More aggressive, experienced bicyclists may feel perfectly comfortable biking on a busy, congested road. The more timid or inexperienced may take to the sidewalk, not wanting to risk pedaling in traffic. But what are the laws for bicyclists? Must they ride on the road, or is the sidewalk available? Turns out it varies greatly by jurisdiction. Where will adult and child bicyclists be safest? Depends on their age and situation.
A in-depth look at various cities’ and states’ policies about bike riding on sidewalks follows:
Riding a bicycle with a tire size over 24 inches is prohibited. In other words, if you’re not a child, you have to get into the road. Especially as the weather warms up, Toronto sidewalks become filled with pedestrians, vendors, and those grabbing a bite to eat at a cafe. Breaking the sidewalk law will get you slapped with a $90 fine and a careless driving charge. Also prohibited are reckless skateboarding, roller skating, and scootering.
The city of Toronto offers great tips on what to teach your child about biking on sidewalks:
- Always yield to pedestrians. Get off and walk your bike or put your foot down.
- Ride slowly.
- Always walk your bike through a crosswalk (fines apply if not followed).
- Use a bell or horn to let pedestrians know that you are there.
- Make eye contact with drivers. Assume that drivers don’t see you.
- Look for cars in driveways and at intersections and be prepared to stop.
- Expect pedestrians to exit from stores.
And of course, Canadian children, American children, and otherwise should always wear a helmet!
In 2009, Georgia voted to change its biking-on-sidewalks laws. Now, children 12 and younger may bike on the sidewalk. If you’re an adult, however, biking on a sidewalk actually increases your likelihood of getting hit by a car.
The same bill increased fines for drivers who violated right-of-way and caused injury to bicyclists (as well as motorcyclists and pedestrians). They’re now $250 for a first violation, and a second will get you a ticket of $500 to $1,000 and up to a year in jail.
The nation’s capital has more lenient laws for sidewalk bicyclists. Though often assumed to be illegal, biking on the sidewalk is legal for all outside the central business district.
And now, to pedal in closer to home. Utah’s laws are more similar to D.C.’s; namely, biking on the sidewalk is legal, outside downtown districts. It’s prohibited between North Temple and 500 South and 400 West and 200 East. Also, in Provo, don’t bike on the sidewalk in the historic district (The handful of blocks radiating out from University Avenue and Center Street). Both the University of Utah and BYU have their own proscriptions about riding bikes on their campus sidewalks that students should note carefully.
In general, Utah bicyclists should pass pedestrians with care and use a horn or vocal signal when passing. When biking on the road, hand turn signals are mandatory.
Bikers should use common sense when deciding whether to use the road or sidewalk if both options are legal. There will be more pedestrians in a dense metropolis like Toronto than in a suburb of Salt Lake City. The number of pedestrians and drivers will drastically vary with football games and move-in days in a college town like Provo.
“Cycling on the sidewalk is a factor in 30 percent of car and bike collisions,” according to the city of Toronto.
Says the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition,
- Drivers of cars are not expecting vehicles on the sidewalk at bike speed (generally 7-15 mph). They are looking out for people walking at much slower speeds.
- At intersections and driveways, in the time it takes to look right and left, a turning car can easily be overtaken by a bicyclist merrily rolling along into the turning pattern, who gets hit “out of nowhere” because the driver didn’t see him or her.
- Trees, shrubs, mailboxes, signs, and parked cars between the sidewalk and the street block the cyclist on the sidewalk from the view of drivers on the street.
- Sidewalks are made for people walking – bicyclists can endanger pedestrians, especially in busy areas.
Remember, if you are in downtown Salt Lake or Provo, you can’t ride your bike on the sidewalks: walk it or take advantage of our famously wide boulevards. You have a right to the road, and if you choose to bike on the sidewalk outside downtown, remember that you are traveling much faster than pedestrians. The sidewalk is a good place for novice bikers to get a feel for their wheels.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a bike accident on the sidewalk or the road in the Salt Lake metro area, call Christensen & Hymas at 801-506-0800.