I Want to Ride My Bicycle, I Want to Ride It Where I Like

Finally, someone speaks truth to power on the issue of riding a bicycle on a sidewalk:

While we do have an existing network of bike boulevards stretching across the city [Vancouver BC], they resemble an afterthought; relegated to residential side streets with very few amenities (10th Avenue, Ontario Street, Woodland Drive, etc). To borrow a transportation planning term, travelling the “last mile” to a restaurant, shop or theatre is where the problem lies. If you’re headed somewhere along Main Street, Commercial Drive, Robson Street or Broadway, for example, you are fully expected to run with the bulls, and rub shoulders with massive cars, trucks and buses travelling twice your speed. Trust me, it’s not for the faint at heart.

In that situation, the cyclist is legally obliged to take the entire lane, effectively doubling the amount of road space they are entitled to, but risking the ire of passing motorists. It’s far more secure, and less confrontational to ride the sidewalk to your ultimate destination, especially if you are cycling with children, as I often do. It’s not a coincidence that sidewalk cycling is most prominent on these busier streets. As Mikael Colville-Anderson often says: “Badly-behaved cyclists are usually just cyclists with inadequate infrastructure. Or none at all.”

When faced with the choice of being sandwiched between a just-opened car door and a SUV, and riding on the sidewalk where there’s hardly any traffic, I’m on my bike on the sidewalk. I wish I weren’t, but it’s often the least-worst alternative. And sometimes I’ll still do it if there’s a bike lane on the street, if the bike lane is two narrow strips of paint that come and go as the street widens or narrows, and is completely ignored by drivers. I consider my presence on the sidewalk part of my plan to die in my sleep at a ripe old age. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, the city can save their paint and skip marking bike lanes – it’s a “compromise” that’s more of a sop than real solution. The city just puts them down where it’s convenient to show that they’re “bike friendly” without doing the hard work of carving out a few real, separate bike lanes.


196 replies
  1. 1
    cathyx says:

    I ride my bike here a lot in the summer. Thankfully, there are bike lanes on all the main arteries around town.

  2. 2
    schrodinger's cat says:

    But are you a fat bottomed girl?

  3. 3
    Zifnab25 says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: I see what you did there.

  4. 4
    Bernie says:

    In Fremont I was walking across the bridge on the sidewalk and was hit by a cyclist riding fast on the sidewalk. I am still thinking of carrying a pipe for future encounters with cyclists on the sidewalk.

  5. 5
    mistermix says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Fat-assed man is more like it.

  6. 6
    Ben Grimm says:

    Some areas have policies that, intentionally or not, encourage bike riders to ride on the sidewalk. When I lived in Gainesville, I got an on-campus bike ticket (in an area closed off to cars) for running a stop sign. I was able to take “Bike school” as an alternative to a $100+ ticket. The main thing I learned in bike school was that about half of the things they could ticket you for if you were in the bike lane were actually legal if you were on the sidewalk.

  7. 7
    cathyx says:

    In fact, I could get a ticket if I ride on a sidewalk.

  8. 8
    Zifnab25 says:

    I spent my entire young bicycling life on the sidewalk, when I wasn’t cutting across golf-courses or through empty lots. Why? Because even in my quaint suburban neighborhood, I had a strong fear of death. Hitting a jogger while going 8mph on a mountain bike would cause a few bruises. Hitting a motorist going 60mph would be… worse.

    Honestly, the first time I heard that cyclists were supposed to ride on the street, I thought it was a bad joke.

  9. 9
    J.W. Hamner says:

    Yeah, no. If you are too scared to be in a bike lane or ride with traffic then maybe you should stop riding a bike?

  10. 10
    Tim F. says:

    Heh. As a pretty hardcore cyclist (once upon a time I ran a free bike program) I could not disagree more about bikes on the sidewalk. That has a lot to do with my high comfort level for both confrontation and risk, but it is often against the law and I agree 100% with ticketing people who do it.

    Plus I feel that more cyclists taking up the road adds to the pressure for a city to do something about it. Cyclists at city council meetings tends to work even better. It works a whole hell of a lot better than those activists who organize street-clogging critical mass rides.

    If people absolutely must ride on the sidewalk then they should have a bell or other noisemaker. I use a handlebar-mounted squeak toy for kids’ bikes because everyone steps a little faster to get out of the way of a kid on a bike. Like lights and a helmet, noisemakers are just a basic safety device for cycling around pedestrians and there is no excuse for not having one.

  11. 11
    Biff Longbotham says:

    Lemme check my browser’s bookmarks…no, I did in fact click on Balloon Juice. Must be a slow news day so far if we’re wasting spending time on bike lane rants.

  12. 12
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    Preach it mistermix! My wrath is reserved for Tasman drive in Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, CA where there aren’t even sidewalks, just about 12 inches of shoulder. It’s like a death sentence to ride with traffic. And Tasman is a relatively new street in affluent tech suburban office park country. Fuckers.

  13. 13
    Strandedvandal says:

    If you are riding faster than the speed of pedestrians, get off the sidewalk. If there’s a bike lane, get off the sidewalk. Choose a different route to your destination if the planned one makes you uncomfortable. We all have to do it, it’s part of the bargain we make for not burning dinosaurs.

  14. 14
    elmo says:

    Bikes terrify me. More than other cars, way more. I drive a full-size pickup truck with extended mirrors for trailering, and it’s hard to give bikes enough room without going halfway into the oncoming traffic lane. Also I’m constantly expecting the bike to wobble sideways, especially on uphills.

    So most of the time I’m that driver everybody hates, hanging back and unwilling to pass a bike until there are either two lanes in my direction, or the bike moves away, or until I can safely move over into the oncoming traffic lane. I’ll let traffic back up behind me for ever before I’ll willingly pass a bike in my lane. The consequences of a mistake are just too dire.

  15. 15
    Alexandra says:

    I’ve been knocked over and hurt by a cyclist on a sidewalk.

    I understand that walking may not be de rigeur these days, but in some places, particularly cities, pedestrians shouldn’t have to jostle with bike riders. Some of them can be quite agressive and reckless at times.

  16. 16
    ploeg says:

    Then there’s places where riding on the sidewalk is illegal. And even where it’s legal, if somebody makes a right turn and smacks into you, it’s often harder to get a claim from the insurance company because you’re supposed to ride your bike on the street.

    It’s best just to make the street wider so that you can ride away from car doors and still not be entirely in the way of cars. Paint doesn’t do anything for you if you don’t make the street wider. (Of course, motorists should pass only when it’s safe, leave plenty of room, and not be in such a hurry, but you know.)

  17. 17
    Punchy says:

    I’m on my bike on the sidewalk

    So you’re that asshole that buzzes me walking my dog, or jogging, or teaching the kid how to walk to the park.

    Dude, strap on a pair and ride in the f’ing street. Quit bitching about bike lanes and use them. Christ in a porno…your weak sauce is especially weak today.

  18. 18
    J.W. Hamner says:

    @Tim F.:

    Yes exactly. I will probably be a daily bicyclist commuter within the next year, so I understand the concerns of inadequate bicycle lanes but that is no excuse for endangering pedestrians and don’t really see how it forces anybody’s hand to make more of them… it just turns pedestrians against you.

  19. 19
    Silver says:

    And for fuck’s sake, don’t ride the wrong direction in a bike lane. I’m not moving into traffic for a salmon.

  20. 20
    dollared says:

    Sorry, don’t buy it, at least not in the blanket terms you seem to describe.

    I live in urban Seattle, the land of steep hills and crazy-assed bicyclists, and I don’t want the kamikaze fixie gang (I’m too macho for brakes!)anywhere near my children and my elderly relatives. And yes, we lose far too many cyclists -careless drivers, rain and short winter days are a dangerous problem set.

    Perhaps you can frame it as “no bicyclists on sidewalks when pedestrians are present,” kind of like the 15 MPH school zone limit. But as a rule, letting the bicyclists run free would hurt a lot of vulnerable people.

  21. 21
    jibeaux says:

    I ride with my kids on the sidewalk. I’m sorry, I’m not telling a seven year old to go ride in the street. We can see pedestrians in plenty of time, of whom there are precious few anyway. Recently, there is this weird thing in my neighborhood where the PEDESTRIANS keep walking in the road. I don’t understand it. There’s an older guy who walks every morning with hand weights, in the road, parallel to the empty sidewalk. Maybe he’s terrified of seven year olds on bikes, but I had nuttin’ to do with that.
    If I were riding myself at a good clip, I’d ride in the street, although I’d be scared to death.

  22. 22
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    @J.W. Hamner:

    Yeah, no. If you are too scared to be in a bike lane or ride with traffic then maybe you should stop riding a bike?

    As someone who rides a motorcycle I think someone who isn’t scared to ride in a bike lane and with traffic may be mentally ill. At least I can ride my motorcycle with the speed of traffic and you can hear me coming a quarter mile away. On a bike you just have that little bell.

  23. 23
    Allen says:

    I’m surprised to hear of such Neanderthal city planning here in the Great Northwest. Another big plus for Portland, and another clear example of why Portland is the best “big” town in the Northwest. We even have entire streets designated as bike lanes. My neighbor who, just on work commute, rides a 100 miles a week.

  24. 24
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    @Strandedvandal: some of us have to bike since we can’t afford a car.

  25. 25
    Origuy says:

    Wrong. Cars pulling out of a driveway are looking in the direction of traffic (left, except in the UK, et.al). Pedestrians are moving slowly enough to react, but a bicycle going the opposite way on the sidewalk is going to get clobbered. If nobody grew high hedges or built opaque fences right up to the street entrances, maybe it would be safe. Besides, there are a lot of unmaintained sidewalks that are treacherous to ride on.

  26. 26
    Splitting Image says:

    I think that politicians who want the country to return to a 1913 economy by returning to the gold standard and abolishing the FED should insist that the country return to 1913-style traffic rules.

    And that means that bicycles and horses would get right-of-way over automobiles on the roads. Drivers should have to stop at every intersection and ring a bell in case a horse-drawn carriage is coming the other way.

  27. 27
    Svensker says:


    Hitting a jogger while going 8mph on a mountain bike would cause a few bruises. Hitting a motorist going 60mph would be… worse.

    You are not considering the jogger’s point of view…

    My 85-year-old grandmother was knocked down by a college kid riding a bike on the sidewalk. Grandma spent a week in the hospital.

  28. 28
    Nerull says:

    According to accident statistics, riding on the sidewalk is more dangerous than a bike lane by a decent amont. Riding on the sidewalk against traffic is 5 times as dangerous.

    Most collisions happen in intersections, and drivers are much less likely to see you coming off the sidewalk.

  29. 29
    mistermix says:

    @Tim F.: @J.W. Hamner: I freely admit that I am not the man that either of you two are.

    @Biff Longbotham: Sorry, I wasn’t up to the umteenth million fiscal cliff discussion. So you get bikes on sidewalks. Refunds are processed at the link over there—>

  30. 30
    Strandedvandal says:

    I can see riding your 50 lb cruiser on the sidewalk sometimes. Going 4 mph is not a good thing in a bike lane. However, those things are not narrow, and trying to predict pedestrians movements as you get near them is a fools game. You are playing a dangerous game between running over a kid, or dog or whatnot and getting crushed by a car pulling into traffic who is not looking for a fast moving vehicle on the sidewalk.

  31. 31
    Dork says:

    I used to ride on rural roads with fully-loaded semis dusting my elbows as they drove past at 60+ mph. No sidewalks available. You’ll get used to traffic, danger, and bad drivers rather quickly. Sidewalks clearly for pedos and big-wheels only.

  32. 32
    Dave C says:

    As a long-distance runner who frequently runs on busy street sidewalks, I loathe sidewalk-riding bicyclists. In order to increase their own safety, they reduce mine, and it pisses me off. That said, I blame the lack of viable bike lanes more than the bikers themselves.

  33. 33
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Silver: Yes that happened to me the other evening, I was totally not expecting it, I had to brake suddenly, what an idiot, riding on the wrong side of the road when it is dark outside.

  34. 34
    stevie says:

    And it is not as if the bike lanes are always safe either. I had a man who wanted to use the bike lane as a right turn lane almost run me over in the bike lane and when his car wouldn’t fit in the bike lane and then get out of his car and start screaming at me while I was waiting for the light to change. His car would never have fit between the curb and the car next to me anyways!

  35. 35
    elmo says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    But he wasn’t there until you observed him.

  36. 36
    rageahol says:

    have some balls.


  37. 37
  38. 38
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    I live in suburb hell(Santa Clara County) with a fixed gear folding bike that isn’t gonna get me going very fast to ride in traffic. I also don’t have good health insurance and don’t really want to risk getting hurt. The fact that I’m scared to ride on streets without adequate shoulders/ bike lanes, I think, makes me sane and calculating. My wrath is directed at streets (like Tasman Drive) where there’s not even a sidewalk.

  39. 39
    Phoebe Jean says:

    They say it’s safer to ride in the street where the cars see you than in the sidewalk where you can surprise drivers, though with the advent of everyone fucking sexting while driving, I’m not so sure.

    (e.g. “The average cyclist in this study incurs a risk on the sidewalk 1.8 times as great as on the roadway” from http://www.bicyclinglife.com/L.....actors.htm)

  40. 40
    Brachiator says:


    When faced with the choice of being sandwiched between a just-opened car door and a SUV, and riding on the sidewalk where there’s hardly any traffic, I’m on my bike on the sidewalk.

    I’m sure you are a considerate biker, but where I live too many fools ride their bikes on the sidewalk, but act as though they have magically created a dedicated bike lane.

    In California, pedestrians have the right of way, and cyclists are supposed to be on the streets or in dedicated lanes.

    But when a goon on a bike expects pedestrians to move aside for them and do not even consider slowing down, then I lose all sympathy.

    The state has done much to try to accomodate cyclists. I love it that there is a Bike Car on the Metrolink commuter rail line.

    But sorry, the sidewalk is not an alternate road for cyclists, especially if they can’t be considerate of pedestrians.


    If you are riding faster than the speed of pedestrians, get off the sidewalk. If there’s a bike lane, get off the sidewalk. Choose a different route to your destination if the planned one makes you uncomfortable. We all have to do it, it’s part of the bargain we make for not burning dinosaurs.


  41. 41
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    @J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford: On a bike you just have that little bell.

    Bikers here don’t give any kind of warning at all when they blow past you at 15mph on the sidewalks. I’d love it if they got those little bells.

  42. 42
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    I think the real solution is to get rid of all the cars.

  43. 43
    Dork says:

    @stevie: That’s when you either: a) hock a loogie on his windshield, b) spray the water bottle into an open window of his car, or c) give him the finger. In my younger years I used to just take all the crap drivers gave me. Not anymore.

  44. 44
    Pawtrax says:

    @cathyx: You should get a ticket if you ride on the sidewalk!

    Bikers on narrow sidewalks are as dangerous to pedestrians, children and dogs as cars are to bikers in traffic without proper bikelanes. I walk our two dogs every morning and night in a section of Los Angeles that has sufficient bike lanes but we still have to dodge cyclists (mostly UCLA students) on the sidewalk on a regular basis. The danger that cyclists on sidewalks pose to us average pedestrians (I also walk to work) isn’t addressed in either of these posts which seems fairly typical of the genre.

  45. 45
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Cycling advice I learned many thousands of miles ago: Ride fast, take a lane, behave like traffic.

    I pay for the road too, so I’m taking a lane, and fuck you if you don’t like it.

  46. 46
    ploeg says:

    @mistermix: Don’t need to be a man to ride with traffic on the street. Might not always be pleasant, and certainly there are roads that I prefer not to take, but it’s doable and relatively safe.

    The risks of being struck from behind while riding with traffic on a street are pretty overstated. You minimize the risk by making yourself more visible (both passively with reflectors and actively with front and rear lights).

  47. 47
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @elmo: He was wearing dark clothes and I was not expecting a cyclist on a sidewalk. There was a bus ahead of me too. I would have hit him, if I hadn’t braked.

  48. 48
    Phoebe Jean says:

    @Xecky Gilchrist:

    Amen. Solve oil-dependency and obesity in one!

  49. 49
    muddy says:

    I see *runners* on the side of the road where there *are* sidewalks, clear uncluttered sidewalks with few pedestrians, and there is no bike lane. Places where the space between the outer stripe and the edge of pavement is about 1′ wide, so they are basically running right on the line. I thought at first maybe it was so as not to run on concrete, but realized it couldn’t be that as they were on the road pavement anyway.

    Any runners here have opinions as to why people do this? I came up with: idiot, asshole, suicidal. But I’m not a runner, so perhaps there is a decent reason?

  50. 50
    YellowJournalism says:

    My city has been pretty inconsistent with how “bike lanes” are planned. Personally, I don’t look at it as a true bike lane if all they did was arbitrarily paint arrows and bikes on the edge of the street. The way they did it down my street is crazy. The arrows are perfectly spaced in one area, then 100 ft further down, the arrows seem to drift into the middle of the street, which would leave no room for the car. Because of this, no one really pays attention to or respects these so-called bike lanes.

    I think the perfect system is to have a sidewalk for pedeatrians and another one next tout that is a true designated bike lane for bikes, skateboards, and other wheeled travel. Sometimes I notice that these are narrower than normal sidewalks, but because it is separated, it’s safer. Yutsano can correct me if I’m remembering wrong, but I believe there was a similar set-up of two lanes going from Pullman to Moscow to encourage walkers and bikers. It was widely used when the weather was nice.

  51. 51
    cathyx says:

    @Pawtrax: I agree, but Portland is a bike-friendly town. But the police do make sure you abide by all the laws when riding, and that means stopping at lights and stop signs too.

  52. 52
    raven says:

    There is a skateboard on the sidewalk law here. Years ago a young lady was being ticketed and she gave her name as “Miranda Rights”!

  53. 53
    Biff Longbotham says:

    @Svensker: Right on! Let’s put the ‘walk’ back into ‘sidewalk’. Want to teach the kiddies how to ride a bike? Take ’em to the park (for you city dwellers) or the country lane (for the more rural amongst us). Want to burn fewer dinosaurs? Work your local elected officials like the proverbial rented mule for more and better public transportation options.

  54. 54
    Thomas says:

    If riding on the street scares you so much, then you should not be riding a bike in the city. Sidewalks are for pedestrians.

  55. 55
    Strandedvandal says:

    There are things you can do to increase your safety. Be well lit. I’d read research that steady bright lights are actually better than strobes. It appears the strobing lights actually pull drivers towards them light moths to a flame. Wear bright clothing. Ride predictably, signal your intentions. Make eye contact with drivers. Get a mirror, either on your handlebars or one that attaches to your glasses.

  56. 56
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    I see that this thread has brought out the tough guys who make constant references to testicles.

  57. 57
    👽 Martin says:

    My city of 200K allows bikes to share the sidewalk, even though we have decent bike lanes – mainly because while the bike lanes are very good in some places, they’re nonexistent in others.

    Even with that, while we have a murder rate below one person annually, our bicyclist death rate is something like 3x-5x higher – and half of them are kids. It’s insane in any city I’ve been to to have a policy of no bikes on the sidewalk.

    Caltrans policy on bike lanes is pretty decent – on parking restricted roads the lane should be a minimum of 1.2m wide. 1.5m if there is a gutter. If there’s parking, there needs to be a 1.5m lane between the parking and the traffic.

    But these standards are relatively new – only about a decade old – so you only see that on new construction and new expansion, and on roads where they had enough space previously to do that before it was a code requirement. The previous standard was much less – I think .6m even with a gutter. And a decade or so before that there was no standard. So a LOT of streets here have the smaller lanes and for a city incorporated in the 1970s, there’s a surprising number of roads with no lane at all. Older cities (which would be, well, all of them) must be far, far worse.

  58. 58
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @muddy: Sidewalks are not well maintained especially on side streets. In winter, there can be ice on the sidewalks where as the roads are usually clear.

  59. 59
    raven says:

    @YellowJournalism: Like the strand from Hermosa to El Porto.

  60. 60
    askew says:

    I wish the stupid bicyclists would ride on the sidewalk or even on the bikepaths built especially for them. These paths are maintained beautifully and they are dedicated to bikers while walkers use the sidewalk. But, no. The dipshit bicyclists would rather bike down the middle of the lane many times side-by-side blocking all traffic from going around them and slowing everyone down to a crawl.

    If I was dictator, bicyclists who biked on the road instead of the bikepaths would be fined and eventually have their bikes impounded for not following traffic laws.

  61. 61
    Enhanced Mooching Techniques says:

    Hah! the city I live in is on to Mistermix and the rest of the bike Gestopo’s moucher game. They don’t believe in sidewalks.

    Take that commies!

  62. 62
    Silver says:

    @Xecky Gilchrist:

    Personally, I never bother warning pedestrians (I’m talking multi-use paths here instead of sidewalks because I don’t ride on sidewalks.)

    The last thing either of us need is for you to get startled at a bell or horn and make a random dart to one side or another. This problem gets worse if the pedestrian is walking with a friend or two.

  63. 63
    Schlemizel says:

    I used to commute 8 miles each way to work until I changed jobs recently. Part of my trip was bike lane & part was the sheer panic of traffic. The dumbest idea the city had was to put the bike lane in the middle of a major downtown street. Cars making left hand turns had to cross the bike path! On more than one occasion I had drivers look right at me and turn anyway so I had to hammer the brakes to keep from hitting them.

    During those few years I saw plenty of bad behavior by both bikers & drivers, neither side is pure. I will gladly blow through a stop sign if I can clearly see there is no cross traffic. If there is traffic or I can’t tell I’ll follow the rules.

    I see a lot of ‘helmet cams’ now, I think that may help a bit to resolve some of the issues between transportation modes

  64. 64
    Biff Longbotham says:

    @mistermix: Said with fake Jerry-Lewis-doing-ultra-non-PC-Asian-accent: You make me raff! I squirt pee pee!

  65. 65
    mistermix says:

    Just to be clear on the bike lanes – I ride on them when they are useful. I don’t know about other towns, but here we have some fairly non-functional, almost ornamental bike lanes that will go for a block or two (where there’s room) and then peter out when the street gets narrow. That’s just an invitation to driver and biker confusion and accidents, in my book.

  66. 66
    raven says:

    @muddy: Because asphalt is much softer than concrete. . . period.

  67. 67
    Balconesfault says:

    When I’m riding, even commuting, I’m generally riding 20+ mph. Not a good idea on sidewalks. I’m running with the bulls.

  68. 68
    John says:

    As a long-time cyclist, including years in NYC, I think even considering riding your bike on the sidewalk is a terrible idea. Although traffic may be frightening, it’s easy to predict all the ways a driver may be stupid, after all, they are constrained by the bounds of the street they have to drive on, as well as, at least to some extent, traffic laws.

    Pedestrians aren’t bound by any laws, at least none that are enforced. They can reverse direction in a second, stop unexpectedly right in your path, jump out of bushes or from between parked cars. In all 18 years of riding in New York, I got into three accidents. All three were caused by pedestrians doing things that they shouldn’t have been doing. Thankfully, I never actually hit a pedestrian…instead I was the one who got hurt avoiding them.

    The most terrifying thing about riding in NYC wasn’t riding down the middle of Broadway during rush hour, it was the 10 miles on the West Side multiple-use path I had to ride to get the bridge.

  69. 69
    PeakVT says:

    Riding with your kids on the sidewalk is fine. Riding on the sidewalk where there is little pedestrian traffic is fine. Riding on the sidewalk where there is even moderate pedestrian traffic isn’t fine, especially now that everyone has their head buried in the iDoodad and/or their ears plugged into their iDoodad. The speed differential is too great, and pedestrians can change direction a lot faster than a cyclist can. Riding on the street in an urban area can be nerve-racking, but moving over to the sidewalk just transfers the danger from you to somebody else.

  70. 70
    jprfrog says:

    I have no problem with cyclists in general but here in NYC when some are racing to make a delivery they are going fast enough to do serious harm, and when they are on the sidewalk us older folk have to dance pretty fast to avoid being run down. And even in the street, where they can go faster, they can be a menace, since many of them ignore the rules of the road, stop signs, traffic lights, and one way streets. More than once I have stepped of the curb to check traffic coming from the right direction and almost been creamed by a cyclist going the wrong way at top speed. Messengers are the worst and I a surprised that there are not more incidents.

    True, a bike probably won’t kill you outright, but a serious fracture is all too possible. These are not little kids, but full-weighted grownups going at least 15 mph.

  71. 71
    YellowJournalism says:

    @Nerull: That’s because you’re supposed to get off your bike and walk it across at intersections if you’re using your bike on the sidewalk. It’s what I’ve taught my children. If you’re riding as a vehicle in the street, then you don’t have to as long as you’re obeying all traffic lights and signs. Nothing bugs me more than a cyclist who starts out riding on the street and ignoring a stop sign because they think they can zip on through. Ditto for those on a sidewalk that zip through the crosswalk when the light says Don’t Walk.

  72. 72
    muddy says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: These particular sidewalks are just fine, I walk them with my dog all the time. No potholes like on the street. And in winter there is a sidewalk plow that scatters sand and salt as it goes. When there’s enough snow to plow, the sidewalk one clears the entire walk, but the roads get narrower and narrower as winter goes on. Well, in snowy years, we got diddly last year.

  73. 73
    weaselone says:

    “Badly-behaved cyclists are usually just cyclists with inadequate infrastructure. Or none at all.”

    I get the riding on the sidewalks in busy areas, I have been known to do it myself from time to time, but that quote is puddle of feces generated by a dog with dysentary. I’m also a pedestrian that has nearly been hit by cyclists on numerous occassions because 1) of a general blatant disregard for stop lights and stop signs, 2) they jump back and forth from street to sidewalk in order to avoid traffic and 3)they travel at an unsafe speed down sidewalks crowded with pedestrians.

  74. 74
    Cargo says:

    We made it quite a ways before “cyclists not stopping at stop signs” was mentioned, this must be a liberal blog. I have a godwins-law like theory that any mention of bicycles on the internet will have a certain time in the comment threads before someone expresses something about bicyclists blowing through stop signs.

  75. 75
    ruemara says:

    Naw, wrong. I live in a gold level bicycle city. Cyclists here are so arrogant, so disgustingly self-righteous, that pedestrians have to be careful and cars. They run red lights, the campus is like a game of bike frogger where I have been yelled at for crossing in the walking lane by cyclists, where I promptly exhibited NYC style rejoinder which their Cali idjit selves were not used to. It ain’t infrastructure. It’s a human tendency to cut corners, consider laws something they are too good to follow and a general blindness due to ingrained belief in their superiority.

  76. 76
    👽 Martin says:


    Any runners here have opinions as to why people do this? I came up with: idiot, asshole, suicidal. But I’m not a runner, so perhaps there is a decent reason?

    Fewer pace interruptions. If you’re trying to maintain a uniform pace, the sidewalk presents a lot more challenges than you are noting – particularly kids on bikes and parents pushing strollers, and most especially people walking their dog. I don’t do this as I’m fortunate to have 15 miles of dedicated running path at my disposal, but I’ve probably had more run-ins with dog leashes and kids on bikes than I ever would have with potential car issues. So long as you’re running into traffic, you can see the cars coming and one step to the side puts you above the curb. It’s the guys running with traffic that are suicidal.

  77. 77
  78. 78
    YellowJournalism says:

    @John: Just curious as to what laws the pedestrians weren’t following and what the pedestrians did negligently to cause your accidents. (This isn’t sarcasm, I’m genuinely interested as I like to teach my kids street safety.)

  79. 79
    Punchy says:

    @Amanda in the South Bay: you do realize what blog you’re reading, right? A thread without balls, nutz, front junk, or hoo-hahs just doesn’t belong on this site.

  80. 80
    Nicole says:

    I have fond memories of being shouted at by two cyclists barreling down the sidewalk at full speed, shrieking at me to get outof their way with my eight-month-old in his stroller. After leaping for the street, stroller in hand, I shouted if they were such pussies that they couldn’t handle the NYC streets they weren’t good enough bike riders to be riding at all. They responded with profanity unbecoming tourists. ;)

    I should note we were on 100th and Columbus, where the street is very wide, and it was in the early afternoon, when it’s also very quiet. Jackasses.

    That said, I’m okay with parents accompanying their kids (it’s legal for kids on small bikes to be on the sidewalk) and honestly, even teenagers don’t really annoy me, because they’re teenagers and it’s their job to be utterly self-centered. ;) Seriously, they don’t bother me. But the adults? For crying out loud; it’s NYC; the sheer amount of lights and traffic limits most cars to under 20 mph anyway.

    I rollerbladed to work for years, and always in the street. Full disclosure: I was hit by a car once. An NYPD cruiser, whose driver tried to get me to blame another car for it.

  81. 81
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @askew: GFY. It’s my road too.

  82. 82
    raven says:

    @ruemara: Oh but be careful because they’ll kick your ass if you say anything.


  83. 83
    Pawtrax says:

    @cathyx: I have never seen a biker in Los Angeles stop at a stop sign. Ever. I never did when I commuted by bike in LA for two years so I get the impulse. I gave up biking as a commuter, or for any reason, in Los Angeles because the constant battle with motorists, broken streets and zero accomodations in most of the city just made it too awful an experience. I never rode on the sidewalks though because, as others have pointed out, it’s more dangerou for bikers, as well. That and because I got so militantly incensed with motorists I felt it was my duty to “fight back” in the streets! All Bike helmets tend to give one a false sense of invincibility. Far from the healthful, environmentally friendly activity bike communting is made out to be, in Los Angeles it just made me mental. I gave it up for my sanity.

  84. 84
    Blutowski says:

    I suppose getting off the bike and walking “the final mile” with your bike is just too much like common sense/good manners to even occur to you? Cyclists in New York are a far greater menace to sensible pedestrians than the worst car drivers.

  85. 85
    Felonius Monk says:

    Get off of my lawn sidewalk, damn it.

    On the other hand, you must never have tried to cross a busy street in NYC.

  86. 86
    Blutowski says:

    I suppose getting off the bike and walking “the final mile” with your bike is just too much like common sense/good manners to even occur to you? Cyclists in New York are a far greater menace to sensible pedestrians than the worst car drivers.

  87. 87
    Blutowski says:

    I suppose getting off the bike and walking “the final mile” with your bike is just too much like common sense/good manners to even occur to you? Cyclists in New York are a far greater menace to sensible pedestrians than the worst car drivers.

  88. 88
    phil says:

    LED lights are inexpensive and flashing LED’s (front & back) are visible in traffic a couple of blocks away, Even in the daytime. It will give drivers plenty of time to avoid you. Changing lanes in a car is not fun when you suddenly find a bike in the middle of the lane doing 5 mph uphill and you are going 25 mph.

  89. 89
    russell says:

    clearly, the solution here is to arm bicyclists.

  90. 90
    lol says:

    How do bike lanes address cyclists who think stop signs and red lights are optional?

    Oh, I see weaselone has already gotten to that. I’ve had FAR more close calls with being hit by a cyclist than a car.

  91. 91
    Meg says:

    I really miss the bike lanes in Germany, especially the type that share half of the side-walks and are distinguished with red bricks. Also the traffic lights have the bike signals as well. It is just a lot less stressful for either the cyclists and the motorists when the bike lanes are well planned.

    Here in CA, the bike lanes are sharing the roads and allow parked cars and to avoid those one is forced to ride further into the traffic. I had a few close shaved situations and the passing cars sometimes just honked at people really loudly when they are right next to you. Highly unpleasant!
    But since we are the best country in the world, it is impossible to learn anything from the European socialists. Just no way!

  92. 92
    Strandedvandal says:

    I remember the first time I commuted to work. Scared the sheit out of me. Everything around me was moving so fast and I had no cocoon. After a while I became comfortable with it, patterns made sense, the “rules” became clear. I get a lot of crap from drivers about cyclists in general that is due to them not knowing what we are doing. Take intersections as an example. I make it a point to look at the driver who inevitably pulls up right next to me as I wait and let them know in a friendly manner that I am going straight through the intersection and to please not right hook me. Doesn’t always work, I’ve had to torpedo the brakes a couple of times to keep from getting run over. But most of the time, it does. If there’s no room for a bike and a car, I take the lane and then move over once it is safe and prudent to do so. Take the uncertainty out of it for the drivers. They might be annoyed, but they aren’t going to run you over. (usually)

  93. 93
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    @Silver: The last thing either of us need is for you to get startled at a bell or horn and make a random dart to one side or another.

    That’s true. We may be back to the “don’t ride on the sidewalks” solution.

    Or better, shouting “To your left!” like the cross-country skiers do.

  94. 94
    askew says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Not where I live. The cities spent millions of dollars to build these bikepaths that are off the streets and separate from the sidewalks. Bicyclists are supposed to use them, but they are too precious to do that. They can’t even obey basic traffic laws, but we are supposed to share the road with them. Fuck them. Get on the bikepaths and follow the law. If motorists have to follow the law, so should bicyclists.

  95. 95
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @askew: @askew: Not sure where you live, but here in the great state o’ Texas, we not only do not have very many bikepaths, we don’t always have sidewalks, nor do we have shoulders on the roads in a lot of places.

  96. 96
    Brachiator says:


    Just to be clear on the bike lanes – I ride on them when they are useful. I don’t know about other towns, but here we have some fairly non-functional, almost ornamental bike lanes that will go for a block or two (where there’s room) and then peter out when the street gets narrow. That’s just an invitation to driver and biker confusion and accidents, in my book.

    Basic question: where you live, do cyclists have the legal right to operate their bikes on the sidewalk, or are they supposed to use bike lanes and the street?

    If the sidewalk is preserved for pedestrians, then you should walk your bike. I understand the notion of “I have a bike and I must ride,” but that may not always be the right answer.


    clearly, the solution here is to arm bicyclists.

    That might put them on an equal footing with some pedestrians. Or car drivers, for that matter.

  97. 97
    Strandedvandal says:

    Just for the record. State law here allows cyclists to go through stop signs if they slow and ensure they do not impede oncoming traffic. They can also proceed through red lights after stopping, again if they can do so without impeding oncoming traffic.

  98. 98
    Megan says:

    In Tokyo cyclists ride on the sidewalk. They are pretty considerate about becoming part of the flow of foot traffic and not going against traffic or riding faster than the average walking speed. They are often riding on smaller foldable bikes. That said the civic planners in Tokyo seem to have been more aware of constructing a network of sidewalks that provide ample room for crowds of people and adequate divisions between car traffic foot traffic, which makes it a lot easier to share the walkway with cyclists. That is not the case here in SF, where I live, despite the fact that there’s a massive contingent of bike-commuters (Market St. is an exception)

  99. 99
    kofu says:

    Thanks for the rant. I agree, sort of…

    Philadelphia, my city, wants to be more bike-friendly, and at the same time they’re talking tough about riding on the sidewalks, even for the last half-block to where we lock up the bikes. Threatening tickets.

    I’ve been riding my bike around town for 25+ years, and haven’t ever hit a pedestrian. For me, pedestrians always have the right of way, and I’m super-defensive about anyone who might stop or turn unexpectedly.

    Downtown, when traffic is gridlocked — sometimes in lanes that are marked for bikes and buses only — and there’s no other way to get by, I use the sidewalk. And in more residential areas where there’s hardly anyone on the sidewalk, I’ll ride the last half-block.

    In Europe, people have many more decades of experience, and bicyclists and pedestrians mix pretty well. In this country I hope we get to that point sooner rather than later.

  100. 100
    ericblair says:


    Because asphalt is much softer than concrete. . . period.

    True, but the tradeoff (besides safety) is that the road is invariably graded so that you’re always running with one side lower than the other, which can get you into chronic leg problems. Probably better off changing shoes to deal with the concrete.

    I’m lucky that I’ve got a rail trail less than half a mile from my house. Where I used to live in suburban Hotlanta, there was no sidewalk and hardly any shoulder on too-busy access roads and I had to drive to a park and run laps. That sucked. Wouldn’t have dared bike on the roads, either, considering the local drivers.

  101. 101
    shecky says:

    Los Angeles proper allows riding on the sidewalk, as long as you’re not an asshole about it. Most rational policy I’ve ever heard regarding bike riding.

  102. 102
  103. 103
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    There’s a healthy degree of common sense here too. When I do ride on the sidewalk, it’s very slowly, and as someone who has been a pedestrian full time for the past four years, I know it’s annoying to have a cyclist brush by you. But like a few weeks ago, I was riding on Mary Avenue in Sunnyvale, past vacant office parks on a Sunday, there was no shoulder on the road, so i carefully ride on the sidewalk, since no one walks around silicon valley office parks on a weekend.

  104. 104
    LABiker says:

    The danger with riding your bike on the sidewalk comes whenever you come to the edge of a building and have to cross a driveway. When you are in the street, you have several feet of warning when a car is coming out the driveway. When you’re on the sidewalk, no warning. I’m a daily bike commuter (13 miles one way from Pasadena to East Hollywood), and I never ride on the sidewalk. You have to just ride in the traffic lane like you own it. Cars will go around. I’ve been bike commuting for 11 years in L.A. and have had very few run ins or close calls. The one time I did, it was a cabbie who was obviously trying to scare the shit of of me. It worked, but then he had to stop at the next red light and I got to scare the shit of of him. I don’t think he realized how loud I can shout. Poor old sod nearly had a heart attack.

  105. 105
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @askew: Get the joggers and the baby strollers and the skateboarders and the dogwalkers off the “bikepaths” and maybe I’ll consider using them. Riding at 25mph on any “bikepath” I’ve ever seen is the most dangerous possible option.

    I am legally allowed to ride on the road, and will do so. If you don’t like it, that’s too fucking bad.

  106. 106
    askew says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    I’m in Minnesota where the government has spent millions of dollars to build these bikepaths all over the Twin Cities yet bikers still think they should be able to ride however they want all over the city streets. They bitched and moaned about safety issues, the government responded by building these asphalt paths and they don’t use them. So, I’ve run out of patience for bicyclists. They expect all of society to cater to them and don’t think they should have to obey any laws. It’s obnoxious.

  107. 107
    jenn says:

    @Silver: Please reconsider this! Bikes are awfully quiet and they’re moving fast, & if I don’t know you’re there… I try to stay aware of folks behind me so I don’t block their path unexpectedly, but given how fast some of you cyclists go on sidewalks and multi-use paths, warning is helpful. I, for one, really appreciate an “on your left” as you approach from behind! (I’ve also been injured by mtn bikers careening down winding trails too fast for conditions. If you can’t see around the bend, slow down!)

  108. 108
    The Moar You Know says:

    I bike commuted for seven years through San Francisco, not exactly the home of the world’s safest drivers.

    1. Riding on the sidewalk is illegal as hell there (other cities vary).

    2. Riding on the sidewalk regardless of legality is just about the most dangerous thing you can do either for your own safety or the safety of others. You are far safer out in traffic. Counterintuitive but utterly true.

    I moved. Word of wisdom for my SoCal Juicers: don’t even try bike commuting in San Diego, anywhere, period. This town has the worst drivers of anyplace I’ve ever been. Tijuana is safer, I shit you not.

  109. 109
    Silver says:

    @Xecky Gilchrist:
    I’m on your side regarding the sidewalks. Multi-use paths are multi-use though, and designated as such.
    “On your left” doesn’t work well either. You’d be amazed at how many times you can yell that and have the person move to the left.

  110. 110
    Megan says:


    A man walking in a crosswalk here in SF was recently killed by a cyclist who blew through a red light at the bottom of a hill.

  111. 111
    askew says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    The pedestrians have a sidewalk on the other side of the street. The bikepaths are for bikers and that is where you should be. Not on the road refusing to follow the law and endangering motorists.

  112. 112
    Scott de B. says:

    I’ve been struck by cars five times. No street riding for me, unless there’s minimal traffic. I don’t want to get hit a sixth time.

  113. 113
    The Moar You Know says:

    clearly, the solution here is to arm bicyclists.

    @russell: Following an incident in Santa Cruz many years ago where some drunk rednecks tried to run me down multiple times with the clear intent of murdering me, I commuted armed and will continue to do so. Not legal here, but sometimes drivers snap and try to kill cyclists. Often they succeed.

  114. 114
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    @The Moar You Know:
    Jesus, where in Santa Cruz?

  115. 115
    Joey Maloney says:


    That’s when you either: a) hock a loogie on his windshield, b) spray the water bottle into an open window of his car, or c) give him the finger.

    And that’s when you get your head blown clean off by some stand-your-ground primed road-raging idiot.

  116. 116
    Strandedvandal says:

    I hate to say this, but if you’ve been hit 5 times, than you are not doing something right.

  117. 117
    Feudalism Now! says:

    I have to resist the urge to throw a stick in the front spokes of cyclists who ride on the sidewalk. You’re a vehicle get in the road or don’t ride.

  118. 118
    ericblair says:


    “On your left” doesn’t work well either. You’d be amazed at how many times you can yell that and have the person move to the left.

    Yep: when I’m biking on the rail trail, it’s a judgment call whether to warn or not. People do stupid things sometimes when you call out, and if they’re not in the way it’s safer just to go around. Dogs can get startled and dart into your way, as well.

  119. 119
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @askew: A bicycle is considered a vehicle in all 50 states. I am legally entitled to the road, and will use it. If you don’t like it, too fucking bad.

  120. 120
    debit says:

    @Schlemizel: Hennepin, right? God, I hated that middle bike lane. It was sheer fucking terror at every green light on a left turn because they never even looked to see if a cyclist was there.

    I wish I could say the right hand bike lane was any better. For the first year I had driver screaming at me to “get in the fucking bike lane!” when I was already, actually, in the fucking bike lane. Luckily, now that the Cedar Lake trail extension is done I never have to go down Hennepin again.

    For anyone saying that cyclist should be on the sidewalk, that they have no right to the streets; fuck you. Seriously, fuck you. I pay taxes, I have every right to take the fucking lane if I need to for my safety. If that makes your commute a couple minutes longer, boo fucking hoo.

  121. 121
    Eric U. says:

    apologize for not reading through the entire comment thread, but there is a reason for the word “walk” in sidewalk. Sidewalk riders are either going walking speed or they are asking to get run over by people that don’t expect them there. I was happy that Philly just pushed through bigger fines for sidewalk riding cyclists.

    Overtaking accidents are far less likely on a bike than people think. It’s not hard for a motorist to see and avoid a cyclist going in the same direction. Cross traffic and turns are the big cause of accidents with cyclists. These are made considerably worse with sidewalk riding.

  122. 122
    LanceThruster says:

    Since the new commuter rail went in, police have been writing $500 tickets for not walking your bike in the crosswalk (but only if against traffic). He was unsure of legality of riding on sidewalk but were only enforcing the crosswalk rule. Questioned the motorcycle officer about push coasting the bike through the crosswalk and he said that was OK. Bottom line is you’re either to follow traffic rules, or pedestrian.

  123. 123
    Raven says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Just go fuck yourself with all that blog bravado.

  124. 124
    Avery Greynold says:

    Cars capable of going 100 miles an hour go 25 in city centers. So why does a bicyclist still expect to go 15 miles an hour at all times, rather than walk their bike (3 mi/hr) in congested areas?

  125. 125
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @askew: You’re in Minnesota? Here’s what the current Minnesota Driver’s Manual says

    Bicycles are legal vehicles on Minnesota roads and they share the same rights and responsibilities as other vehicles.
    Bicycle lanes are designed to separate bicycle traffic from normal vehicle traffic. It is illegal to drive in these lanes except to enter or leave the road or to prepare for a turn. Before crossing a bicycle lane, make sure it is safe to do so. Yield the right-of-way to approaching bicyclists. When the bicycle lane is clear, signal your intention to turn and then move into the bicycle lane before making the turn.
    Use caution when passing a bicyclist. When passing, the law requires at least three feet between the side of your car and the bicyclist.


  126. 126
    LanceThruster says:

    My bike bell serves me quite well for what it’s worth.

  127. 127
    Joey Maloney says:

    I’ve been knocked off my bike by a car. I’ve had my motorcycle totaled. I’ve been in car wrecks, some my fault, some not.

    Life is dangerous. If you can’t deal with that, get yourself a giant hamster ball.

  128. 128
    ericblair says:


    God, I hated that middle bike lane. It was sheer fucking terror at every green light on a left turn because they never even looked to see if a cyclist was there.

    Then there’s this on L St in DC: bikes and cars have to switch sides to handle left turns. This is Not Going To End Well.

  129. 129
    Schlemizel says:


    I’m with you. I happen to live near both Theo Wirth and Victory Memorial Parkways. Both have beautiful bike paths separate from walking paths. This is good because the streets are exceedingly narrow. TW is very hilly and it drives me nuts to see these jokers in their overstressed spandex huffing up a hill, in traffic at 5-10 MPH. I’d have no problem with it if they could do 20-25 otherwise get on the gawddam bike lane! Then there are the joggers, always 3-4 abreast taking the bike lane.

    I have also damn near hit guys blowing through stop signs. Its not all drivers or bikers or joggers but there is a sufficient percentage of each that are pure asshole and they make each group look bad.

  130. 130
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Raven: Bicyclists have rights. If they are not exercised (which I do, on the road) they will be chipped away.

    I have been riding on the roads for 40 years. It’s assholes like askew who think they know the law and who want to force us off the road who are the problem.

  131. 131
    TerryC says:

    @Cargo: @cathyx: “We made it quite a ways before “cyclists not stopping at stop signs” was mentioned, this must be a liberal blog. I have a godwins-law like theory that any mention of bicycles on the internet will have a certain time in the comment threads before someone expresses something about bicyclists blowing through stop signs.”

    Your point? I ride 5.5 miles to work most seasonal days, each way, and I manage to stop at every stop sign, and completely obey each stop sign. And one section takes me througb multi-channel, very busy set of interactions that would curl your hair.

    Oh, I’m also 65. What excuse could you possibly have for not stopping at stop signs?

  132. 132
    different-church-lady says:

    “Badly-behaved cyclists are usually just cyclists with inadequate infrastructure. Or none at all.”

    As someone who rides a bike as often as possible, I call complete BS on that statement. The bike wars are always framed as one side good, the other side bad. The really obvious fact is that the ratio of good cyclists to bad is probably exactly the same as the ratio of good drivers to bad, or good pedestrians to bad, for that matter.

    There’s no excuse for being a dick on a bike, whether the infrastructure exists or not. Trust me, hard-core cyclists with emotional issues who ride like kamikazes, the reason I act so irritated with you is because I’m very interested in not killing you with my car, and you are giving me exactly zero help.

    I say this a person who wants more more more more more bike lanes.

  133. 133
    mainmati says:

    @Tim F.: Washington, DC now has the 2nd highest number of bicycle commuters in the US and on some busy streets you do see bikes on sidewalks, mainly at rush hour, which is illegal and is potentially dangerous to pedestrians, especially whole flocks of them (bikers) at once. I think parents bicycling with children on busy avenues are really not being responsible but if they have no choice then at least ride slowly on sidewalks and use a horn or bell. DC has now started designating bike lanes, which the cars, of course, ignore unless they are physically cordoned off with barriers(and some of them are).

  134. 134
    different-church-lady says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Look, dude, I haven’t had a chance to look back through the thread to see what the history leading up to that statement is, but I’ma say one thing right away: when your rights as a cyclist come up against the bumper of an automobile at speed, said rights do nothing to protect your continued existence on this mortal coil. When I cycle I never forget that, no matter what I’m “entitled” to do.

  135. 135
    Schlemizel says:

    YUP! the busies street possible & they put the bike lane in the middle! I also hate what they did down on 1st where the parking is away from the curb and the bike lane is between the parked cars and the the curb. Was doored there a couple of times. Still I give them credit ofr trying & things have gotten a lot better

    I don’t think I would ever take an entire car lane for the simple reason that too many motorists would see that as an invitation to teach me a lesson for impeding their progress. If I could do 25-30 maybe I would but I can’t so to me it is just to risky.

  136. 136
    debit says:

    @Schlemizel: When there is a bike lane, I will happily use it, except for instances when the trail is terrible or too congested. Funny that you mention Theo Wirth, as I found it to be terribly maintained as it approached the Bryn Mawr/Cedar Lake area; pot holes, crumbling asphalt, narrow corners on blind approaches. I prefer to use the street once I get there.

    I understand the frustration drivers can feel; I drive too. But it gets really old when drivers hate you on the street and pedestrians hate you on the MUP.

  137. 137
    different-church-lady says:

    @Zifnab25: Same here — I was 18 before anyone ever told me I wasn’t supposed to ride on the sidewalk. At first I thought it was crazy, and then I thought about it and it made sense.

  138. 138
    Eric U. says:

    @lol: not sure what to do about scofflaw cyclist, but if there is going to be some kind of enforcement action, I hope they include motorists in it because one of my pet peeves is motorists that don’t stop for stop signs/red lights. It’s endemic here in the northeast, and it’s really bad in North Carolina. I commute in the dark at this time of year, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost been run over by a motorist that didn’t plan on stopping for a stop sign. I usually spotlight them with my helmet light, it has been effective so far.

  139. 139
    The Moar You Know says:

    Jesus, where in Santa Cruz?

    @Amanda in the South Bay: Westside, near the industrial section over by Ingalls as you prepare to leave town on the 1. Not a place where out of towners would go. These guys were locals. And they did their level best to run me down, had they been sober they’d have probably succeeded.

    I miss Santa Cruz still, but it’s one of the more dangerous and certainly the most overtly corrupt town I’d ever inhabited.

  140. 140
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @different-church-lady: I don’t forget it either. I have a family, who I assume doesn’t want to scrape me off the road. I ride carefully and legally, but I also don’t give up my piece of the road easily just because somebody in a car is annoyed or incorrectly assumes that I don’t belong.

  141. 141
    YellowJournalism says:

    @different-church-lady: I’m with you. I respect cyclists for whatever reason they are choosing it for travel and try to be as careful and respectful to them on the road as possible (giving space, changing lanes, slowing down). I know not all drivers are careful, but a lot of cyclists aren’t, either. One of the reasons my city has tried to provide bike lanes is because of the high amount of accidents and deaths involving bikes, with the fault being about 50/50 between cars and cyclists. This isn’t about cars vs bikes vs pedestrians. This is about poor infrastructure, lack of awareness of the laws and rules of the road, an in many cases a complete lack of consideration for others from all sides.

  142. 142
    Raven says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Yea and I do my very best all the time to take bike riders into consideration but when some come looking for shit with their attitudes then fuck em. I’m sick of this fight anyway. It’s like the middle east, it’s never going to end.

  143. 143
    Schlemizel says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Of course you are right but I don’t think you are winning the argument or any converts with this attitude.

    I still look at it as a 180 pounds of man & bike against 2 tons of car & driver. While I may have every right to peddle at 12 MPH in a traffic lane I feel the risks to my health are too great. I get that drivers (some) get frustrated & some are just assholes. But so are some bikers and some walkers.

    You can be 100% right but still 100% dead, that will not be much comfort to your family. I also don’t think drivers are going to suddenly accept bikers in “their” lane simply because bikers are there legally.

  144. 144
    John says:


    There aren’t any real rules for pedestrians to follow, at least none that are enforced. But some major issues include walking out from between parked cars, walking in the middle of the multiple-use path instead of well to the right, randomly changing direction or stopping without looking outside of crosswalks, walking in the bike path instead of on the sidewalk where they are separated. Oblivious joggers listening to music are also a problem. One of my accidents was caused by a guy jumping out of bushes into the bike path. That was fun.

    Pedestrians terrify me far more than cars. My point here is that adults should stay off the sidewalk, and children should be taken somewhere where it is safe for them to learn to ride. It’s not cute when your kid runs into my ankles at 8 mph on the sidewalk.

    And pedestrians/joggers: If you’re on a multiple-use path, treat bikes as if they were cars. You wouldn’t walk out in front of a speeding car, would you? Or would you cross a busy street without looking?

    The sidewalk may feel safer, but really you’re putting yourself and pedestrians at far greater risk. Learn to ride safely on the street.

  145. 145
    Schlemizel says:

    @different-church-lady: The bike wars are always framed as one side good, the other side bad. The really obvious fact is that the ratio of good cyclists to bad is probably exactly the same as the ratio of good drivers to bad, or good pedestrians to bad, for that matter.


  146. 146
    Gus says:

    @weaselone: Agreed. In Minneapolis, bicyclists are supposed to follow the same laws as cars, ie stop at stop signs and red lights, yield the right of way where appropriate, etc. I actually hit a guy on a bike who blew right through a stop sign and blundered in front of my truck. Thank god he wasn’t badly hurt, just a couple scrapes. Also, he popped up and apologized profusely for blowing a stop sign. He said that he always stops at stop signs he was just wool gathering. I don’t mind stretching the law when the street is obviously clear, but the assholes who blow through stop signs and claim the right of way then give you the finger when you honk at them can eat a bag of dicks. There are also tons of nice bikepaths, but the city in it’s infinite wisdom enforces a speed limit of 10mph on many of them, so I’m often waiting to pass a cyclist going 15 on the street riding parallel to a beautifully smooth, well maintained bike path.

  147. 147
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Schlemizel: As I said, I’ve been riding for 40+ years, so I’ve done OK on the safety side of things.

    Your last sentence allows for all kinds of interesting substitutions of rights and who accepts what. I’ll leave that as an exercise, and ask you afterward how it sounds in other contexts.

  148. 148
    debit says:

    @Schlemizel: My feelings on taking the lane are this: yes, it’s going to piss drivers off, but that’s too bad. I don’t do it all the time, but if I have too for my safety, I will. I had a Minneapolis bike cop back me up on this; it may get you verbal grief, but it’s safer. Take the lane and move back over when you can do so safely.

    @ thread in general: As a cyclist, I expect everyone to do what’s expected. If we’re at a 4 way stop, I expect you to go when it’s your turn, and I expect to be able to go on my turn. Don’t wave me through; the other drivers cannot read your mind and have no way of knowing of your generosity and will hit me. I expect other cyclist to obey the law as I do. If we all follow the rules, no one has to get hurt and we can all be happy. Finally, to every driver out there that doesn’t want people on bikes, consider this; if I’m on my bike, I’m not in my car slowing down your commute. Cut me some slack, okay?

  149. 149
    Schlemizel says:


    Have you seen the city enforce the speed limit? I never have & always wondered about that. I got passed by a ‘train’ this summer over by Harriet we were doing about 15 so they were well over 25 when they zipped passed. I don’t mind that as they knew what they were doing & gave me plenty of warning.

    My adherence to traffic laws is in direct proportion to the traffic conditions. I will stop/yield if I see traffic or can’t tell far enough away to cross. I will always yield to peds. But if the streets are clear I want to maintain momentum.

  150. 150
    West of the Rockies (formerly Frank W.) says:

    No easy solution, is there? I live in Chico, CA, a town once named “The Bicycle City” (I think it’s a yearly award put out by Outside magazine or some such). I see loads of bicyclists riding down the wrong side of one-way streets, ignoring stop signs, not using turn signals. Some riders are definitely rude. (I’m a very polite mountain biker, myself.)

    We have a big park with a one-way road designed for everyone (cars, bicyclists, walkers, in-line skaters, even horses). In-line skaters tend to go very fast (comparatively speaking) with the big side-to-side motion. People push strollers sometimes two or three abreast (oblivious to other road users). Cars speed, people stand in the middle of the road to chat with someone coming the other way… you get the idea. Rude people of every stripe as well as people who are aware, courteous and law-abiding.

    The best solution I can suggest is communication. If I’m on my bike, I ring my bell gently when I’m 20 feet away; I might call out in a very friendly voice “Hello, there!” or “Good morning!” If I’m in my car, I slow down. Yes, it’s sometimes irksome, but I don’t think someone’s inattentiveness deserves a trip to the hospital or morgue, so I do the responsible thing and apply pressure to the brakes. When walking, I try to pick an edge (not the crumbling edge that’ll cause me to turn an ankle, of course).

    Well, that’s my much-more than two cents worth. Nothin’ to see here… show’s over.

  151. 151
    Allen says:

    Oregon has some pretty strict bicycle laws that the City of Portland doesn’t respect, i.e. it is law here in Oregon that bikes have warning devises which the cops bikes don’t have. Here in Portland If there is a bike lane, you have use it, no swerving all the way across the street to make a left turn. The list goes on an on.

  152. 152
    Jamey says:

    I’m a bike commuter. I cover between 4k and 6k miles/annum getting to and from work in NYC. I agree w/Mistermix 100% about the inadequacy of bike lanes, and the desultory fashion in which they are heeded and policed. A special fuck-you goes to the dickwipes in City Hall/1 PoPlaza who decided that bike lanes can just “end” every other block, so cars can turn left (most often without signaling first). To quote Clay Davis (from The Wire): “Sheeeeeeeeeeeyiiit.”

    Motorists just have this irrational hatred of cyclists. Damned if they’re going to share even an inch of the road with me, never mind that I am moving at or very near the 25 mph speed limit of NYC streets. I have seen countless acts of belligerence, negligence, and ignorance with nary a cop’s eyebrow raised. Worse still, I’ve been ticketed for slow-rolling an empty intersection at a red light, simply to put more theoretical distance between me and the bumpers of cars following me–just so I can avoid the delivery guys running the wrong way in a bike lane…ON FUCKING MOTORIZED BIKES. And you should hear the names cops call Jeanette Sadik-Kahn, the Mayor’s bike-friendly Transpo Sec’y.

    However, the one rule I never break is the one that keeps me off the sidewalks. Break that, and I’ve stepped over an invisible boundary: Suddenly, I’m just another of the “millions” of don’t-give-a-fuck crackhead bike messengers who are more dangerous to NYC than eleventy-million al Qaedas and three generations of Sons, Grandsons, and Great-Grandsons of Sam.

    Stay off the sidewalks. Learn to ride with traffic, read drivers’ eyes in the rear-view mirrors, and be prepared to hit the least dangerous object when an other option is available (e.g., dog-walker in bike lane hurts less than veering around him or her and being clipped by an onrushing car). Riding the sidewalks is to pedestrians what drone attacks are to Afghan wedding guests. Wrong in every sense of the word.

  153. 153
    Silver says:

    @Raven: So, basically you’re a Likudnik?

  154. 154
    Schlemizel says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Thats fine, I don’t want to pick a fight with you as I think you are right on the rules just wrong on tone. My experience has been that drivers have been getting more angry and more upset recently & that has to do with the increase in bikes on “their” lanes. Its a slow process to get them to understand.

    We have an anarchist bike group here “mass effect” or something like that. The get a couple hundred bikers together & bike as slowly as possible through downtown Minneapolis at rush hour. They are going to get some innocent biker killed because the end result of their behavior has been to agitate more driver even more.

  155. 155
    Biff Longbotham says:

    Refering to bike riders you said

    when some come looking for shit with their attitudes

    I view this as a self correcting problem. Paraphrasing an ex-wife (who was talking about motorcycles, but same dif)
    “You have old cyclists, you have bold cyclists, but you don’t have many old bold cyclists.”

  156. 156
    thm says:

    The framework to understand cycling in the road is called Vehicular Cycling, and the definitive exposition is given by (the curmudgeonly) John Forester, on his website and in the book Effective Cycling.

    The upshot is that most of what (novice) cyclists fear (namely, being hit from behind by a car) is actually quite rare, but rather, most crashes happen in turning and crossing movements, and these are exacerbated by anything which puts bicyclists in places where motorists don’t expect them, including sidewalks, bike lanes, or going the wrong direction on the road. The safest way to cycle is to behave like any other vehicle.

    Forester does, in fact, argue against bike lanes, which is in contrast to most contemporary bicycle advocates. When pressed on the issue, these advocates usually adopt Vehicular Cycling methods in their own riding and acknowledge that it is the best way to cycle. However, it has also been shown that this is a tough sell to novice riders, and further, that novice riders feel much safer in a bike lane than in a regular travel lane, even if it’s really not. And because it’s felt to be much safer, bike lanes, especially a large network of them, drastically increase cycling participation. And then cycling as a whole actually gets a whole lot safer: when there are more cyclists, motorists get used to their presence and learn to expect cyclists. So although bike lanes are less safe, they have the effect to increase cycling safety.

  157. 157
    ericblair says:


    Don’t wave me through; the other drivers cannot read your mind and have no way of knowing of your generosity and will hit me.

    Drivers will do this on a multi-lane road: stop in the middle of the block and wave me across. Er, did you even check the lane next to you, the one that I can’t see because your car is in the way, to see if there’s a car going 50 mph and not at all prepared to stop? They seem to be really well meaning and all, but are they trying to get me killed?

    Just follow the damn rules: trying to be “nice” and mess up the right of way confuses people and gets them hurt.

  158. 158


    The only problem is that when “bad” cyclists are asses they only kill themselves. When a driver is “bad” they kill cyclists, but walk away with only paint damage.

  159. 159
    askew says:


    And that explains in a nutshell why drivers hate bicyclists. They think its fun to fuck over all the drivers using the roads by not following laws. They act like they own the roads and are morally superior because they bike. And they demand more and more government money should be spent by them and then turn around are thumb their noses at government laws. And yet, if there is an accident, it is always the driver’s fault. Not the biker who isn’t following traffic laws or swerved into the middle of the road. Nope, it is always the driver’s fault.

  160. 160
    debit says:

    @askew: You’re being silly. The young lady that was killed in Dinkytown was pronounced at fault when that truck hit and killed her. She was listening to her ipod and not paying attention. It was clearly her fault.

    However, she would have been just as dead if she’d been a pedestrian. When a bike (or pedestrian) goes head to head with a moving vehicle, it’s always going to lose. That’s why drivers need to aware and careful; your vehicle can kill.

  161. 161
    weaselone says:


    Well, a fair number of cyclists do in fact have difficulty obeying traffic signals and signage. I’m mainly concerned for their safety while I am driving, but when I’m a pedestrian and have to jump back on the curb because a bicycle blows through the crosswalk, I go to a somewhat darker place. It isn’t only as a pedestrian. I have also had near collisions with other bicyclists while riding because they don’t give me the respect they would a car at controlled intersections.

  162. 162

    […] at Balloon Juice: When faced with the choice of being sandwiched between a just-opened car door and a SUV, and […]

  163. 163
    Schlemizel says:


    What!? Are you trying to make me agree completely with G&T? 8-{D

    I think that most of the drivers who hate bikers rarely if ever come across bikers & chose to believe the actions of a small handful of assholes justifies whatever they want to do. Just like some bikers think the actions of a handful of assholes in cares justifies their attitudes.

    As a group I believe bikers are much more responsible than drivers. Thats in no small part because it is our lives if anybody f’s up. But there are enough bad examples that I feel I have to constantly apologize for them

  164. 164
    askew says:

    @debit: Drivers can be aware but we can’t plan for bikers not using common sense or following traffic laws. I live out by the arboretum so we get huge groups of bikers on the streets out here and they will ride side by side taking up most of the road leaving no place for the cars to go. They drive over the yellow line. They make turns directly in front of cars leaving us to slam our brakes on and risk getting hit from behind. It is just absolute chaos for no reason. There is no reason the bikers can’t follow traffic laws. If drivers were behaving like that, we’d get pulled over and ticketed.

  165. 165
    Interrobang says:

    Personally, if I were going to ride a bike anywhere that required me to have any serious interaction with traffic, I’d ride on the sidewalk too. However, that’s basically totally contextual: My home city has the worst drivers in the region, and even as a non-serious cyclist in a suburban neighbourhood, I’ve had motorists swerve to try to drive me off the road.

    I’ve got cerebral palsy, so while I *can* ride a bike, it’s a real effort of concentration and mind-over-matter balance (which makes the swerving dipshits *terrifying*, which compromises my ability to do *anything*, let alone ride*), and I’m never going to achieve the kind of speed that an able-bodied person would; I honestly don’t go any faster than the average 10 year old on a BMX. So riding in traffic? Fuck no. Even *with* the few patched-on “bike lanes” the motorists mostly don’t observe and which the buses frequently drive in almost constantly.

    Since this is a car-centric town and only the untermenschen don’t drive, there’s rarely a problem with sidewalks being clogged with pedestrians. I wouldn’t ride a bike on the sidewalk through the downtown core at 5:10 PM, but I also wouldn’t ride a bike through the downtown core, either.

    That said, in my quiet residential neighbourhood, I’d ride on the street, or on the multi-use non-car paths, or whatever. I think personally, the rule of thumb should be that if you can actually more or less keep up with city traffic, ride on the road, but otherwise, stay off. I’m not aware that my locality has any laws yea or nay, though.

    Keep in mind that for me, this is hypothetical. I don’t even actually own a bike, even though I used to. Personally, I’d rather ride a horse.

    * It’s really hard to do anything at all when your body has spastically locked up from fear tension.

  166. 166
    askew says:


    I rarely drive in Minneapolis or St. Paul any more, but out in the ‘burbs, the drivers are much better behaved than the bikers. The bikers out here are just morons. I rarely see any of them signalling turns or stopping at stop signs. I don’t see drivers blowing through intersections on a regular basis.

  167. 167
    HW3 says:

    Let’s fix the problem once and for all. Get rid of the drivers!

  168. 168
    Gin & Tonic says:


    I think you are right on the rules just wrong on tone.

    Wouldn’t be the first time. Dyspeptic tone on this issue comes from 40+ years of battling it in ways small and large.

  169. 169
    Tonal Crow says:

    I’ve gotten used to using our often-too-narrow bike lanes, and to riding on the edge of the road if there is no bike lane. I’ve become assertive about using the full traffic lane if the road’s too narrow. And I stay off the sidewalks.

    What I haven’t done is to regularly lobby my county government to make the roads more bikeable. I’ve got my work cut out for me.

    ETA: If I had young children, I’d bike with them on the sidewalk, slowly, no matter what the law says. It’s unsafe to take young children on busy roads’ bike lanes, and even worse to tell them to ride there unaccompanied.

  170. 170
    kc says:


    I guess I’d rather burn dinosaurs than die at the hands or bumper of an enraged SUV driver.

  171. 171
    Schlemizel says:


    Well theres your problem! Move into the city! 8-{D

  172. 172
    rageahol says:

    @Phoebe Jean:

    this is true.


  173. 173
    askew says:


    I am too poor to be able to live in the city. Though I’d probably be less pissed off at the bikers in the city. City bikers seem to know what they are doing.

  174. 174
    InvincibleIronyMan says:

    I’ve got a bike, you can ride it if you like. It’s got a basket, a bell that rings, and things to make it look good. I’d give it to you if I could but I borrowed it.

  175. 175
    Brachiator says:


    There aren’t any real rules for pedestrians to follow, at least none that are enforced.

    Not true, especially in California. There are rules of the road for pedestrians and for vehicles.

    I love it when tourists, especially from New York, get tickets for jaywalking or for continuing to walk across the street when the light turns red.

    @The Other Bob:

    The only problem is that when “bad” cyclists are asses they only kill themselves.


    Except for stuff like this June 2012 news item:

    Prosecutors filed a felony vehicular manslaughter charge against a bicyclist who was trying to break a personal speed record when he zipped through a crosswalk in San Francisco’s Castro district and killed an elderly pedestrian.

    Chris Bucchere, the cyclist, struck Sutchi Hui, 71, as Hui was walking with his wife at Castro and Market streets on March 29.

    District Attorney George Gascón said Thursday that Bucchere was racing on an informal course that began in the Marin Headlands. A co-rider stopped at the intersection as the light changed, but Bucchere blew through that light as well as previous red lights and stop signs, said Gascón….

    Three elderly pedestrians have died in collisions with Bay Area bicyclists in the past year. However, this is the first time prosecutors have charged felony manslaughter, which is punishable by up to six years in prison.

  176. 176
    Silver says:

    By the way, to avoid the right hook, don’t ride in the sidewalk, and DO NOT STAY ON THE CURB AT A RED LIGHT.

    Instead of resting with one foot on the curb, roll up the right hand side of traffic. It’s VERY important to stay out of the right turn lane if you’re going straight. Remember, you’re a vehicle. Why are you in the right turn lane if you’re going straight? Because you’re afraid an idiot will yell at you? Take the bus if that’s the case.

    If you’re going straight, go right to the front of the line and then put your bike right in the middle of the lane going straight. Sure, you’ll piss off fuckheads like askew, but even though he’s an asshole, he’s probably not a murderer who is going to run you down when the light turns green.

    If you’re turning right, then take the entire turn lane. Make your turn safely, and then get back to the curb afterwards to let traffic pass. If you stay close to the curb, you’re open to getting pinched.

  177. 177
    Comrade Mary says:

    @Strandedvandal: Agreed, but with one exception: I would actually recommend taking the lane at EVERY intersection, even if there is a bike lane, as long as your local laws don’t explicitly forbid it.


    0) Negotiating with drivers when it isn’t necessary isn’t polite: it’s rude, slow and even dangerous. I negotiate politely for things like merges or allowing someone to turn ahead of me, the same as any car driver. Intersections aren’t a place to negotiate.

    1) You don’t want the car beside you turning right into you, or a number of cars passing you closely as you move through the intersection. As you have said, communicating your intentions at the time doesn’t always work. Bike lanes do not protect you from a right hook or someone passing without care.

    2) At many intersections, the road ahead is offset. Staying 1-2 feet from the sidewalk before the light means that you end up squeezed against the opposite sidewalk or right at the opposite sidewalk with very little room to share with the car passing you, who doesn’t expect you to suddenly go left. You may have to stop and wait at the sidewalk before it’s safe to go back into traffic.

    3) A bike is a vehicle. Just as drivers accept that there may be one or more cars ahead of them at a red light preventing them form making a right turn, they should accept that they may have one or more bikes ahead of them. Even though a rider could be “polite” and move aside, this is unsafe when dealing with reckless or careless people, and makes good drivers nervous and over-polite, slowing things down for everybody.

    Cyclists: move towards the center of the curb lane as you approach the intersection (whether you will be first in line or further back), stay in the middle as you proceed through the intersection, and if you are not fast enough to keep up with traffic, move back to your usual spot in the lane after you have crossed.

  178. 178
    Comrade Mary says:

    @debit: YES! YES! YES! Or: I’ll have what she’s having.

    There are little courtesies we all extend to each other on the road that make our lives easier, but extraordinary courtesies kindly offered by well-meaning drivers are awkward at best, dangerous at worst.

  179. 179
    Darkrose says:

    “Badly-behaved cyclists are usually just cyclists with inadequate infrastructure. Or none at all.”

    Yeah, no. I’m calling bullshit on the play.

    Cyclists blasting through stop signs without even slowing down, riding in the middle of the street at night in dark clothes with no lights, yammering on their cell phones, darting out from blind alleys without bothering to see if there’s a car coming and yes, riding on the fucking sidewalk oblivious to people, you know, walking are all commonplace here.

    And by “here” I mean Sacramento and Davis. Davis would be the home of the US Cycling Hall of Fame. It’s probably the most cycling-friendly metro area in the state.

  180. 180
    dantoujours says:

    NYC biker here too. I bike from Brooklyn over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan to work every day, rain, snow or shine – about 5mi each way. The Bridge has a dedicated bike lane but I’ll be damned if the tourists (most of whom are from bike friendly “socialist” Europe) pay any attention to it. The only accidents I’ve ever had are when tourists make an abrupt turn into the lane without looking and I can’t stop fast enough.

    I would never, ever, ever bike on the sidewalks – I’ve had too many close calls as a pedestrian. I don’t bike against traffic and I always keep my bike lit up like a Christmas tree when riding. It’s just all common sense.

  181. 181
    Downpuppy says:

    @Comrade Mary: In Boston, the number of bikes commuters has exploded in the past few years. Most of them have the general notion of obeying traffic laws, (unlike the 60 year old immigrants moving slowly in random directions) and way too many get obnoxious when a long term veteran exercises the fine points, e.g. – never stop at the same spot as cars at a light. Ahead of cars, or behind cars, either way works – but getting a horde of newbies to understand that is impossible.

    http://bicyclesafe.com/ is a nice How To on avoiding death.

  182. 182
    Cheap Jim says:

    I walk, ride, and drive in Baltimore. The thought of anyone actually observing all the traffic rules is laughable to me.

    If you’re riding on the sidewalk, though, please stop. If you can’t get to where you’re going on your bike, just walk. And if it is too far to walk, take the bus. And if there is no bus, start thinking about why you live in a place with inadequate bus service.

    But I think we all have the same end in mind, that everyone gets where s/he is going without getting knocked down or killed.

  183. 183
    Elliott says:

    Whyn’t you just walk your bike on the sidewalk? That’s enough of a nuisance to create a squeaky-wheel effect without presenting walkers with a duck-and-cover situation five times a block.

  184. 184
    Joel says:

    I was a long-time cyclist and have been (and to some extent remain) a fierce advocate for cyclists’ rights. But ultimately, I’ve come to the conclusion that bicycles and cars cannot truly coexist. I don’t see this as a moral issue, simply a practical one. A lot of people focus on anecdotes (damn cyclists running red lights! damn drivers swerving into the bike lane!) and while they have their emotional appeal – I think most people can relate – I don’t find them really helpful in the long term. The real issue boils down to the fact that there are a lot of stupid people in society, and perhaps even more so, a lot of good people who do stupid things sometimes. No matter how you cut it, stupidity is an essential part of everything we do, and that includes transit. So what you need is, to borrow a term from the nuclear power thread, a system that “fails well”.

    Generally speaking, cars “fail well” and bicycles don’t. A one-car accident at 30 MPH often yields an unharmed seatbelt-wearing driver. On the other hand, a one-bicycle accident at the same speed yields a cyclist who is seriously injured or dead (in my case, two badly broken bones in my left hand, one badly broken finger in my right, three thousand dollars in insurance copayments). That’s not even getting into the result of a bicycle-car accident. I don’t think anyone needs me to remind them which party walks away from those. Because of this fact, and the fact that I lost a good friend to a horrific bicycle accident some years ago, I no longer ride my bike. Unless I live somewhere that has dedicated bicycle-only (or mixed with pedestrian) transit routes, that will remain the case.

  185. 185
    Comrade Mary says:

    And here’s why I sometimes carefully (yes, it’s possible) and slowly and politely ride my bike on one specific stretch of sidewalk in Toronto.

    First, I recognize provincial laws and follow them. This site from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation is excellent for both cyclists and drivers.

    For example, if I am going through an underpass, I (LEGALLY) take the center of the curb lane because it is too narrow to share safely. No exceptions. I don’t do it to be rude: that’s mean and self-destructive. It’s because I cannot think of anything more fucking stupid than splitting a lane with a car when you are riding in the muckiest part of the lane with a fucking WALL against your right shoulder and nowhere to go if you need to avoid debris. (An underpass near my house used to have clumps of dried aggregate from nearby construction studding the rightmost 3 feet of the curb lane. Not good.)

    I agree that sidewalk riding is (often) illegal, (usually) rude, and potentially dangerous to both cyclist and pedestrians. I ride all over Toronto and the suburbs in bike lanes and bike paths (where available and useful) and in the road, including downtown traffic and past highway on and off ramps up north. (The latter I do rarely and carefully: if I was cycling every day on a route that included the 407 on ramps in the afternoon, I would not like my odds and I’d find some other way to make that trip work.)

    While I always aim to ride legally, safely and courteously, safety trumps everything. I don’t do “safe” things for convenience, like jumping red lights so I don’t get squeezed by cars: I take the lane and move with the flow of traffic through the intersection, as I described in my earlier comment.

    But I do deliberately break the law about sidewalk riding, with all due care, in one section of town. I may yet get ticketed for it, and if so, I’ll pay the ticket. But I am not putting myself or anyone else at risk, and I’m not being a coward, and I’m not being lazy. This is the best of several bad options and I take it very seriously, so I act to minimize the risk for everyone when I break this law.

    So here’s where I take the sidewalk (as does at least one of my local bike cops). To go south on Weston Rd, turn left on St. Clair, go 1/4 mile to Old Weston Road, and turn right on Old Weston so you can then turn left on Davenport (which includes a bike lane), I can stay legal but take several risks, or break the letter of the law while exercising courtesy and caution.


    1: This area of town is criss-crossed by train tracks and consists of lots of blocked off little streets. There are limited options to get to my destination from my starting point. The best alternative route adds 3 km (uphill, on busy roads where cars don’t like to share, and one tricky intersection) to the route.
    2: Weston Rd. is a hilly, curving 4 lane road that is supposed to have a 50 km/hour speed limit, but it leads to the highway and an 80 km/hr arterial road, so drivers here are stressed, aggressive and they often break the speed limit.
    3: St. Clair at Weston has 4 car lanes and 2 streetcar lanes. Streetcar tracks can be crossed fairly safely at a 90 degree angle, but bad weather or crossing on a slant, as you do when you turn, can cause a sudden and emphatic bike splat.
    4: St. Clair between Weston and Old Weston has an underpass that used to take two lanes of car traffic each way, but now has one dedicated streetcar lane and one curb lane for cars. This single lane is backed up with traffic badly at rush hours and on weekends, and is sluggish for several other hours each day. Drivers around here really aren’t happy, and neither are cyclists.

    Legal but risky

    a) Go north, not south, to approach Weston at the intersection that has traffic lights. (Visibility and car speeds make this risky at the intersection which is uncontrolled: it also has a “no left turn” sign, no it isn’t even a legal option).

    b) Turn left on to hilly, fast Weston Rd.

    c) Stay in the left lane instead of the usual curb lane because you will have to turn left almost immediately, or stay in the curb lane and be prepared to turn like a pedestrian when you get to St. Clair. Using the left turn lane is legal, but not all drivers know that, and you may get honked at, yelled at, or menaced.)

    d) At St. Clair, turn left into the single lane from the left hand turn lane (hi, streetcar tracks!) or go across St. Clair just outside of the pedestrian crosswalk, then figure out some safe way to get into your legal curb lane at the south west corner. There is a good chance several stressed out drivers will be lining up to get into that curb lane. You may have to cross again going west, and ease into the curb lane from there.

    e) Ride in the center of the curb lane through the underpass over to Old Weston Rd.

    (I actually ride in this lane a lot when I’m approaching from the west. If the road is fairly clear, I can be riding in the 40 km/hr range by the time I hit the bottom of the underpass, and I’ll still be moving fast as I exit.)

    f) At Old Weston Rd, turn right. Ta-da!

    Illegal but courteous and safe

    a) Riding on the road (legal), get to the side street leading to Weston Rd that is closest to St. Clair.

    b) Turn left onto the very wide sidewalk (about 10 feet) and ride at an appropriate pace for about 200 feet. If there are pedestrians there (about 30-50% of the time), slow down, stop, bike-walk or walk as required.

    c) At St. Clair, looking out for pedestrians and giving them right of way, turn left on to a standard sidewalk.

    PROCEED CAREFULLY. Stop and wait for pedestrians where necessary. If things are congested, you are going to walk your bike. It isn’t usually that congested.

    Approach pedestrians at a slow pace, even walk-riding from the saddle with your feet on the ground, say hi, ask if you can pass them, thank them profusely. Repeat if needed. Pedestrians in this neighbourhood are very mellow, and some even apologize to me. I usually stop and remind them that I am actually breaking the law and they are doing me a favour. Never been yelled at or told to leave the sidewalk even once. People know what it’s like in this neighbourhood.

    If there are no pedestrians, proceed more rapidly. Be aware that while there are very few spots on this stretch that have entry points from the left (e.g. steps to a house), they exist and you should always look out for them.

    d) At Old Weston Rd., be prepared to turn right and enter traffic. Right of way goes to cars because you’re entering from the sidewalk. Proceed when there is a green light and a clear path for you.

    e) Stay on the road for the rest of the trip.

    I know most of you don’t give a flying fuck about Toronto traffic, but this is just to let you know that an experienced cyclist who is not afraid of traffic, who doesn’t jump red lights, and who rides thousands of kilometres a year without ever getting hit by a car or hitting a pedestrian, can consciously and safely choose to break the law about sidewalk riding.

    Plus, as I said, local bike cops use this route, too.

    But yeah, as a rule, it’s more risky to ride on a sidewalk than on the road. If it’s illegal in your jurisdiction, expect consequences sooner or later. Even if it’s legal, be ridiculously considerate and aware of traffic.

  186. 186
    g says:

    Mmm, let’s see. I work in a town where lots of people ride fat-tired bikes – it’s very fashionable. They also don’t wear helmets, and quite of few of them don’t even wear shoes. I guess those things aren’t fashionable.

    The streets have bike lanes, and there are even some bike paths, but there are plenty of people who ride on the sidewalk, going any direction, and who also ride through red lights and other traffic signals.

    It’s dangerous to be a pedestrian around some of them.

    I was at a four-way intersection, as a pedestrian, and crossed a four-lane west-bound street, with the walk signal. A blondie girl with no helmet on a pink-fendered fat-tired bike zoomed between the lanes of stopped traffic, into the crosswalk right in front of me, and then made a sharp left around me so she could avoid stopping and continue south-bound on her way. I swear to god, she almost knocked me over and she didn’t even look back.

  187. 187
    Bernie says:

    @rageahol: And get run over.

  188. 188
    Ecks says:

    As a cyclist I break the rules (on the sidewalk, through stop signs, etc), but with the caveat firmly in mind that when I do these things, it is my god damn job to not hit anyone, because I’m not where I’m supposed to be. If there’s a stop sign and it’s hilly (or whatever) I’m slowing down and making sure nothing hits me (or vice versa). On the sidewalk I go slowly, and all the way down to walking speed when I’m in close proximity to people.

    I did have to stop a little quickly the other day when a pedestrian turned suddenly in front of me, and he cussed me out. Which I took to heart. He was right. Since then I leave an even bigger berth.

    But OTHER people on bikes scare me, because they are capable of turning and moving so unpredictably. When its me I know I’m in control.

  189. 189
    KS in MA says:

    @J.W. Hamner: I have to admit that no longer riding a bike has been my solution to the traffic problem.

  190. 190
    Mnemosyne says:


    I also don’t think drivers are going to suddenly accept bikers in “their” lane simply because bikers are there legally.

    It may seem counter-intuitive, but safety actually increases when more cyclists are on the road. It makes sense if you think about it — if cyclists in the road are few and far between, motorists feel like they can ignore them because they’re so rare. But if they’re constantly seeing cyclists on the street with them as a normal part of traffic, motorists treat them as an expected occurrence and are more cautious.

    Ironically, cyclists who decide to be “safe” and ride on the sidewalk are actually making it less safe for everyone else.

  191. 191
    opie jeanne says:

    @Bernie: Which Fremont? What state?

  192. 192
    Kilen says:

    Sheesh, so much hatred here.

    I’m a biker in Seattle, and I follow the law, period. Stop signs mean stop, red lights aren’t meant to be run, and I’ll bike where it’s safest. If I’m on a sidewalk, pedestrians have full right-of-way, but I will ABSOLUTELY use the sidewalk if I think the road is unsafe.

    If you don’t like it, change the law.

  193. 193
    Joel says:

    Read the *following* post. A very unusual double post.

  194. 194
    Joel says:

    @opie jeanne: Fremont + Bridge = Seattle.

  195. 195
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Amanda in the South Bay:

    I’ll put it another way — if I can ride in the street wearing a skirt and heels, then mistermix can handle it on his manly manbike.

  196. 196
    Lojasmo says:

    BIKES ARE VEHICLES. They don’t belong on side WALKS. If you won’t ride on the street, walk the last goddamned mile.

    ETA; besides being unsafe for pedestrians (and illegal) there is lots of science that shows riding on sidewalks is less safe than riding with traffic, feelings of exposure notwithstanding.

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