The San Diego Union Tribune recently reported that it is commonly thought that sidewalk bicycling is always illegal. In reality, however, only 4 cities in San Diego County – Escondido, Carlsbad, Vista, and National City – have forbidden bicycling on sidewalks.
In fact, looking nationwide, laws vary wildly on whether bicycling on sidewalks is allowed, prohibited, or completely unaddressed. Bicycle riding on the sidewalks is permitted in most areas of Chicago’s Highland Park. Minnesota law does not expressly prohibit bicycling riding on sidewalks, but it can be prohibited in business districts or by city ordinance.
In the absence of dedicated bicycle lanes, many riders report feeling safer when riding on the sidewalk instead of on a busy street. But while that might be the case, NPR notes that doing so puts pedestrians at an elevated risk of collision. According to local news, a woman in Escanaba, Michigan was injured as she walked out of a building and a cyclist that was riding on the sidewalk struck her. While an Escanaba town ordinance currently prohibits bicycles on the sidewalk, historically it has not been enforced.
Cyclists themselves are at a higher risk of being hit by cars pulling out of driveways or at crosswalks when they ride on sidewalks. In addition, obstructions on or damage to sidewalks can cause significant injuries. For example, one cyclist suffered spinal injury and lost teeth after he was launched 28 feet by a tree-damaged sidewalk.
If you prefer to ride on sidewalks, make sure you are allowed to there. And, as always, be cautious! If you find yourself with questions or injured and in need of representation, contact us!