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July 11, 2005 8:08 AM   Subscribe

BikeFilter: I live in a small but bustling city outside of a much larger one. For minor errands, I prefer biking over driving (when possible). So why do I have to bike on the road instead of on the sidewalk (it's a ticketable offense here)?

When I try to bike in the road, I always find myself squeezed by reckless drivers of buses and cars who can easily kill me. So I chance it a lot and risk a ticket for biking on the sidewalk. It seems like it would make more sense if bike-riders were allowed to bike on the sidewalk - sure, if I were going at a good clip, I could certainly do some harm to a pedestrian, but the likelihood of severe injury to either of us is much less than SUV-on-me. Oh, and yes, there are bike lanes here ... they're overrun with cars making turns and/or pulling in and out of parking spots.

Note: this would be different if I were talking about real cycling at high speeds. I'm not: I'm just a guy on a bike trying to do the occasional errand.
posted by Sinner to Travel & Transportation (92 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
this would be different if I were talking about real cycling at high speeds

Would you care to write a law that distinguished between your sane 5mph self and the idiot who takes a blind corner on a 3 foot wide sidewalk at 20 mph, running over and killing a toddler who was walking on the sidewalk?

Neither would I.

Stay off the sidewalk. It's for walking. Your logic about why it'd be a good idea to use a bike on the sidewalk is identical to the logic of the car drivers who drive in your bike lane.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:15 AM on July 11, 2005


This, as a walking resident of NYC, is my HUGEST pet peeve. It's called a sideWALK for a reason. In my 35 years of life, including 18 in an upstate suburb and 4 at a university in Ann Arbor, I've never had a problem riding my bike on the road.

Perhaps your town has such a small number of walkers that encountering a pedestrian is a tiny probability, but for any area in which people DO use the sidewalks, it's a disaster waiting to happen if you ride your bike on the walk. Pedestrain movements are too unpredictable, particularly if there are small children or baby carriages about, for you to safely maneuver at any speed.
posted by spicynuts at 8:28 AM on July 11, 2005


Walking a dog on a leash is also fun when there's a bike on the sidewalk coming toward you (either direction). Can you see where that expando leash is? Are you sure? Who gets to step (or ride) off into the mud?
posted by sageleaf at 8:29 AM on July 11, 2005


At first it is difficult to get up the nerve to put yourself in the middle of traffic, but ultimately it is much safer. A bicycle is a vehicle, so much so that there are laws and regulations associated with them. You are predictable when you are in the road, following the normal flow of traffic. If you are riding on the sidewalk you become less predictable, especially if you switch between riding in the street and riding on the sidewalk.

There is healthy discussion of this over at BikeForums.net in their "Advocacy & Safety" section. It may be worth browsing and see if any of their posts provide you with some more answers.
posted by bwilms at 8:37 AM on July 11, 2005


I have the same problem.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 8:40 AM on July 11, 2005


Another issue: I don't even have a drivers license. Cyclists aren't expected to. So why require us to bike on the road and follow the rules of the road?

I like the Copenhagen solution of a seperate lane, divided by a curb, from both the sidewalk and from the road, for bikes.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 8:46 AM on July 11, 2005 [1 favorite]




You are not required to have a license for a moped that is under 50cc's. You want me riding that on the sidewalk too? At speeds up to 35mph? Come on, now.
posted by spicynuts at 8:49 AM on July 11, 2005


There's your answer, Sinner: move to Copenhagen.

Or SF - it's pretty bike-friendly here.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:51 AM on July 11, 2005


Even at 5mph you can smack into someone and cause real injury.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 8:52 AM on July 11, 2005


Though counterintuitive the safest place for you is on the road where motorists can see you [hollow laugh]. Motorists don't expect to find somebody entering intersections at cross walks at faster than a walk so they will often turn in front of you if you are lucky or into you if you are not. It is the same problem you've observed with poorly planned at grade bike lanes (IE: straight thruy traffic to the right of turning traffic).

If your feeling squeezed take your lane. By that I mean move over to the left hand side of the lane so that cars cannot squeeze by you. When my commute of 20K included 4km of a fairly tight 6 lane city road way I'd do this routinely in that 4km to avoid being crushed. Most of the honking will come from the same twit who will otherwise squeeze half way past you before forcing you over into the sewer grate before making a last second right hand turn and then going all postal on you when you run into his passenger side door.

Another thing that can help is to make yourself wider. A little flag sticking out 30-45cm to your left at the rear of your bike will force motorists to give you that few extra centimetres you need to have manouvering room. Well at least till you are past their A pillars.
posted by Mitheral at 8:54 AM on July 11, 2005


You must read John Forester's Effective Cycling. It's a great book. It covers all apsects of cycling. Also: here's an article about bicycle accidents.

I don't know if I can explain this coherently, but I'll try.

Bicyclists should not ride on the sidewalk because:
  • It's against the law.
  • It's dangerous to others. Children and pets are easily injured by cyclists.
  • It's dangerous to the cyclist. Sidewalks contain frequent obstacles. Also, because it's against the law, people don't expect cyclists to use the sidewalk. They don't look for them there.
  • Because it's against the law and unexpected, a cyclist on the sidewalk can arouse the ire of motorists.
I am a cyclist. I only ever ride on sidewalks for very short distances (less than a hundred feet) at the beginning or end of a trip, and only if I have complete visibility. As a motorist, I know that it is scary to encounter a cyclist on the sidewalk. Why? Because I'm much more likely to hit a cyclist on a sidewalk than I am to hit one in the road. (Not because I'm going to drive on the sidewalk, but because the cyclist must enter the street to cross intersections, etc.)

Several years ago I did research on this subject. I don't recall the exact numbers, but from what I remember, the safest behavior a cyclist could exhibit is to follow the rules of the road: ride with traffic, on the road, in the lane when necessary. The most dangerous behavior is to ride on the sidewalk against traffic.

(On preview: Mitheral has it right. If you're feeling squeezed in your lane, take more of it. You have all the rights to that lane as the motorists do. Be visible. Cycle assertively but safely. If you really feel scared, find an alternate route, even if it takes longer. But don't ride on the sidewalk. It's dangerous for you and for others.)
posted by jdroth at 9:08 AM on July 11, 2005


I ride a bike more than 100 miles a week, so I feel like I'm in touch with biker issues. I should feel your pain, but I don't.

Not only is riding on the sidewalk much more dangerous for my two year old kid (and if you hurt her there will be hell to pay, buddy,) it is more dangerous by far for YOU. Sidewalks don't go on forever and riding across streets on a bike in teh crosswalk is suicidal. You are invisible to the cars on the street and eventually one of them will turn right in front of you and you will likely be hurt. Also, my friend got hit by a sidewalk biker ten years ago and his elbow is still screwed up.

Get off the sidewalk. off. off. off. Everyone despises you for riding there and you're better off on the street anyway. Google 'vehicular cycling' and go from there.
posted by n9 at 9:10 AM on July 11, 2005


as a driver, i have to dodge cyclists coming from off the sidewalks, running stop signs, crossing against the lights, weaving around between parked cars and moving against traffic not with it ... and then as a pedestrian i have to get out of the way of cyclists riding down the sidewalk at 10mph plus

quite bluntly, cyclists need to be ticketed more in my town for their unsafe behavior ... stay on the road where you belong and follow traffic rules so i can predict what you're going to do and give you room to do it ... most of the accidents between bicycles and cars are caused by cyclists who weren't following traffic rules
posted by pyramid termite at 9:13 AM on July 11, 2005


most of the accidents between bicycles and cars are caused by cyclists who weren't following traffic rules

This is absolutely correct. As a cyclist, I hate to admit it, but it's true.
posted by jdroth at 9:16 AM on July 11, 2005


I'll just parrot what Mitheral and bwilms say: drive with the traffic as much as possible. The key to maximizing your safety, I think, is to be visible and predictable. Take the lane when you need it, and be part of the regular queue at stoplights. Obviously this won't protect you from everyone; there's simply nothing you can do about carelessness or outright hostility.

That said, I feel for you. Most motorists simply aren't educated on what to do with/expect from cyclists. The flip side is that a lot (most?) cyclists don't know their rights/obligations or, if they do, break the law anyway. The whole mix makes for the occassional bad situation, and I'll admit to the occassional sidewalk ride (don't tell the cops!)
posted by abingham at 9:16 AM on July 11, 2005 [1 favorite]


I've been on both sides of this argument. I was a biker, and now I'm a motorist.

From the biker's perspective, you are a vehicle. And you need to follow the rules of the road. As a pedestrian, I hate bicycles on the sidewalk. It's dangerous, and it is annoying.

From the motorist's perspective: You are a vehicle. You are on the road. Go the speed limit, or stay off those roads. This means that if the speed limit of the roadway is 55 MPH, unless you can peddle that, don't go 25 and block traffic for miles.

Overall, a bicyclist's place is on the road. Just be careful.
posted by benjh at 9:16 AM on July 11, 2005


ikkyu2 Would you care to write a law that distinguished between your sane 5mph self and the idiot who takes a blind corner on a 3 foot wide sidewalk at 20 mph
running over and killing a toddler who was walking on the sidewalk?


Uh, hyperbolize much, Mr. Strawman?

Neither would I.

Yeah, I think that I could probably muster up something like that. I think I'd call it a "speed limit." The government seems to have had a reasonable time with them so far. Granting pedestrians the right of way at all times on the sidewalk (which I always do) also seems entirely reasonable.

Also, (1) I know for a fact that biking is legal on some US cities' sidewalks; (2) The sidewalks out here are much wider than three feet. Maybe 6-8 feet at their widest.

Stay off the sidewalk. It's for walking. Your logic about why it'd be a good idea to use a bike on the sidewalk is identical to the logic of the car drivers who drive in your bike lane.

Isn't this sort of begging the question (note: pardon me if this isn't a dictionary-defined case of begging the question - I always forget the proper usage of the term)? Simply saying that biking on the sidewalk is bad doesn't do much to answer the question of why it's bad. The fact remains that if I'm using a sidewalk for low-speed transit, I'm endangering pedestrians much less than cars endanger me. I agree that the ideal solution is a real third lane (the "Copenhagen solution"), but a two-foot wide stretch of asphalt with a white line is not the same thing, and does little to protect me from the speeding jackass on a cell phone next to me and his door-opening compatriot.
posted by Sinner at 9:21 AM on July 11, 2005 [1 favorite]


Yes, but Sinner the point is: you're actually less likely to get hurt yourself by that speeding jackass on a cell phone when you ride on the street than when you ride on the sidewalk. Riding on the sidewalk is dangerous. It's not an opinion; it's a fact.
posted by jdroth at 9:29 AM on July 11, 2005


Um, what? You people bike on the road? Are you nuts?
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:32 AM on July 11, 2005


Most of the cycling infractions that motorists get all uptight about (including riding on the sidewalk), are the direct result of inadequate cycling facilities. I sympathise whey you feel it's a choice between your life and a ticket.

How many lanes does the road have? If there's two or more in each direction, ride in the centre-left of the rightmost lane. Make it impossible for cars to pass you without making a proper lane change. You are entitled to that space.

Meanwhile, lobby your city councillor to paint a bike lane.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:37 AM on July 11, 2005


I imagine someone more adept at math or physics than I could — given the approximate weight of you and your bike, and the speed you would be going at — compute with what force you would hit a pedestrian, even going at something inconsiderable such as 5 mph. I imagine it would be much more considerable than you'd think.

Would you then care for that force to be directed at a young child or at someone elderly?

What if that individual not only pressed charges on the criminal violation but also brought a civil lawsuit against you? You'd be liable at the very least for the medical expenses associated with repairing the broken hip (or the kid's plastic surgery), having an in-home nurse, etc., and that's not including any punitive damages, attorneys' fees, and so on that the plaintiff would try to bring.

The scenario described in the paragraph above is quite possible, and indeed probably happens at least a few times a month in bigger cities, I imagine.

You seem to be insisting on a right to endanger your fellow man by riding in an unsafe place. As a pedestrian, I detest bike riders who zoom from behind me with nary an inch to spare. Suppose I had been dizzy and staggered into their path? Suppose I wanted to walk over to the side of the bridge we both were on and take a picture? Suppose I turned to a friend? Pedestrians' behavior on sidewalks is nowhere near as predictable as cars' behavior on a road. Thus, it is simply impossible for you to be able to consistently predict said pedestrians' future behavior in a way that has a high probability of avoiding their, or your, injury.

So ... don't.
posted by WCityMike at 9:39 AM on July 11, 2005


I share your pain about cycling on the road, but sidewalks are for walking, stay off them. A bicycle is an SMV (slow moving vehicle) and people driving cars should treat them as such, unfortunately a lot of drivers show no respect towards bikes... that's a real shame, but no reason to make the life of people walking any more miserable.

Start an awareness campaign in your town, maybe that will help.
posted by furtive at 9:42 AM on July 11, 2005


Sinner, as others have said, you need to stop letting cars force you into dangerous positions. If you're riding tentatively, they're going to assume they can bully you off the road. Take up more of the lane, don't move over just so they can pass -- you have every right to be on the road.

You have no right to be on the sidewalk, and really have no defense for any injuries or accidents that you cause there. And if you're not a strong enough rider to be dealing effectively with predictable vehicular traffic, I would not want you navigating the unpredictable mix of adults, children, animals, opening house doors, opening car doors, and whatever else happens on a sidewalk. PEOPLE ARE NOT LOOKING FOR YOU THERE, so your presense there is dangerous, and it doesn't sound like you have enough skill to make it anywhere close to safe.

I'm not trying to be mean, here; I just don't think you're understanding this from a pedestrian's point of view at all.
posted by occhiblu at 9:42 AM on July 11, 2005


I'm surprised to find as much of a negative response here as I've gotten, but appreciate the well thought-out replies as a rule, and want to thank everyone. The one bit of it that doesn't surprise me, however, is that Me* contains a lot of real cyclists who think of biking as sprinting/jogging on a bicycle, where I'm talking about something more equivalent to "walking" on a bike. I think there's an important difference to be drawn there.

spicynuts: You are not required to have a license for a moped that is under 50cc's. You want me riding that on the sidewalk too? At speeds up to 35mph? Come on, now.

First, I couldn't care less whether you have a driver's license and never raised this point. I have one, but it has little to do with my biking. Second, no, of course I don't you should be riding at 35mph pn a sidewalk. I don't think a cyclist should either. At that rate of speed, whether on a bike or on a moped or any other mode of conveyance, you're too much of a danger.

Jack Karaoke:
Even at 5mph you can smack into someone and cause real injury.

That's pretty silly, but fine. You can also job at 5mph (although you could argue that many joggers use the side of the road).

sageleaf: Walking a dog on a leash is also fun when there's a bike on the sidewalk coming toward you (either direction). Can you see where that expando leash is? Are you sure? Who gets to step (or ride) off into the mud?

The biker, without question. Pedestrians deserve the right of way.

ikkyu2:
There's your answer, Sinner: move to Copenhagen.

Or SF - it's pretty bike-friendly here.


Actually, the town I live in is quite bike-friendly in that there are lots of bikers and bike lanes do exist. The problem is that the cars and buses are less friendly.

spicynuts: It's called a sideWALK for a reason.

Poor logic. They also call roads "MOTORways," and last time I checked, I didn't have one on my bike.

n9: Sidewalks don't go on forever and riding across streets on a bike in teh crosswalk is suicidal. You are invisible to the cars on the street and eventually one of them will turn right in front of you and you will likely be hurt.

Which is why I'm entirely comfortable with either stopping completely at crosswalks before crossing and even walking my bike across if need be (we have some long avenue blocks out here). I think there's an important difference to be drawn there.

n9: Also, my friend got hit by a sidewalk biker ten years ago and his elbow is still screwed up.

My great-uncle was killed by a driver in a hit-and-run earlier this year, while biking on the side of a Florida road with my great-aunt. With all due respect, I would rather that he had hit someone else and left them with a sore elbow and been required to pay for his or her rehab. I should note that my decision to cautiously bike on sidewalks instead of on roads precedes his death - it served to bolster my feelings on this issue, but didn't initiate them.
posted by Sinner at 9:56 AM on July 11, 2005 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised to find as much of a negative response here as I've gotten, but appreciate the well thought-out replies as a rule, and want to thank everyone. The one bit of it that doesn't surprise me, however, is that Me* contains a lot of real cyclists who think of biking as sprinting/jogging on a bicycle, where I'm talking about something more equivalent to "walking" on a bike. I think there's an important difference to be drawn there.

Sinner, I think you're making a huge logical leap there. How do you know how we're using our bikes? I use my bicycles in all sorts of different ways, including the very running-errands-around-town "walking" uses you are describing. It doesn't matter how I'm using the bike; I'd still never ride on the sidewalks.

It seems strange that despite the fact every response you've received has been "don't ride on the sidewalks", you still think you are somehow safe riding on the sidewalks. It sounds like you had your mind made up before you even asked the question. If you're going to ask for community input, and every response is the opposite of what you expect (hope?), maybe there's something to what the community is saying.

RE: the "my great-uncle" argument. Anecdotal evidence aside, you are much more likely to be killed while riding on the sidewalks than while riding in the street. Again: this is not opinion, it's fact.
posted by jdroth at 10:09 AM on July 11, 2005


5mph? Who rides a bike at 5mph?

The average person walks 3mph. Are you saying you don't even ride your bike twice as fast as the average person walks? WTF are you on a bike for?

In addition, Sinner, why the hell did you ask the question? You obviously didn't want an answer. You've already decided where you should ride and it doesn't look like anything's gonna change your mind. We understand: to you, no one else's safety is as important as your own!
posted by dobbs at 10:14 AM on July 11, 2005


OT (somewhat): Although biking on sidewalks is illegal in Atlanta, the worst offenders are cops on bikes. Then again, in Atlanta the worst offenders of any traffic laws are cops in/on vehicles.

Back on topic: Given the horrid condition of the sidewalks themselves in Atlanta, biking on the street is much safer.
posted by mischief at 10:15 AM on July 11, 2005


Sinner -- rereading my response, it seemed rather harsh, with the talk of lawsuits and such. But you need to understand that that is a very real possibility when you break the law (even one that doesn't seem meaningful to you) and then potentially injure someone. I haven't seen lawsuits strictly pertaining to bike injuries, but that's only because the firms I've worked for (as a legal assistant) usually don't handle that kind of litigation — such suits usually go to the ham-and-eggers in a big city. I've seen plenty of personal injury lawsuits pass my attorneys' desks, though, and I also know that people sue at the drop of a hat -- if you injure someone while breaking even what is to you a minor, stupid law, you really do risk being financially ruined. Seriously, man.

And I really do think I hit on something when remarking on the predictive behavior thing. Cars have to obey the Rules of the Road, and although, yes, drivers can be wildly unpredictable at times, the general rule is that you can expect them to operate within a relatively certain framework while inhabiting the same space as you. There are rules governing proper car behavior while on a road. Pedestrians don't have that same framework on a sidewalk, and thus are far more unpredictable, with all the potential injury that entails.

So, there you go -- people have given you reasons from the perspective of self-interest as to why you shouldn't ride your bike on the sidewalk, and people have given you reasons from the perspective of community interest as to why you shouldn't ride your bike on the sidewalk. Your question has really, at this point, been answered ...
posted by WCityMike at 10:20 AM on July 11, 2005


Jack Karaoke: Even at 5mph you can smack into someone and cause real injury.

That's pretty silly, but fine. You can also job at 5mph (although you could argue that many joggers use the side of the road).


Even ignoring the notable difference in manuverability, none of my jogger friends have multiple sharp metal protuberances. Maybe there are more robot joggers in your area. However as you said, most joggers (despite not being smart enough to stop running when not being chased) respect the fact that operating at a notably different speed than those around you is dangerous and are on the side of the road or jogging paths. And I don't care how slow you're poking along on that bike, you're moving at bare minimum 2x as fast as most walkers. You don't belong on the sidewalk.

If you simply cannot bike safely in current conditions and can't get conditions changed then you need to not bike. It sucks but life isn't always fair and the reality is you're outnumbered better than 100 to 1 by walkers and you have no legal or ethical right to endanger their well-being for the sake of your own proclivities.
posted by phearlez at 10:26 AM on July 11, 2005


I've been hit twice (minor) by cars while riding 'safely' on the road and had more close calls ("Bike lane? I thought this was a buffer-for-my-bad-driving lane.") than I can count. I've never been hit, hit or had a close call with anyone on the sidewalk. I signal, stop or move for everyone on the sidewalk- dog walkers, joggers, kids.

I think I'll stick with the sidewalk. Why should bikes ride on the road? Should razor scooters, skate boarders and roller bladers also ride in the road? What about those children everyone here seems so protective of? If it's safe for them to ride their bikes on the sidewalk (and conversely, not safe to ride in the street) why is it any different for me?
posted by gaelenh at 10:26 AM on July 11, 2005 [1 favorite]


I nth the recommendation to ride on the road and not the sidewalk. I also nth the recommendation to follow all traffic laws while on the road. Finally, I strongly agree with the recommendation that unsafe cyclists be ticketed.

I used to be a sidewalk rider but picking gravel from my palms and knees several times and paying for a new passenger-side door for a Jag finally convinced me of the errors of my ways. It's only one data point but I have to say that I've only had two accidents when riding on the road these past twelve years. One involved a Chicago Transit bus driver (who was fined and fired for their behavior). The other involved an ignorant teen convinced that it was illegal to be riding in the street and trying to demonstrate the dangers thereof (leading to the loss of her license). To be fair, the incident with the teen could have been handled more diplomatically by me which probably would have defused the situation before she bumped me over the curb.

The point being that I was involved in many more accidents (many of my own creating) while riding on the sidewalk than on the road. It is counter-intuitive, but riding in the roadway is safer. If you still feel unsafe then I highly recommend you reconsider using your bike for these errands—especially since you claim to ride no faster than a brisk walk (~5mph) so aren't really saving any time.
posted by Fezboy! at 10:33 AM on July 11, 2005


In re ikkyu2's observation that it is possible for a pedestrian to be killed by a bicyclist on the sidewalk, which Sinner dismissed as hyperbole: it's happened, at least once, and I'm sure more examples could be found.
posted by ambrosia at 10:34 AM on July 11, 2005


galenh: It's not safe for children to ride on the sidewalk. Who said it was? Parents who let their children ride on sidewalks don't understand the risks.
posted by jdroth at 10:36 AM on July 11, 2005


Basically, you're too scared to be using your vehicle (bicycle) legally. Which is fine -- I often don't bike because I can't face the traffic -- but you're acting like that fear somehow gives you a pass. It doesn't.

If I were too fearful to drive my car on fast tollways, I don't get to drive on the shoulder because I'm going slow enough that it's "safe" and "I feel more comfortable there."
posted by occhiblu at 10:42 AM on July 11, 2005


I had the same problem as you, Sinner and this is what I did to "get over it" (slightly) .
1. Get a helmet. When squashed between two 16-wheelers I feel safer in a helmet.
2. Know your route. At one point in my commute, I cross a highway, instead of risking it, I walk my bike through the pedestrian zone.
3. Don't weave, do follow the rules of the road and use your bike's lights at night, etc

hope this helps
posted by ruelle at 10:45 AM on July 11, 2005


I'm from Chapel Hill, so-named for its steep hill atop which its downtown area rests. My sister used to walk up and down this hill everyday on her way to and from UNC-Chapel Hill. One day, a cyclist speeding down the hill on the sidewalk plowed right into her, knocking my sister to the ground, giving her many a bruise and a scrape, and sending the bicyclist flying off of his ride and into some bushes.

This accident could have easily knocked either one of them into the road where they could have been badly injured or killed. Bike-riding does pose some level of danger to pedestrians and, as ikkyu2 points out, there's no way to may a law that applies only to unsafe cyclists. Best just to ride in the street and obey the traffic laws.
posted by Crushinator at 10:46 AM on July 11, 2005


Sinner, the correct answer is that you need to think about the issue, prioritize the issues, and make an informed decision.

The issues for me, in order:
1) Do no harm to others
2) Don't be harmed by others
3) Avoid the police

In practice that means that I regularly ride on the sidewalk when circumstance dictates.

What I find strange about the whole issue is that for a skilled rider it is actually safer and more compact to ride than it is to walk with a bike. The number of pedestrians who have chosen to impale themselves on my handlebars while I walk under construction barriers is just astonishing!
posted by Chuckles at 10:50 AM on July 11, 2005


One thing that has not been discussed here is the difference in sidewalks. An in town, crowded sidewalk is very different than an out of town sidewalk with long visiblity and few entrances. I would never consider riding on the sidewalk in town, but in my afternoon commute as a grad student, I would often ride a stretch of sidewalk. The alternative was to cross an extremely busy road (stop sign, no light) with no bike lane or paved shoulder, just to recross the road a few blocks later. The sidewalk had a chainlink fence one side so no new pedestrians could enter and I would rarely meet anyone.
posted by 445supermag at 10:53 AM on July 11, 2005 [1 favorite]


Since I've spent so much time in this thread already, I decided to spend some more time googling for resources to back me up:These are all from a quick, random google search. There are surely tons more. How many sources can you find to back up the contention that cycling on the sidewalk is safer than cycling in the street?

in my afternoon commute as a grad student, I would often ride a stretch of sidewalk

445supermag, I think most cyclists ride small stretches of sidewalk from time-to-time. It's inevitable. But riding on the sidewalk regularly is a Bad Idea.
posted by jdroth at 10:58 AM on July 11, 2005


I bike a lot. I've been biking my whole life. I don't have a driver's license.

I bike on the road, and I bike on sidewalks.

If I'm grinding out speed and I'm going for distance, I bike on the road, following all traffic laws. If there's traffic, I even signal. It is much safer - if you can move at a speed that flows with traffic.

However, if there's too much high speed traffic or people in cars just seem to be unusually aggressive or psychotic, I'll switch to the sidewalks. The sidewalks here have close to zero pedestrians, though. At peak pedestrian traffic times, we're talking one person per half-mile or mile. I always slow down to near walking speeds around pedestrians, or dismount and walk. If there's actually pedestrian traffic and the road is looking too scary, I'll dismount and walk then, too.

Sometimes my route takes me on a path where I can only go against traffic. I ride on the sidewalk then - especially when following the rules would dictate making multiple lefts and crossings across a 6+1 lane super-road with high speed traffic. You can try to tell me that following traffic laws designed for cars is safer, and I can try to tell you you're freakin' nuts. I might as well be trying to cross an LA freeway. Phoenix, AZ has some of the most deadly roads in America. Almost everyone bikes on the sidewalks here, because the drivers are psychotic.

In either/any case, I'm hyper-aware of cars and people. I don't trust cars. I don't dart in front of them. I don't run stops or lights. I make eye contact and get as much as a specific acknowledgement of "I see you, do you see me?" as I can before riding in front of cars. I respect them, and I stay out of their way. I wait until there aren't any approaching cars to transfer from sidewalk to road, even if it means stopping entirely and waiting.

I have never even come remotely close to colliding with a pedestrian. I don't take blind corners. I don't zoom past people. I don't bomb down hills on sidewalks. Pedestrians move erratically, and I don't trust them to move in a logical fashion, either.

However, I have had cars run me off the road. I have had them intentionally try to hit me. I've been accidently and intentionally hit. I've had oversized mirrors hit me in the shoulder for trying to take my part of the road. I've almost been literally run over. I've had things intentionally thrown at me from cars at speed. (Nothing like a 44 oz plastic cup filled with ice and soda thrown at you from a 60-70 mph car for a sticky, hurtful surprise. Waterballoons are kind and gentle by comparison. At least it wasn't a brick.)

So, bike on the sidewalk if you must. Pretend you're driving a 10 ton truck around pedestrians. Stop, dismount and walk. Get a bell for your handlebars. Treat them like you'd want to be treated if there just happened to be a car on the sidewalk you were walking on.

The diehards here can quote traffic laws and statistics all they want - and in theory and on average I agree with all of them - but the truth is bicycle commuting is marginalized and even fringe behavior in a lot of American cities. Drivers can be aggressive and outright malicious. The laws frequently fail to protect them, even in clear cut cases where the cyclist was obeying all laws and a driver wasn't, and an injurious or even fatal accident (or intentional incident) happened. And really, I'd much rather take a ticket and pay the fine than trust my flesh and bones to be repaired after the fact by a clogged, unsympathetic court system.

Until cycling is demarginalized and American drivers learn to actually share the road as the law states, I'm perfectly comfortable being an outlaw. A polite and careful outlaw.
posted by loquacious at 11:08 AM on July 11, 2005 [1 favorite]


jdroth, that is a really funny comment. It's inevitable... All these people saying "ride on the road! No, ride ON the r-o-a-d! Don't ride on the sidewalk!" don't seem to see it that way. Unless they are all liers of course. More likely, I guess, they all think 'the rules apply to you, but not to me'.
posted by Chuckles at 11:08 AM on July 11, 2005


related previous discussion and comments on mefi: [1], [2], and [2.01]
posted by RockyChrysler at 11:21 AM on July 11, 2005


When you're riding down a busy street squeezed between cars and parked cars it's rough and scary. And the sidewalk looks so empty, and it makes it so much easier to just zip quick across the street, bypassing that red light like a pedestrian than when you gotta stop next to all the other cars and deal with their acceleration and right-hand turns and your slow acceleration and the feeling that they're going to ram into you from behind if you don't get moving fast enough . . .

BUT DON'T DO IT.

Another vote for keeping off the sidewalk. Look, bicycles are vehicles. The road is for vehicles. Part of the reason bicyclists can have such trouble with asshole motorists in America is because too many people, bicyclists and motorists alike, don't make the clear distinction between pedestrian activities (walking, jogging, scooter, skateboarding) and vehicular activities (cars, mopeds, bikes). Bicyclists don't help this any when they ride on the sidewalk because "I'm just going to the store" or "It's empty" or "The cars are fast." If motorists who see this behavior knows it's illegal, they'll get pissed at "those damn law-breaking bikers." If they don't know it's illegal, they'll get pissed at "those damn road-hogging slow bikers" they see in the future who don't use the sidewalk.

I'm not blaming the victim in cyclist-auto collisions. But it is absolutely necessary that bikers, even casual ones, start being more aggressive about their rights to the road. Take up a whole lane if you need to (not for 20 miles, be smart about it). Let the guy by when it's comfortable for you. Bicyclists need to recognize they're riding vehicles and start acting like it, motorists need to recognize bikes are vehicles and start treating them like it.

And hey, this kind of advocacy has positive long-reaching consequences. It means more bike lanes, more polite automobile owners, possibly more bike riders because conditions will be safer, and thus a nice cycle of increasing bike-safety benefits.

The point is, don't be a douche and screw over the pedestrians and bicyclists. Use the road.

loquacious, why would you take routes that take you against traffic?
posted by schroedinger at 11:26 AM on July 11, 2005


Chuckles, go read all of my comments in this thread. You'll see that I'm one of the ones most loudly saying to stay off the sidewalks. When I said some sidewalk riding is inevitable, I meant for very short distances (less than a hundred feet) for all sorts of reasons. I'm not advocating prolonged or chronic sidewalk riding!
posted by jdroth at 11:28 AM on July 11, 2005


This thread has nearly convinced me to stop riding my bike altogether. I've been riding on the sidewalk all my life, and had no idea I was pissing people off by doing so. The risks don't bother me so much, but having to choose between pissing off pedestrians and pissing off drivers is just depressing.

There is just no way I am going to try competing for space with a bunch of blind-spot-laden steel behemoths fifteen times my mass. Not going to happen. I do sometimes have to veer out on the road, when the sidewalk is too narrow or too congested, and it's miserable: I end up flying down the road as fast as I can, trying hard not to slow down the traffic behind me, while the impatient line of cars breathing down my neck still ends up swerving halfway into the opposing lane as they effortlessly cruise past me. Stressful, nerve-racking, no kind of fun at all. If that's bicycling, I'm done with it.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:30 AM on July 11, 2005 [1 favorite]


Not to dogpile, but you're better off riding on the road (as Mitheral , jdroth and schroedinger succinctly put it). I've been riding >30 years, and apart from "youthful indiscretions", always on the road (and signal, lights at night, etc.).

And Sinner, why did you ask the question if you were going to ignore (and in some cases deride) any advice contrary to what you had decided to do in the first place? Just curious...

(On preview, Mars Saxman - don't give it up! That's just what they want you to do!)
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 11:37 AM on July 11, 2005


Sinner...regarding your post about having a driver's license, I was responding to this post:

Another issue: I don't even have a drivers license. Cyclists aren't expected to. So why require us to bike on the road and follow the rules of the road?

by Count Ziggeraut. I screwed up the italics tags and it didn't show up in my response. I'd apologize for that but your obvious wrath at not getting the answers you wanted makes me not really give as much of a crap, so screw it.
posted by spicynuts at 11:43 AM on July 11, 2005


while the impatient line of cars breathing down my neck still ends up swerving halfway into the opposing lane as they effortlessly cruise past me.

let not your heart be troubled. instead, learn to find real joy in this situation, mars... what better rationale for bikes lanes could there be than roads too narrow to sustain transportablility for all viable traffic formats? remember: when you're on your bike YOU ARE TRAFFIC! in my home state by statute I am entitled to my share of the roadway when i am on my bike; i'm confident your state has similar law in place. rise to the calling, true-believer: claim the lane!
posted by RockyChrysler at 11:45 AM on July 11, 2005


loquacious: You essentially describe how I ride. I live in Orlando, a top city for traffic and pedestrian deaths. With the exception of the downtown area, no one uses the sidewalks. If I did ride downtown, I would be in street. I'm am 100% comfortable riding in the street, but someone needs to use those empty concrete slabs.

On my commute to work (~4 miles), I ride on the sidewalk on the left side of the street because I only have to cross one 4-lane intersection instead of four 7-lane intersections. I only come across one or two pedestrians along the way, usually waiting on a bench for the bus. On the way back, I ride on the same side, but in the street in the bike lane.

When I ride around the neighborhood, I stay on the sidewalk. I have clear visibility and always do the right thing when I come across others using the sidewalk. If I notice a couple joggers or a group of young kids, I'll probably hit the street until I pass them. I never cross a car, person, bicyclist, etc without making eye or vocal contact.

Most cities aren't equiped (roads or public awareness) for bicycles. Bicycle laws could use a rewrite. A few of their flaws have been pointed out in this thread. Bicycles are vehicles? So what makes skate boards and razor scooters different? Bicycles can take up a lane, but even most of the prostreet posters here don't agree in taking up the lane for 20 miles.

But hey, people probably shouldn't follow my advice. When the the coast is clear, I routinely run (in my car) left turn signals when the straight signal is green. If no one is around in the late late night, I'll treat red lights like stop signs. I am a horrible person.

Also, I don't think anyone has mentioned this yet, but the title to this question is awesome.
posted by gaelenh at 11:53 AM on July 11, 2005 [1 favorite]


One more post before I venture off to work. I've been working on it for quite some time, so I'm going to indulge myself by posting it, though I acknowledge that the question has largely been answered (or at very least an answer has been given, regardless of whether or not I like that answer - and I admit that that's irrelevant). I'd like to once again thank most everyone (here's not looking at you, dobbs) for responding with such great patience and care. I will look more carefully at some of the sites and literature on street-riding that you've all posted here, (Again, if this post seems internally inconsistent, everything but the "ON PREVIEW" below was typed prior to this little intro section).

WCityMike: I imagine someone more adept at math or physics than I could... compute with what force you would hit a pedestrian, even going at something inconsiderable such as 5 mph. I imagine it would be much more considerable than you'd think.

Doubtful: I'm already willing to grant that biking on a sidewalk necessarily endangers people on that sidewalk, just like biking on the road necessarily endangers bikers. But I'm certain that the amount of force and potential injury is much, much less than that generated by a car at any speed.

Would you then care for that force to be directed at a young child or at someone elderly?

I would rather that no one be hit, regardless of their age, color, creed, conveyance or hairstyle.

What if that individual not only pressed charges on the criminal violation but also brought a civil lawsuit against you? You'd be liable at the very least for the medical expenses associated with repairing the broken hip (or the kid's plastic surgery), having an in-home nurse, etc., and that's not including any punitive damages, attorneys' fees, and so on that the plaintiff would try to bring.

That's a big what-if, but I'd still rather a) do whatever I could to avoid endangering that person in the first place that doesn't require me endagering myself; b) do all of that than be killed by an inattentive driver because I was in the bike lane.

As a pedestrian, I detest bike riders who zoom from behind me with nary an inch to spare.

So do I. I don't do that. Truth is, most of the time, when I bike on sidewalks here, I'm the only person on the block at the time (or one of two, maybe three), and as I mentioned earlier, the sidewalks are broad. On busier streets, I'll generally either walk my bike or bike hypercautiously in the road. Oddly, though, it's on the quieter sidewalks where I'm more concerned about getting a ticket, because I can be seen more easily on a bike on a sidewalk by a police officer.

Suppose I had been dizzy and staggered into their path?

Suppose I did this while biking and got hit by a Mack truck? God knows I don't want to hit the baby carriage that's there if this happens while I'm biking in the sidewalk worst-case scenario, but I'd prefer that over the Mack truck.

Thus, it is simply impossible for you to be able to consistently predict said pedestrians' future behavior in a way that has a high probability of avoiding their, or your, injury.


Bullshit. I can absolutely do so with a "high probability" of avoiding their injury. "Extremely high" or "with absolute certainty?" No, I can't do that. But high probabilty? Yes, I can do that.

furtive A bicycle is an SMV (slow moving vehicle) and people driving cars should treat them as such, unfortunately a lot of drivers show no respect towards bikes... that's a real shame, but no reason to make the life of people walking any more miserable.

Actually, I think that preventing myself from getting hit and possibly killed is a pretty good reason. If those drivers showed respect to people on bikes or to bike lanes, I wouldn't be asking this question. I don't have the luxury of forcefully modifying their behavior, so all I can do is modify mine, by combining cautiously riding on less-busy sidewalks with the degree of care and respect for pedestrians I wish drivers would show me with occasional stints on the road when the sidewalk is congested. I would rather that someone else (or I ) be scraped in a slow bike-on-person collision than be badly hurt or killed slow in a car-on-person collision.

occhiblu: Sinner, as others have said, you need to stop letting cars force you into dangerous positions. If you're riding tentatively, they're going to assume they can bully you off the road. Take up more of the lane, don't move over just so they can pass -- you have every right to be on the road.

This is a strong point, though it does seem sort of counterintuitive to me, at least. And I've been making some effort to do this. But cars simply pass me regardless on emptier roads, and on busier roads with bike lanes, they simply honk incessantly if I'm in the road itself or weave in and out of the bike lane. I still think that given a stretch of empty or near-empty sidewalk (which I find very often) vs. a bike lane, I'd choose the empty sidewalk.

jdroth: Sinner, I think you're making a huge logical leap there. How do you know how we're using our bikes?

I don't, you're right. It was a leap.

I use my bicycles in all sorts of different ways, including the very running-errands-around-town "walking" uses you are describing.

My point was based on the fact that I've acknowledged that as rate-of-speed increases, any claim (illegitimate or otherwise) to sidewalk space decreases. If I, myself, am going for a longer ride and will be going faster, I'll find less-busy roads where I feel more comfortable in the bike lane. Consequently, if you grant the leap I admittedly made, bikers more used to biking at greater lengths and higher speeds might not be able to easily think of biking at speeds as low as what I'm talking about.

It seems strange that despite the fact every response you've received has been "don't ride on the sidewalks", you still think you are somehow safe riding on the sidewalks.

First, it's not the case that every response has been negative (though the preponderance haave been) - several other people have said they have the same problem. I think the problem is that no matter how many times I've tried, I'm not adequately communicating the type of biking I'm trying to describe: biking at slightly above walking rate, always giving pedestrians the right of way, stopping at cross-walks, frequently biking on near empty-sidewalks. The problem may be that I'm describing too specific a scenario. For example, I certainly wouldn't feel comfortabe doing the same thing in NYC or Boston.

If you're going to ask for community input, and every response is the opposite of what you expect (hope?), maybe there's something to what the community is saying.

I'm not denying that, and I've already thanked the community for its input. Am I supposed to simply shut up thereafter? While I intend to read the resources linked to here, and am already giving the posts themselves serious consideration, I don't see why I'm not allowed to post a question about which I already have a strongly-held opinion and have some respecftul debate about the responses. To this point, no one's adequately answered the question that I'm asking, though many have been kind enough to reply.

RE: the "my great-uncle" argument. Anecdotal evidence aside, you are much more likely to be killed while riding on the sidewalks than while riding in the street. Again: this is not opinion, it's fact.

In the larger scheme of things, factoring in biking as a whole, I'm sure you're right. I don't think that's necessarily the case in the narrow sense of my question, but the answer to the largue issue may well be that my question is phrased too narrowly.

5mph? Who rides a bike at 5mph?

dobbs: The average person walks 3mph. Are you saying you don't even ride your bike twice as fast as the average person walks?

Ah, now we're getting somewhere. I'm granting your average of 3mph (I have no evidence of my own). Anecdotally, I'd say that on a mildly occupied sidewalk, I bike about 2x faster than a pedestrian. Less than 3x. So, say 6-8mph or so. On an open stretch of sidewalk or road, I'm sure that increases.

WTF are you on a bike for?

Because I'm very close to town and I'd rather not drive or deal with parking and don't mind a little bit of exercise. If I can what I need to do at twice or three times the rate that walking would allow, fine by me. I'm satisfied with saving that amount of time.

In addition, Sinner, why the hell did you ask the question?

To get an answer. This is repetitive given what I said above, but the answer I think I'm getting is that the my construct is simply too specific/confining.

We understand: to you, no one else's safety is as important as your own!

This is just asinine and inflammatory. Does it feel good to be the first person in a thread to arbitrarily make personal attacks? I've said repeatedly that I think pedestrians deserve the right of way, that bikers should take extra care, etc. I don't think that - given the now-admittedly-too-specific construct described above - I should have to put my life in the hands of some demonstrably dangerous drivers to avoid possibly bumping into someone at 5mph. Yes, I guess that's putting my safety first, to a degree, but really it's about causing the least harm to anyone overall, as I'm taking extreme care to avoid harming pedestrians (and no, you can't write a law requiring all bikers on sidewalks to do that). Either way, I really don't think that that makes me into as much of an asshole as you're trying to suggest.

ON PREVIEW:

ruelle: I do wear a helmet, but it wouldn't make me feel any more confident about my chances of surviving being squeezed between two 16-wheelers.

Crushinator: For what it's worth, the area in which I live is mostly very flat.

Chuckles: Couldn't agree more. Hopefully the text of what I was writing indicates that I'm making a strong effort to make just such a prioritization and it often leads me to the sidewalk, doing everything I can to avoid harming anyone.

loquacious: Thanks for so clearly voicing your (at least pseudo-)concurrence. The alternative point of view is appreciated. I/we may be wrong, but it feels good/vindicating to have someone else provide such a well-reasoned argument.
posted by Sinner at 11:56 AM on July 11, 2005


Should razor scooters, skate boarders and roller bladers also ride in the road?

They do in NYC, at least the skaters (board and roller varieties). I'd never want to bike in an area where I couldn't 1) ride safely on the road or 2) ride on a bike path. When I first started biking I was on the sidewalk, but now I feel MUCH more comfortable on the road. Ride quickly on the road or get a granny cart for the sidewalk to do your errands. If there are real bike paths or lowly-travelled roads, you can get your biking kicks there instead. Also if you're in a small city, can't you either ride around the insane areas, walk your bike through them, or hop on a bus with your bike?

I'm in NYC where the idea of a bike lane as anything but extra space for cabs to maneuver is crazy talk. Similar situation where I learned in DC. At least the cabs know bikers exist, but cyclists get crushed by trucks all the time.

Biking in a city is inherently dangerous, I'd make peace with it and continue riding (with a helmet!) or leave it as a bike path only sport.

*** consider the source alert: I've never, ever biked in the South/Midwest and would defer to anyone who has, especially if you're getting bottles thrown at you as per Loquacious, and especially if you are willing to ride SLOWLY, i.e. 3mph, around any walkers.

To answer your question re: the best solution: seperate, bike-only paths if possible or bike lanes set off by curbs/bumps. Also, dooring should be against the law and subject people to a presumption of civil liability.
posted by lorrer at 12:05 PM on July 11, 2005


Sinner did say that his particular city has bike lanes. Perhaps not well-used or well-respected ones, but it doesn't sound like he'd have to go against 7 lanes of traffic were he to ride in the road. So that excuse doesn't apply in this case.

On preview: Sinner, you're still really saying that since *you* wouldn't get hurt, it doesn't matter that you're endangering pedestrians by acting illegally. This is the same logic asshole drivers are using to endanger you -- the guy in the SUV isn't going to get crunched, so what difference does it make to him if he's riding in the bike lane, especially if there's no bikes in it that he can see for the next few blocks?

I don't think you're being an asshole, but I don't think you're following through on your logic, here.

Basically, I guess, the choice is between doing what's right for the community, riding your bike as it should be ridden and through that choice educate cars about how to treat bikes (after all, they're not going to learn how to interact with bikes unless they're forced to do it), or to say "The heck with everyone else; I'm looking after myself only" and continue on your merry way. If you want things to get better, then you need to become active in making them better.
posted by occhiblu at 12:12 PM on July 11, 2005


Sinner But cars simply pass me regardless on emptier roads, and on busier roads with bike lanes, they simply honk incessantly if I'm in the road itself or weave in and out of the bike lane.

In that circumstance, what you need my friend is 120 decibels of shut the fuck up.
Please use responsibly
posted by Popular Ethics at 12:13 PM on July 11, 2005


Sinner, if threats to pedestrian safety, your personal safety (from cars that don't see you on the sidewalk when you cross driveways or roads), and general bicyclist safety from your bad bike behavior reflecting on all bicyclists and making it harder to establish safe biking environments aren't good enough reasons to get you to bike on the road, then I guess the only other deterrence available is the law. But you're already aware of that one.

'Course, remember if you do get ticketed your arguments about watching pedestrians and being careful aren't going to do you much good.

It should be reiterated that there are ways to make biking more immediately safer for yourself. Get excellent reflectors, wear a helmet, wear a bright-colored or reflective jacket or vest, take up the lane when you need to, and widen your bike. Attach a rear rack and bungee cord a milk crate to it. You get a more noticable bike and extra storage space.
posted by schroedinger at 12:19 PM on July 11, 2005


I have never even come remotely close to colliding with a pedestrian. I don't take blind corners. I don't zoom past people. I don't bomb down hills on sidewalks.... and a dozen other "but I am safe."

Of course you are. Just like you're probably better than average looking, just as more than 70% of the population identifies themselves. I'm assuming you can do the math on that.

That aside, and stipulating that you are without flaw in your (and that's the Royal your) care riding on the sidewalk at all times, (a) you are not representative of everyone and (2) you are no more 100% in perfect control of your actions than auto drivers are. Tires pop, rocks and cracks are on the road, dust gets in your eye, ad infinitum. Those unforseen and uncontrollable circumstances put the pedestrian at greater risk than you and, more importantly, a risk they did not agree to assume when they went strolling down the sidewalk. See below:

Suppose I had been dizzy and staggered into their path?

Suppose I did this while biking and got hit by a Mack truck? God knows I don't want to hit the baby carriage that's there if this happens while I'm biking in the sidewalk worst-case scenario, but I'd prefer that over the Mack truck.


Except that when you got on that bike you accepted the associated risks with your choice of biking (as the law requires) on the street. When that parent went pushing their carriage down the sidewalk they did NOT accept the risk of getting hit by a dizzy biker because bikers aren't supposed to be on the sidewalk.

So, dobb's statement "to you, no one else's safety is as important as your own!" wasn't a personal attack, it was a fair reading of your previous statements and prophetic about the above Mack Truck one - you're unwilling to accept those risks if you can foist some other ones (which admittiedly you think are lesser) off on others. No doubt we all do that to some extent in day to day life, but a number of us here clearly think that's just not fair.
posted by phearlez at 12:36 PM on July 11, 2005


Does it feel good to be the first person in a thread to arbitrarily make personal attacks?

I didn't make a personal attack. I pointed out that you are arguing with the people who provided you an answer, which, as others have also stated, makes it pretty damn curious that you bothered to ask the question. It seems like you were hoping to get a bunch of "Hell yeah!" responses and when you didn't, you went into Mister Defensive Mode.

I don't think that...

Well, like it or not, it's NOT UP TO YOU. If you don't like it, then don't ride a bike. It really is that simple.

...I should have to put my life in the hands of some demonstrably dangerous drivers to avoid possibly bumping into someone at 5mph.

A toddler or senior can die or break bones from falling down on the sidewalk and they can easily fall if hit by someone going 5mph.
posted by dobbs at 12:46 PM on July 11, 2005


This is actually a good conversation, and I'm pleased to see Sinner's long reply. Sinner, I understand that you may have reasons for not revealing the actual city in which you live, but if you did so, you might be able to get some good advice specific to your area.
posted by jdroth at 12:51 PM on July 11, 2005


Like Mars Saxman, I used to find riding in traffic stressful. But it was all in my head Really, you aren't being that much of an inconvenience. If cars can pass you, then you are not slowing them down. You are giving them something extra to do--turn the steering wheel left and then right--but, seriously, that is not a great imposition.

Suppose they can't pass you, and now your presence requires them to drive at 12 mph for a block or two rather than at the 35 mph maximum speed limit. Do the math; how long does that extend their trip? If I force them down to 12 mph from 35 mph for 0.3 miles, that increases their ride home by a whopping... minute.

Poorly timed traffic lights, accidents, and rush hour traffic jams routinely tax far more time than that from drivers. If this were really a serious problem, traffic engineers would step in and prohibit bikes from certain roads. Which, by the way, they have: interstates and many elevated highways prohibit bikes, and cars are welcome to use those without having slower than a tractor trailer.

Still, inconveniencing drivers used to get to me. I would guiltily think, "because of me, this guy could be getting home faster." But then, I realized I could just as easily say, "because there is no bike lane here, this driver is being inconvenienced." Or, better, "because there is no lane here dedicated to cars, and no lane wide enough for both of us to use this road, this driver is being inconvenienced." Even better: "This driver accepted the risk of being inconvenienced when he chose to ride down a road that did not allow him to pass slower vehicles in front of him."
posted by profwhat at 12:56 PM on July 11, 2005


occhiblu: On preview: Sinner, you're still really saying that since *you* wouldn't get hurt, it doesn't matter that you're endangering pedestrians by acting illegally.

Not at all... If it comes to it, I'd (un)happily fly off into a tree to avoid hitting someone walking. I'm talking about degrees of injury. And pointing out illegality is kind of moot - I mean, I acknowledged at the outset that I was questioning the law. Obviously I know that it exists.

This is the same logic asshole drivers are using to endanger you -- the guy in the SUV isn't going to get crunched, so what difference does it make to him if he's riding in the bike lane, especially if there's no bikes in it that he can see for the next few blocks?

I see your point, and I agree that the logic is similar, but the devil's in the details. Similar but not the same. A driver hitting a cyclist literally will not be harmed. Period. So they have no reason to avoid those lanes and can be much more cavalier, safety-wise. It's pretty much black-and-white. This is much grayer. I think it's relevant that as I said, I'm completely willing - in fact, morally obliged - to go headlong into the side of a parked car to avoid running over grandma in exchange for the right to never fear a car hurtling by/into me at 40mph.

Basically, I guess, the choice is between doing what's right for the community, riding your bike as it should be ridden

I question this: What do you mean by "how it should be ridden?" Are you basing this on the law (which I sort of disagree with, and which is subject to change?) or on some objective determination?

For the nth time, I think fast bike transit should be on roads and illegal on sidewalks and very slow bike transit should be permissible on sidewalks. I also think that for that to be reasonable a substantial number of conditions need to be met. But I recognize that that's unpopular. I recognize that there are certain recommended behaviors that work best for cyclists as a group, especially those who regularly go at greater distance, and that many think that riding on sidewalks somehow threatens that. I'm not sure that I agree, but I recognize that.

In any case, I appreciate the points of view of others and am absorbing a lot of information.

I have to say, for the first time, I'm feeling what it's got to be like to be a conservative here on MeFi during some of the political threads. I'm not accusing Metafilter of being a liberal bastion, nor am I saying that there's some groupthink at issue here. But clearly I'm not contributing anything to the conversation that anyone wants to hear, and the tone keeps getting increasingly hostile and volatile, so I guess the best thing I can do is (for the fourth or fifth time) respectfully say thank you, back away from the keyboard and not post in this thread again.

To prevent accusations of hypocrisy, I'm not swearing to keep my mouth shut - I'll take a look at the end of the day and perhaps I'll have something to say. But for now, I don't want to be the guy who's pissing everyone else off by continuing to post and appearing/being obstinate.

ON PREVIEW:
dobbs: I respect that you have a point of view and while I certainly have been defensive in this thread it's only because I was surprised by the responses. I've done nothing but respecfully engage in a debate in this thread (if I slipped up by accident somewhere or other, it was by accident). You'd be hard-pressed to find me doing anything more offensive than being repetitive, while it's not hard to read some real hostility into your post. You can say what you said wasn't personal, but the tone in which you and a few others wrote was a long ways from the neutral tone I (and most everyone else) have maintained. If you're looking for a counterpoint that may give you some insight into reasonable discourse for future reference, see jdroth's most recent comment.
jdroth: Thank you. I'm doing my best. I don't like revealing personal information on the web. I have friends for whom this has been a problem in the past. Nonetheless, there's really nothing that could be gained by providing more information - where I live is indeed quite supportive of bikers ... much moreso than many other areas in which I've lived. It's part of why I chose to live here.
posted by Sinner at 1:04 PM on July 11, 2005


Can I just take back the whole "liberals versus conservatives" thing right now before I look like a total ass? Please pretend I never said that.
posted by Sinner at 1:10 PM on July 11, 2005


Well, we keep posting studies to back up our claims, and we have the law on our side, and you seem to just respond with, "Yes, but that doesn't apply to *me*," and since we don't know you... your defense falls flat.

I'm sure there are many drivers who certainly didn't *mean* to hit cyclists, and yet somehow did. It's not like they all have evil intentions. You could have the best intentions in the world and still hit a pedestrian.

I think what's happening is that you're coming across as a beginning cyclist, truthfully, who doesn't really have grasp of the skill required to bike safely or the experience to do so. If you're riding your bike regularly in a bike-friendly city, you really shouldn't be scared of traffic. If you are scared of traffic, you shouldn't be riding your bike.

If you are scared of traffic but want to ride your bike, then you need to get over it and get some experience so that you can do it safely and legally and confidently.
posted by occhiblu at 1:24 PM on July 11, 2005


I'm talking about something more equivalent to "walking" on a bike

Then walk. Or take public transportation. Or something. But don't ride your bike on the sidewalk. I was run down by a bike 20 years or so ago and I can still feel the terror and incomprehension; I didn't know what had happened, I just went flying, with my glasses and bookbag ending up all over the place and my knee scraped. (Never did find a library book I had to pay for.) And the biker (who, I was glad to see, also went flying and hopefully got hurt) cursed me out for being in his way.

I know, I know, you'd never hit anybody. I'm sure my assailant would have said the same thing. And I'm sure you'd never curse out anybody you hit; you seem like a nice guy. But please, read what people are saying, drop the understandable defensiveness, and change your ways.

On preview: Also, what occhiblu said.
posted by languagehat at 1:27 PM on July 11, 2005


Sinner, the "groupthink" is a reflection of the fact that most civic authorities (by their laws), many academic studies (referenced by jdroth above), and most experienced cyclists have found that cycling on the sidewalk has a higher rate of injury (of pedestrians mostly) than does cycling on roads. You don't seem to like that consensus, true, but it doesn't change the fact that it exists. Heck, we even have speed limits on the multiple-use paths here (20 kph). I've seen people get tickets.

The bottom line is that it is more dangerous for you to be on the sidewalk, if not to yourself then certainly to others, than it is for you to be on the road. If you feel that certain roads are too dangerous to travel, then DON'T RIDE ON THEM. Alternate route selection is one of the pleasures of cycling.

Also, do look at the Forrester book. Vehicular cycling saves lives. If you are in Canada, I strongly suggest you look at a CanBike course. These courses teach you how to handle yourself in traffic, how to be seen by drivers and how not to be hurt. It appears to me that you would really benefit from such a course.

Don't expect sympathy for cycling in a way that has a high chance of hurting someone else. It is a bit like arguing for drunk driving "but only at night, when no one else is around." It's a bad idea, even if you disagree.
posted by bonehead at 1:34 PM on July 11, 2005


The fundamental truth regarding transportation of all forms is this:

People would be safer, and have more pleasurable travel experiences, if they would behave in a predictable fashion, concentrate on the task at hand, and be courteous to others.

If people adhere to this guideline, pedestrians and vehicles of all sorts would be able to share the roads, paths, and sidewalks without incident. It is for this reason that the traffic laws exist; they attempt to codify the appropriate behavior.

Unfortunately, everyone — myself included — behaves unpredictably from time-to-time, becomes distracted (me biggest sin as a pedestrian and a motorist is my constant iPod use), and forgets common courtesy from time-to-time.
posted by jdroth at 1:40 PM on July 11, 2005


I'm a cyclist--both sport and commuting. I've been riding all my life, and started riding in the streets (of central Chicago) almost as soon as I got my training wheels off. I'll admit that sidewalk riding is a bit of a peeve for me.

All that out of the way, I'll try to explain why riding on the sidewalk is a bad idea for the rider. We'll forget any inconvenience to others and legal issues.

A key reason that riders choose sidewalks is fear of the "overtaking collision", that is, cars running over you as they pass you (this probably also inspires wrong-side-of-the-street riding). This is actually an extremely rare form of bike vs car collision. More common is bikes making turns from unexpected places, or being where drivers aren't looking for them--like a sidewalk.

Draw a little diagram of a street. Draw a car pulling out of a driveway. Draw a bike on the street, and one next to it on the sidewalk. Now work out the angles, roughly, between the motorist and each bike.

I don't know the kinematics, but in theory one could work out how many seconds it will take before the bikes and cars occupy the same space, how many feet they need to brake, etc. The motorist and street-cyclist will each see the other before the motorist and sidewalk-cyclist do. More time to react. This is a big advantage.

Motorists probably don't check the sidewalk until they're at a point where they have to worry about colliding with a pedestrian. Since pedestrians can stop shorter than bikes, it's too late for the sidewalk-cyclist.
posted by adamrice at 1:51 PM on July 11, 2005


schroedinger:

loquacious, why would you take routes that take you against traffic?

The simple answer? Laziness.

The long answer:

Any time where the trip on the on-sidewalk against-traffic is shorter than a half mile, and in that half mile to obey all traffic laws I would either have to make three lefts across huge streets with 55 mph speed limits, including one left at a huge intersection.

The other option - following the flow of traffic entirely - would be to ride a half mile one direction, cross the intersection three times for a legal, with-flow-of-traffic u-turn, ride a mile back towards and past my point of origin. Cross twice. Ride a half mile past my point of destination. Cross the street three times. And then ride back another half mile to my destination.

Not only would following the flow and letter of the law severely increase my chances of getting hit, it's laughable to the point of being OCD. Plus, it's hotter than the devil's own asshole here. Every extra minute spent in the heat and sun is unhealthy.

If my careful biking on sidewalks in this situation is entirely selfish, then so be it. But frankly it is not, there's the safety of the people in cars to consider as well.

If it helps you see my rationalization any, I come to a complete stop at all corners, crossings and blind spots.

phearlez:

Of course you are. Just like you're probably better than average looking, just as more than 70% of the population identifies themselves. I'm assuming you can do the math on that.

That aside, and stipulating that you are without flaw in your (and that's the Royal your) care riding on the sidewalk at all times, (a) you are not representative of everyone and (2) you are no more 100% in perfect control of your actions than auto drivers are. Tires pop, rocks and cracks are on the road, dust gets in your eye, ad infinitum. Those unforseen and uncontrollable circumstances put the pedestrian at greater risk than you and, more importantly, a risk they did not agree to assume when they went strolling down the sidewalk. See below:


I am better than average looking. My IQ is also better than average. I am not a statistical average or a number - I'm an individual, not an aggregate. I'm also not some jackass of a psycho bike courier riding on sidewalks in the heart of a dense, urban city hellbent on running over pedestrians.

In any of the scenarios you suggest, at no time when I'm near or approaching pedestrians am I moving at a speed that would be injurious. Yes, pedestrians weave, move erratically, and do unexpected things. Yes, bikes have failures, roads have cracks, and bugs and dust get in your eyes. That's all moot, because I'm either walking or rolling - feet out of the pedals on the ground - at a speed that's equatable to walking.

Random questionable-sanity urban outdoorsman also move around like crazy, throw fits, suddenly begin fighting the air, or otherwise lie down at a moment's notice, or leap into the street where I frankly prefer to ride. I haven't hit any of them, either.

Unless pedestrians start suddenly violating the laws of physics by moving faster than physically possible, or suddenly appearing out of thin air, I'm far less of a threat to them then lightning strikes, meteors, or even cracks in the sidewalk.

My statement of "I haven't ever come close to hitting a pedestrian" isn't hyperbole or a generalization, it's fact. As in, the physical laws of the the universe would have to suddenly and drastically alter for any collision to even be remotely possible - even including instances of erratic pedestrian behavior, hardware failures, and uncertain terrain factors.



All that being said, by all means, ride in the street. Claim your legally given place in traffic. I personally prefer to ride that way - as much as possible. I'm a master at body language and traffic. I've ridden on interstates. I've ridden in heavy gridlocked traffic in dense downtown urban centers. I know how to ride in the streets, I acknowledge that it is statistically safer.

I also agree with the politics of claiming your space as a cyclist. These are all fine points.

But people are not statistics. Not everyone has the mental werewithal to tangle with real vehicular traffic riding a bike. I don't always have the mental werewithal and physical energy to tangle with traffic. Not everyone lives in a bike-friendly town. (If I lived in San Francisco, I'd ride in the street all the time, and never on the sidewalk. SF takes their bike lanes very seriously, protects their riders, and their sidewalks are far too narrow and congested.)

But people need to pick their own battles. Just ride, and be safe about it. Ignore the overly sanctimonious. Follow the rules, the law and the letter of the law as much as possible. Do learn to ride safely. But just ride, ok?

Jesus, some of the people in this thread would not make it as a cyclist in, say, China. You'd get destroyed.
posted by loquacious at 2:13 PM on July 11, 2005


Sinner (and to a lesser extent loquacious),

I have a dog who loves to run on the left (she's Australian). I can pull her over to the right when I see cyclists coming toward me on the sidewalk but she's utterly oblivious to their need for space, and so would plow right through them if she had her way. I can't see cyclists coming behind me, usually I can't hear them either (not having bionic hearing), and by the time I've heard a holler it's usually impossible to negotiate her to a safe place in time. I can freeze, but the dog doesn't get that. I'm sure you wouldn't hit me, but, sidewalks being narrow, you might hit my dense dog, or get tangled up in the leash, and either way you'd be a major threat to my dog's health. If you're biking at night you might not even see her since she's black and low profile.
She's also a serious bunny chaser. She's darted under my feet unexpectedly when I run (5mph max) and sent me to the ground. We may be the only ones you run into on a half mile of sidewalk, but the probability of her doing something random that sends you and/or her to health professionals is far more likely than what might happen on a half mile of bike laned roadway.
Since my dog and I are legally correct to be left running, bunny chasing sidewalk users, we absolutely resent sidewalk using bikers, and if anything did happen, would feel very justified in making them pay for their illegal thoughtlessness. Unless there was no bike lane, or the rider was obviously young (kids get a pass until driving age in my mind).
Get a dog and start running, and you'll understand.
posted by dness2 at 2:16 PM on July 11, 2005


loquacious: Ignore the overly sanctimonious.

Well that's that then... No more askme!
posted by Chuckles at 2:24 PM on July 11, 2005


dness2: She's also a serious bunny chaser. She's darted under my feet unexpectedly when I run (5mph max) and sent me to the ground.

Actually, if you are not in control of your dog, I don't think you are lawfully using the sidewalk... (leaving aside the actual meaning of 'lawfully', as everyone else is)
posted by Chuckles at 2:27 PM on July 11, 2005


having to choose between pissing off pedestrians and pissing off drivers is just depressing.

No one seems to have answered this - if drivers are getting pissed off at you, then it stems from their lack of knowledge about rules of the road. Assuming you are following the rules, it is entirely their problem. So it is good to try to avoid pissing them off (since pissed off drivers are stupid and unpredictable), but for the more ignorant drivers, can't be avoided.
posted by advil at 2:40 PM on July 11, 2005


dness2: I had a very ill-behaved and excitable dog growing up. I understand the leash problem very well. She was forever going the wrong way around the tree or signpost or whatever.

But even without that experience: I give dogs extra wide berth. I'm aware of leashes, I'm aware of retractable leashes. Biking at night, I have a light on. Always. Tangentially, consider a reflecting collar for night walks - though if I can see you, I'm slowing down to the point I'd also see your dog before passing. No cyclist wants to get tangled up in a leash. It might hurt you or your dog, but doing an endo after getting a leash tangled in your front spokes could kill a cyclist or break their neck. Even if they probably deserved it.

Besides the extra space dogs/owners take up, dogs are known to chase bicyclists. I've crossed streets to avoid them - but most of those tended to be the "stray, unleashed and obviously feral rottweiler on the streets in south-central Los Angeles" sort of dog, not usually the well-groomed dog on a leash sort.

As I also give much wider berth to people with shopping carts, grocery bags, strollers, and whatever else.

And what Chuckles said. You and and your dog don't have any extra special rights of protection or anything, especially if it doesn't heel properly.

Also, to support part the "ride as the law says, and only as the law says" arguments, most of my bike vs. vehicle close calls happened while sidewalk riding. But all of the actual incidents I've ever had have been either driver cruelty or stupidity while riding on the street.

Your mileage may vary. Literally.
posted by loquacious at 3:20 PM on July 11, 2005


I was run down by a bike 20 years or so ago and I can still feel the terror and incomprehension

Yeah, but if you'd have been run down by a car, you couldn't still feel any terror or incomprehension. You couldn't feel ANYTHING. You'd be DEAD.

I know most of the people here say "Ride on the road". I also know that most of the people here have 100x more money than me and can afford to live in places where that's acceptable, rather than in places where any road that goes more than 100 feet is, for all intents and purposes, a highway.
posted by dagnyscott at 3:23 PM on July 11, 2005


Unfortunately, there is no satisfactory answer to this problem. You can be as slow and careful as you like on the sidewalk, but all it takes is one idiot not controlling themselves, their kid, or their dog and you've got yourself a lawsuit. Or, you can be as assertive, law-abiding, and sensible as you like on the road, but all it takes is one under-attentive or over-aggressive fuck to maim or kill you. Basically, you're damned either way and none of the sanctimonious answers here will change that!
posted by Elpoca at 3:41 PM on July 11, 2005


I'm also not some jackass of a psycho bike courier riding on sidewalks in the heart of a dense, urban city hellbent on running over pedestrians. - loquacious

Well, I am. Or, I was a bike messenger in NYC 20 years ago, and I still ride that city's streets - and sidewalks - in such a manner that pedestrians must think I'm coming after them. I ride the wrong way on one-way streets (just for convenience, but 20 years ago it was a handy way to elude a pushy taxicab after taking out its taillight with my lock), and run red lights as if they were green (in fact, I weave the lights - that means I cross the avenue between every two streets so that I'm always on the side away from the crosstown traffic and can run the light when a car turns). Oh, and no helmet. And no hands, much of the time.

Why? 'Cause I'm that damn good, and it fills me with ecstatic joy to move fast and fluidly through the traffic and the people, in control and fantastically alert with three senses working hard and two enjoying some Eclipse™ Polar Ice® chewing gum. I really miss it during the summer, although racing Lasers doesn't suck either.

And I guess because I was born to it - my Dad rode me around NYC on the back of his bike when I was a tyke, in a vinyl-covered-cardboard "child seat" that sat over his rear wheel with no straps to keep me in nor anything to keep my little toes out of his spokes except my 4-year-old good sense. I loved it, but if you put a kid in one of those today you'd be arrested for child endangerment.

And, finally, because I haven't hurt anyone in 20 years of riding like this, I don't expect to, and I trust my senses, my judgment, and my machine.

I don't skitch any more, maybe because I'm old and it's suicidal but probably only because I'm not making three-zone hauls for money. The only rule I observe, in fact, is this: if you're riding against traffic and another cyclist is coming at you with traffic, you have to pass them on the outside, because you can see the cars coming and they can't. See? I'm safety-minded!
posted by nicwolff at 4:49 PM on July 11, 2005


especially if it doesn't heel properly.
She is, ironically, a heeler. I think she just carries the stay to the left side thing too far. Anyway, she got first place in obedience school, but walkies aren't always the time for rigid obedience training.

As for what Chuckles said, she is under my control within what I would normally expect out of pedestrian traffic. The time she tripped me, she bolted under my feet suddenly -- technically allowable within the length of her leash, of course not within good dog behavior but she realized that quickly. But my point was, it's not possible to make sure dogs are under control as far as bike traffic goes, because bikes sneak up a lot faster and have less time to see and react to normal dog behavior, and I can't compensate for it if I can't see or hear you coming. My normal dog, for example, will take a right turn on a dime if she sees a bunny, damned to what's in the way, and legally, the 6 ft. of sidewalk or whatever it is, is ours. If a clear bike lane exists, then my dog and I should be able to enjoy the sidewalk without being run over. If you are a bunny riding a bicycle, then you might have an appropriate beef with her, but otherwise not.
posted by dness2 at 5:00 PM on July 11, 2005


Wow, after reading the comments here, If I was Sinner, I would build a goddamn fortified madmax vespa and and leak oil on every sidewalk around, while simultaneously kicking over every man, woman, child and yapping side-walk shitting poodle I came across.

Just lame. I'm flaggin this whole thread, Matt will be speaking with you when he comes home.
posted by snsranch at 5:23 PM on July 11, 2005


snsranch my answer was honest and correct. The thread may have turned into a bit of debate after that (and a big derail on pedestrian safety) but there is lots of good information here; the thread is hardly lame.
posted by Mitheral at 7:06 PM on July 11, 2005


nicwolff, dang, I hope you were kidding. 'Cause if you weren't, well, you didn't sound so much like a glorious bikemaster dancing through the New York streets as a selfish asshole.

If you want that kind of experience, go play in the middle of a highway. Way to go with your years of pissing off drivers and pedestrians alike! You would be why people toss cans at even the most polite of bikers.
posted by schroedinger at 7:27 PM on July 11, 2005


you didn't sound so much like a glorious bikemaster dancing through the New York streets as a selfish asshole

Can't I be both?
posted by nicwolff at 8:35 PM on July 11, 2005


Only if you're Michael Flatley.
posted by schroedinger at 9:05 PM on July 11, 2005


You people are crazy. Let's all weep for the maimed babies and thousands of dead Asian pedestrians killed by bicyclists legally riding on the sidewalk now, ok?

It seems the strongest argument is really about the legality or about expectations. If you're willing to risk being fined, go ahead. Bikes and cars don't seem like a good mix to me, but I also don't like bicyclists crashing into me (which has only happened so far from those who were driving in the street as they zipped around a corner into crossing pedestrians). Do you anti-sidewalk bikers send little kids into busy streets on their bicycles?

Once again, it seems kind of like a congested urban vs. open-spaces (not-many-pedestrians-because-most-people-are-in-cars) kind of discrepancy behind the vitriolic answers.

And if people are throwing cans at bikers, then there's some really serious problems in the culture that go beyond where the bikes are supposed to be...
posted by MightyNez at 9:24 PM on July 11, 2005


Sinner, if you get this far down pick up The Art of Urban Cycling. It tells you what you need to know about biking with out the preaching of some of those above.
posted by dial-tone at 9:43 PM on July 11, 2005


After reading this thread today at work, I got home and I went out for a bike ride. 20 minutes later, I was promptly doored.

While I don't recommend riding on the sidewalk, I will say my chest is totally feeling where Sinner is coming from, and I'm not sure why so many people are so angry about the idea of ever riding on the sidewalk. Has anyone tried to ride the Jamaica Way in Boston on a bike?

(I'd recommend the sidewalk)
posted by ilovebicuspids at 10:04 PM on July 11, 2005


People aren't angry about the idea of ever riding on the sidewalk. People are annoyed but the "But I should always be allowed to ride on any sidewalk, because traffic is MEAN and riding my bike is HARD!" tone of the original question, coupled with Sinner's apparent disinterest (uninterest?) in hearing anything that contradicted his own beliefs, even though he's the one who asked for opinions.
posted by occhiblu at 10:16 PM on July 11, 2005


Sinner: I too used to be afraid of riding my bike in traffic. I eventually bought a book about how to ride your bike in traffic. Eventually I was riding around Manhattan at all hours of the day and night, relatively safely.

I'd recommend this to you, except that I'm pretty convinced by now that you don't know how to read.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:52 PM on July 11, 2005


Since a couple of people have mentioned me by name, I'll do what I said I might and respond, as briefly as possible.

occhiblu: People aren't angry about the idea of ever riding on the sidewalk. People are annoyed but the "But I should always be allowed to ride on any sidewalk, because traffic is MEAN and riding my bike is HARD!" tone of the original question,

This is patently untrue, occhiblu. It's sort of amazing, because to this point, I'd found most of what you'd written to be pretty reasonable. But this is a completely unfair characterization of my question. Go read what I wrote again, and you'll see that what I wrote was not at all whiny and basically just expressed a simple question about how riding in traffic feels dangerous, and that for certain limited types of riding, it feels like biking carefully on the sidewalk is safer overall.
"... always ride my bike on any sidewalk"?

Were you unable to read the part where I wrote "Note: this would be different if I were talking about real cycling at high speeds. I'm not: I'm just a guy on a bike trying to do the occasional errand," or were you just unable to comprehend it?

coupled with Sinner's apparent disinterest (uninterest?) in hearing anything that contradicted his own beliefs, even though he's the one who asked for opinions.

Disinterest?

Are you kidding me? How many times do I have to say "I appreciate everyone's input and am considering it seriously?" Are you just reading every other post or something?

Yeah, I'll admit that perhaps I was a little defensive, given the overwhelming negative response to something not quite the same as the question I was asking, but perhaps you just don't grasp how this site works. That you or anyone else provided a response does not make it ipso facto correct. The truth is that I am entitled to dispute that response or ask further questions. Should a debate occur, hopefully all parties will remain civil, and I made tremendous efforts to ensure that everything I wrote was in fact calm and reasonable. Most others did the same. The end result is a thread full of resources for others who might have the same question I did.

And while I again admit that the cavalcade of negative responses did leave me somewhat defensive, looking around the thread now, I see that I'm not entirely alone, and a number of others feel the same concern I do. Which doesn't make me right, but does make me feel that the condescension of certain users - you can go ahead and raise your hand - is unjustified.

For the last time, I reiterate: the scenario I was describing was too narrow by far. Having watched many other sidewalk bikers, I do think that I'm relatively unique - or at least in a small minority - in the degree of care I take and the fact that it's a minority is exactly why a law allowing sidewalk might be a bad idea.

And on preview:

ikkyu2: I'd recommend this to you, except that I'm pretty convinced by now that you don't know how to read.

Well, to this point the jury was still out on whether you were an asshole. Now I'm pretty convinced. I hadn't said a word in, what, 10? 12? hours, and you're trying to take jabs at me? I don't need your misplaced aggression - go nurse your junior high school wounds somewhere else.
posted by Sinner at 11:29 PM on July 11, 2005 [1 favorite]


Just one more thing:

This thread has already inspired another thread about bike-friendly cities. It also has a huge amount of links, information, statistics and well-reasoned opinions on the issue at hand (thanks, most recently, to dial-tone). If not for a few jerks (and everyone but them knows who they are), I think it'd be a shining example of at least one side of AskMe at its best. This is by no means to toot my own horn - the vast preponderance of the information here came from people other than me. This is just a reminder that AskMe doesn't have to be about immediate single-comment responses, and the reason I feel no guilt whatsoever for not having simply said "OK, I give," when confronted with information that didn't match what I was expecting. Civil debate actually can be - *gasp* - productive.
posted by Sinner at 11:38 PM on July 11, 2005


Here's the solution to please all you bike folks:
Get the stinking cars off the streets!

Seriously. No one has a "right" to drive a car. Its a privilege. They endanger everyone and pollute the air, wasting natural resources in the process. Cities are no place for cars, they are for people.

Some of the folks writing here exhibit typical narrow-minded thinking. You apply general rules as if everywhere was exactly the same. What utter bullshit.

Some places, people in cars are deliberate in their aggression towards cyclists. In the UK, cyclists are killed on purpose. My bike saw very little use there.

Where I lived in Germany, it was cycle heaven! Routes, lanes, even paths (i.e., away from roads) existed. BUT in Germany, there is attitude. So I would choose an empty sidewalk over a crowded street (when there was no bike-specific place). This made everyone happy, and the cops either never saw me, or realized I was just being RATIONAL. Following rules blindly is for robots, not rational humans.
posted by Goofyy at 2:00 AM on July 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Sinner: I agree with you. This has been a good thread; kudos for starting it.

Goofyy: I agree with you too. Cars suck, and I wish we could get away from depending on them. But as long as they're ubiquitous, both cyclists and pedestrians are stuck dealing with them.
posted by languagehat at 6:39 AM on July 12, 2005


Sinner, my "always" meant that you, personally, are talking about doing your entire round of errands on the sidewalk. Not, as people have been defending, at a particularly busy intersection, or on a particularly dangerous stretch of road, but through your entire outing. Every outing.

And I know many people who say, "I'm careful, therefore it's OK when *I* drive drunk," or "I'm smarter than most people, so it's OK when I do this little dishonest thing, because I won't get caught," or whatever else. The law and community standards don't apply to everyone except those who are careful, smart, whatever. Those standards exist because on average they work, and they start not to work if everyone decides "Oh, but that doesn't apply to me because of X."

If you want to go against those standards for whatever rationalizations you want (and I'm not just picking on you; we all have rules we don't follow because we, in our infinite wisdom, have decided they don't apply to us) but don't expect a rousing, "Go, you" from other people with experience in that area, or who will be affected by your disregard, either through problems with further advocacy ("Why do we need more bike lanes? Everyone just rides on the sidewalk anyway.") or actual accidents with people who think they're careful but aren't.

And while I was probably too harsh in my last post, I have been gritting my teeth when posting each of my answers, because despite the "I appreciate the advice," I don't feel like you've reading or absorbing anything anyone has been saying. As evidenced by the fact that people have to keep repeating things because you seem to gloss right over them.
posted by occhiblu at 7:45 AM on July 12, 2005


The Art of Urban Cycling is interesting because it doesn't appouse only one way of riding (only on the street, only on the sidewalk, etc.) but presents that there are different strategies that work for different streets. In most cases though, riding on the street is the best strategy.
posted by dial-tone at 10:03 AM on July 12, 2005


Well, to this point the jury was still out on whether you were an asshole.

Heh, I could've answered that one for you. Sorry for the misplaced vitriol - long couple of weeks at my new job.

Do check out that book I linked; it got me riding safely and relatively happily on the streets of Manhattan, as unlikely as that sounds.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:17 PM on July 14, 2005


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