Why I sometimes ride in the sidewalk

As I’ve noted before, I commute by bike in warm weather.  I take Washtenaw Avenue, which has no bike lanes, from my home all the way up to the Medical Campus.  Because of the aforementioned lack of bike lanes, the high speed limits, and the heavy traffic on this road during my commute hours, I ride mostly on the sidewalk along Washtenaw, contrary to the official state guidelines.

I understand the reasoning behind the League of Michigan Bicyclist’s rule that cyclists should ride in the road, because for various reasons, it’s generally unsafe to ride in sidewalks.  I try to comply with this rule in high-density, slow-traffic areas like downtown Ann Arbor, or in Detroit where the roads typically have plenty of empty lanes.

But I think it’s stupid to say bikes shouldn’t use the sidewalks on stretches of road like Washtenaw which have heavy traffic and high speed limits.  Yes, drivers are supposed to share the road, but on the few times I’ve rode in the street I’ve feared for my life.  Even when following the rules of the road, halting at red lights (which I always do) and sticking to the right hand lanes, I’ve encountered hostility from drivers who want to kill me.  Meanwhile, for most of Washtenaw, the pedestrian presence on the side walk is pretty light.  I slow down and look carefully for drivers whenever I reach an intersection, and halt if I’m not absolutely sure a driver will yield right of way.  When I do get stuck behind a pedestrian, I slow down and go around them, usually on the grass.  I don’t care what the official guidelines are.  They are simply not appropriate for the particular conditions of the route I take, and I don’t see how mindlessly following them makes any sense.


6 responses to “Why I sometimes ride in the sidewalk

  1. I agree 100%. I feel the same way on some stretches of Packard, going into Ypsi. I will ride on the sidewalks, thanks…I can’t afford to get seriously injured.

  2. I find that the danger is in constantly switching between a pedestrian type biker and an auto type biker. Pick one set of rules and follow them.

  3. Just writing to say yay for more transportation related blog material from your biggest Oregon fan. FYI, Oregon allows your to ride on either unless banned within the city.

    And to Joe, bike safety doesn’t require following car or pedestrian rules, or some specific combination in between. It requires active and defensive maneuvering through the built landscape while being alert and exercising due care. What police, judges, and other motorists don’t understand is that this happens almost instinctively when you get on a bicycle.

  4. Thanks, Bobby (aka Biggest Oregon Fan)!

    As I basically say in the post, as a cyclist I feel safer adhering to Bobby’s concept of ‘active and defensive maneuvering’ than Joe’s ‘Pick one set of rules.’ I will disagree that it happens almost instinctively, alas; we have all witnessed inexperienced and irresponsible riders. I look back on the way I biked back when I was 18 or 19 with horror and embarrassment, and it’s lucky I wasn’t killed! (But for that matter I was equally as bad a driver then!)

  5. peter honeyman

    riding your bike on the sidewalk is a hazard to pedestrians. if you are unwilling to ride your bike in the street, you should walk your bike on the sidewalk.

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