Ever asked yourself ‘Can I ride my bike on the sidewalk? Is it even legal?
Cyclists occupy a strange place on the roads and sidewalks. They are generally considered to be the drivers of vehicles in most of the states in America, but they are certainly not protected by steel and plastic like car drivers are!
They can knock pedestrians over, but they, in turn, can be easily smooshed by vehicles. This grey zone has led many people to wonder just where they can ride most safely.
Yes, many roads do have bike lanes and in theory, both cars and pedestrians are supposed to stay out of them, but the reality is that cyclists often must dodge pedestrians and cars in their lanes and that leads many cyclists to figure that the sidewalks would be safer wherever possible.
Legalities around Sidewalk Riding
The legalities around sidewalk riding are murky as well, with no overarching federal law around whether it is legal. Instead, it’s left to the state and the state generally leaves it up to the municipality to decide!
This leads to a lot of confusion on the part of the cyclist, frustration for the pedestrian, and many citations that may or may not be lawfully given.
We will do our best to break this question down, but before looking in greater detail, it’s extremely important to note that you should always check the bylaws of your town or city before your ride. We cannot possibly detail the legality of every single city, town, and village in the United States after all!
Why Do Cyclists Want to Ride on Sidewalks?
There are a number of reasons why people choose to ride on the sidewalks. Safety is a big one, even though sidewalk riding is still less safe overall. It’s still not safe though because there are too many points where cyclists can crash into traffic or pedestrians.
Riders also generally have a harder time riding at the speeds that let them deal with motor traffic safely.
Sidewalks may also be used as a shortcut to buildings or other destinations or they are just more convenient.
And finally, motorists often tell cyclists to get back on the sidewalk and many cyclists don’t know when they cannot be on sidewalks, so they just follow what the motorists say.
Some cities have been working on creating protected bike lanes, but they are often very expensive, reduce parking, and can cause the need for a complete restructuring. Protected bike lanes are safest of all for everyone, but they are not terribly common.
Sidewalk Riding by State
Broadly speaking, here is your sidewalk riding rights by state:
As you can see, it is generally legal in most states to ride on the sidewalks, or there is no law around it either way, which generally means people will do it.
There are some consistencies across the board when riding on sidewalks:
- If it’s legal, it’s almost always possible to be prohibited by traffic control devices.
- Riders generally must yield to pedestrians and give an audible signal when passing
- Local law can always override what the state says, so make sure you check!
If you are riding on the sidewalks, it’s important to be extra attentive to pedestrians, be loud when you’re passing, take it slow, and be polite.
As some cyclists say, they are guests on the sidewalks and should behave as such. You may still get glared at, but it will come at a much-reduced rate if you’re being polite!
And whenever possible, it’s still a good idea to take the bike lane. After all, if more people use them, that will encourage more cities to develop them and that’s good for everyone.
If you want to know all of the various bike laws for your state, click here where we have a page for each state in the US