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Why bikes shouldn't go on the sidewalks

The way that some drivers treat cyclists, you'd think that they wish that all the bikes would just get off of the roads. Many cyclists attempt to do just that by riding up on the sidewalk.

Here's the thing: This is often illegal and always dangerous. Sidewalks are meant for people on foot and nothing else. They're not meant for bikes. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Drivers do not expect bikes on the sidewalk. They don't look for them. They expect people to be walking slowly or perhaps jogging, not riding at 30 miles per hour. A cyclist has a huge risk of getting hit by a driver who never thought they'd be there in the first place.
  • Driveways and intersections become huge issues. On a bike, you have the right of way to go in front of a car waiting to turn out of a driveway -- if you're on the road. If you're on the sidewalk, though, the driver may block your path with their car inadvertently. You're actually in more danger of getting into a wreck.
  • Cyclists could hit pedestrians. It's not just drivers who do not expect cyclists to go up onto the sidewalk. The same is true for grandfathers walking to the store, young mothers pushing their children in strollers and people out walking the dog. A crash with any of these pedestrians could lead to serious injuries for the cyclist and the pedestrians.
  • Sidewalks don't get maintained well enough for bikes. They don't provide a smooth surface for tires at high speed. They have cracks, gaps and uneven surfaces. Riding on the sidewalk for a hundred feet makes it very clear that the workers built it for people on foot.
  • Statistically speaking, cyclists face higher crash risks on a sidewalk than on the side of the road. This shows up in study after study, and it has for years. If you consider the likelihood of a crash, the safest thing a cyclist can do is to reduce the sheer odds, and that means staying off of the sidewalk.
  • They provide a false sense of security. Cyclists feel nervous on the road because the cars drive closer to them. That two or three feet of separation makes them feel safe. However, as the studies show, they actually face higher risks. Riding on the sidewalk makes them relax when they shouldn't.

Are you a pedestrian who got injured in an accident with a cyclist or a cyclist who, trying to do the right thing and ride on the street, got hit by a car? You can see how complicated it is for three different groups of people to share the road, and those who suffer injuries in Pennsylvania need to know what legal options they have.

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