are a different story. There are a few local intersections that I can get through faster if I use the crosswalks. For that, I walk.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by ubernerd
    I think we all fall somewhat into the trap of thinking about what our own local situation is like when we respond to others' ideas here. There is essentialy *nowhere* near my commute that looks like that.
    We've got those roads everywhere - basically any post-1970's neighbourhood. It probably all depends what books the urban planners in a particular city were reading at a particular time.

    The sidewalks are illegal to ride on, but a few years ago one of our city councilors suggested that that should be reevaluated, but that got shot down. It's tricky, because riding on the arteials' sidewalks is safe, but eventually you get to a smaller collector road with driveways and cul-de-sacs everywhere, and then people should be riding on the road.

    I think the arterials' sidewalks should just have been renamed and signed as multi-use trails, but we can't do that since the sidewalks don't meet local MUT standards. So instead we have sidewalks the run miles and miles and miles, that no one walks on, and that are illegal to ride on, which is dumb.

  15. #15
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    It Depends...

    I have to agree with those that say, "it depends". I used to have a longer commute, 16 miles one way. There were 25mph neighborhoods that I would ride faster and safer on the road but then there were 3 lane wide roads (on one side) that were only marked for 2 lanes and even though they were way wider they were the most dangerous because people would squeeze 3 wide at high speed so I rode the sidewalk. Now this is also in Southeast, MI (automotive country) and I seem to get a lot of hate for riding on the road in some places. I am starting a new commute, 9 miles and plan to start it out riding slow on the sidewalk to get a feel for the traffic patterns and the number of idiots traveling on the road. This new commute seems to be mostly paths rather than sidewalks though. Double the width of a normal sidewalk and out in the burbs mostly with long stretches between intersections and driveways. Use your best judgement I think, thats what I am doing.

  16. #16
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    I commute in a largely suburban area, into a slightly urban area. I use sidewalks because the roadways are 35-50mph and drivers here regularly toss ***** at riders. It is far safer to use the sidewalks as much as possible. Even in the few areas where there are bike lanes... cars still veer into them, and ***** gets tossed our way. Recently there has been a rash of drivers harassing bikers. The relationship between bikers and cars is very bad here.

    My experience with pedestrians... nothing negative at all. People respect each other on the sidewalks here. We go out of our way to avoid issues and it works out.

    Where sidewalks are not safe, are intersections and driveways. A biker has to be very careful to avoid vehicle crashes. We can't just go flying through a busy area, blindly on a sidewalk.

    Bottom line: It is a cultural thing. Your town has a different culture than my town.

  17. #17
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    trust your instincts. if the drivers are aggressive and the shoulder narrow, ride where it's safer. you might feel righteous riding on the road, demanding that everyone pass you safely as you "take the lane," but if texting bimbo or trucker bubba does not see or care about your personal space, you'll be maimed or dead. if you're in an area where there are too many pedestrians to ride the sidewalk, traffic is probably moving slowly enough to keep up on the bike anyways.

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