The Law of the Sidewalk

This editorial appears in the July issue:

Sidewalk bicycle riders: can we have a time-out? I know the weather is beautiful and you just want to ride, but why are downtown sidewalks your favorite place to ride? Sure, weaving around pedestrians can be a blast, but are the city streets that terrifying? Riding the sidewalk doesn’t exempt you from traffic laws, but a lot of sidewalk riders act like the thing they love most about being on a bike is the self-imposed rule-free existence it affords them.
Dude, red lights are for CARS, my bicycle must roam free. I wish I could say this reasoning is restricted to just meth-head tweakers on stolen bikes and wannabe gangsta boys on department store BMXs, but, no. I’m sure that’s what the snazzy downtown bike commuter must have been thinking when he pulled up to the Browne and Sprague intersection from the sidewalk, took one look at me, riding towards him in the street on my commute to work, and then darted out against the red light, almost cutting me off, and continued on his carefree sidewalk journey. Nicely done my friend. I’ll know who to thank the next time a driver yells at me for doing nothing.
These jerks in their cars are dead. Get on a bike and live! Well you might be dead too if you ride on the sidewalk too much. Sidewalk riders have to enter and exit traffic every block, increasing their danger exponentially from riders who are in traffic, acting predictably, being seen, and obeying laws. A good friend of mine was hit by a car and severely injured in a bicycle/car collision a few months ago. He was riding the sidewalk and a car turning right didn’t see him.
Let he who has never ridden the sidewalk cast the first stone. Understood. I’ve ridden a little sidewalk here and there, split a line now and then, and run a light in the middle of the night. It’s a bad habit. As a cyclist, you are much safer—by a longshot—being in the road behaving as traffic. You also make all other riders safer when motorists see you operating your two-wheel steed predictably.
A friend of mine just told me she now rides mostly in the street thanks to my encouragement. Word. The streets are for us on bikes. Save the sidewalks for kids on trikes. //

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