Biking on a Sidewalk: Do or Don’t?
The General Answer: Do not ride on the sidewalk. When it comes to biking on a sidewalk, the most important factor to consider is safety, and in general, it’s not a very safe thing to do for an adult cyclist.
A cyclist on a sidewalk faces at least 3 hazards:
- Pedestrians, children and dogs that travel much slower but change direction much quicker than a bicycle. In general, it’s a bad idea to be a cyclist around pedestrians.
- Terrain imperfections such as heaves, curbs, driveways, etc. In general, the surface conditions are better in the road than they are on the sidewalk.
- Invisibility to drivers: Drivers might anticipate pedestrians, but not cyclists when entering a street from a driveway especially if the cyclist is coming from the driver’s right side. The driver is looking left for oncoming traffic, and he might not have seen you the last time he looked right when you were 20-30 yards away.
These factors are why the such organizations as the League of American Bicyclist and Bike Friendly Fort Worth counsels against riding on sidewalks. It’s really a bad idea.
Local Laws: Different Texas cities have different rules about where you can ride your bike on the sidewalk. In Dallas, it’s legal everywhere but in some areas down town. Same thing with Austin. If you have questions, check your local city code.
If you have to ride on the sidewalk for your own protection, slow way down and ride much more cautiously than you would on the road. Yield to everybody, pedestrians and autos.
(The foregoing applies only to adult cyclists and not young children who are using their bikes more as toys instead of a means of exercise or transportation. Obviously, small tykes on small bikes should not be in the streets.)