A bicycle is such a very unique mode of transportation. For one, it is the only mode of transportation where the passenger is also the engine. The range of speed a bicycle travels at is 8 mph to greater than 20 mph for more aggressive riders. There has been, is and will be for the foreseeable future a lively debate on how a bicycle should be defined. Is it a vehicle that must follow all the same rules and regulations of all other vehicles (including motor vehicles) or should it not be defined as a vehicle and prohibited from being on the normal lanes of vehicular traffic. Or is it sort of a hybrid of the two? There are many different rules and laws in every state. This article from The League of American Bicyclists provides very useful information on the current state of laws regarding the right to ride on a sidewalk.
Many non-bikers (and some bikers) feel that it is safer and preferable to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk. The argument is that, motor vehicles are the cause of most danger and it is safer to be separated from it. This argument at first blush seems to make a lot of sense. In fact, for children, not skilled or mature enough to ride with traffic this is accepted as the safest place to ride. However, my position is aligned with The League of American Bicyclists which is it is safer to ride on the road and NOT on the sidewalk. To be clear, the BEST option would be a separate infrastructure designated and designed only for bicycles. However, short of that, riding with traffic has been statistically been shown to be safer for the bicyclist and pedestrians as well.
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In fact even when you ride a bicycle on a sidewalk there are many high risk exposures to motor vehicles. For instance, every you approach an intersection, motor vehicles may not see you as this is the first time may be visible. In addition, as I have discussed before, every driveway you pass will pose a risk to you. Further, sidewalks are not meant for bicycles, accordingly, they often are too narrow, not smooth and create a high risk of crashing with a pedestrian. I am not going to say that it is perfectly safe on the roadway, in fact I look to use bike specific paths whenever I can. However, as a very experienced rider and bicycle injury lawyer, I feel absent separate bike lanes, riding on the road way is the safest place to be.
Ride. Be Safe. Have Fun.
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