Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Too many bikes on the sidewalks?

Recently on the Columbia Heights Yahoo group there's been a long discussion about bikes on the sidewalk: namely how they're bad. Pedestrians often have close calls or are even hit by bikers. Most people say they should be on the street or in bike lanes where present. It is actually legal to ride on the sidewalk outside downtown, contrary to what some people believe, but whether you should or not is another matter.

I must admit I've ridden on the sidewalk before, mainly because I didn't have much experience riding on the street. Since then, though I pretty much only ride on the street. You get used to it pretty quickly.

What do you think? Never on the sidewalk, or it's ok when it's not crowded? Or not at all?

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have been hit by a bicyclist on the sidewalk at 14th and Kenyon, just outside of Heights. My spouse has been hit, deliberately, in a racially motivated attack, at 14th and Columbia (the cyclist missed the first time and turned around to come up from behind and finally succeed). I have witnessed an old woman (I estimate c. 80 years old) be hit by a bicyclist in front of the Metro entrance, west side of 14th at Irving. My spouse has almost been hit by a cyclist going about 25 MPH on the sidewalk at Park and Holmeade. Some of these sidewalks are very narrow, and it is utterly irresponsible for a cyclist to be travelling at anything faster than a slow walking pace on them. Add to that the cyclists sense of entitlement and their aggressiveness, racially motivated or otherwise, and I think there is good reason to defend oneself against cyclists on the sidewalk. The police do not care, of course.

Anonymous said...

I usually don't mind people biking on the sidewalks as it does seem a bit safer. Sadly, it seems that some bikers take advantage of it and expect people walking down the street to get out of their way on a narrow sidewalk. I've had some bikers yell at me to get out of their way on the side walk or just assume I'm going to move and nearly hit me. With Capital Bikeshare this seems to be becoming more of an issue, particularly around certain areas in Columbai Heights.

Anonymous said...

I don't think bicycles should be on the sidewalk, generally speaking. I'll do it if I need to get to a bike rack, or to my house, but it's much safer for bikes to be in the street.

Kayla said...

I do occassionally ride on the sidewalk, but only in cases of when I don't want to go around the block because of a one-way street. A good example of this is the one block between Harris Teeter and 16th on Euclid. Bikers SHOULD go slow (under 10mph), yield to pedestrians and call out when they are going to pass them. But, yeah, passing should only happen on wider sidewalks.

Paul said...

I bike on the sidewalk on some streets. But not the ones with narrow sidewalks or high pedestrian volume. If I did encounter a pedestrian I would slow down to a snail's pace not expect them to move. As an example, Mass Ave between the Convention Center and Union Station has wide sidewalks and other than rush hours the sidewalks are fairly empty. But 7th Street by the Verizon center? A bike should never be on those sidewalks.

I'm willing to take a route 4 blocks away from the direct path to my destination if it allows me to be on a low traffic and quieter street. I still get where I'm going much faster than walking or busing. Other bikers feel entitled to be on the busiest streets and aggressively weave through cars and people.

tballer said...

Sidewalk not sideride.

Andrew said...

These discussions always boil down to:

Don't let them do it! I've seen people get hurt!
No, let me do it! I don't hurt or bother people!

In conclusion, hitting and bothering pedestrians is bad, and anecdotal evidence will never convince anyone of anything.

Andrew said...

Good point on the wide sidewalks, I used to ride on those on Mass Ave.

(This is Andrew from the blog, btw)

crabels said...

I'm totally of the opinion that bicyclists should try to use the road as often as possible, especially if there are available bike lines. However, as a frequent DC driver I've learned that the ineptitude of some DC drivers knows no bounds, such that when I do ride my bike I feel very unsafe being on the street (especially when there's some drivers who somehow believe that bicycles aren't allowed on the streets). And if you're trying to head the wrong way on a one-way street, I can understand wanting to ride your bike on the sidewalk.

I think the most obvious solution is just to have bicyclists on the sidewalk go SLOWLY. If you're moving at the same speed as other pedestrians on the sidewalk, then 1) nobody feels threatened, and 2) if there is an accident, it's not much worse than if two pedestrians walked into each other; that's just physics.

Urban Dad said...

We can certainly learn to share the sidewalks.

I bike with my 7 year old and I only let him use the sidewalk or the cycle track. I teach him to slow down and if necessary dismount whenever encountering a pedestrian.

When he's older I'll encourage him to use the street, but I'm just not comfortable with that yet. The rule is ALWAYS yield to pedestrians. Cyclists who use the sidewalks should have a gentle bell on their bikes too.

Lisa said...

People should not be riding their bikes on extremely busy sidewalks. This includes along 14th from Columbia to probably Park. It is dangerous and takes up a lot of space. That is why there are bike lanes. People need to learn to use them. I'm really sick of almost getting ran over and people speeding down this portion of the sidewalk with people having to jump out of their way. This is something that has been annoying me so much that I've actually yelled "there's a bike lane!" at them.
Lisa

Erin said...

Use the road as much as possible unless you feel that your safety is in danger.

Anonymous said...

Maybe some of our cyclists should read the DC Laws on cycling, you are not permitted on 14th street in business areas to ride on the sidewalk

Andrew NCH said...

Most recent anon, that's not true, it's only in downtown areas that cycling on the sidewalk is not permitted -- unless the law has been updated and I missed it.

Anonymous said...

Bikes belong on the road with traffic, riding in the same direction of traffic as other vehicles. If you are concerned about safety, use lights, hand signals, and wear a helmet. There's no reason to pose a danger to pedestrians on crowded city sidewalks, and there's no reason to slow down your ride trying to avoid them. On 14th Street in Columbia Heights especially there is no excuse since there are bike lanes as well.

Anonymous said...

And while we're at it, let's remind cyclists that they're supposed to stop for red lights like everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it has something to do with my friend being hit and killed by an inattentive driver while riding her bike on the street last year, but I feel much safer staying on the sidewalks most of the time, even if that means going slowly and being courteous to others who are walking.

Anonymous said...

Cyclists should not weave in and out of traffic, stay to the right, and obey the traffic lights, which I seldom see them do!

Anonymous said...

As a cyclist I've only ever weaved in traffic if a car didn't leave enough space for me on the right to get by.

Bicycle fatalities are statistically rarer than fatalities from car accidents, so have fun out there and be safe on the streets!

ColHiJoe said...

I think it's okay when it's not crowded or actually when the a_ _ h_le trying to make a right hand turns blocks the intersection/street and even the bike like that they legally (i don't think) are allowed to do as it isn't "their driving lane!!!!" I see it like this...if you ride a bike, fine go in the street where the bike lanes are present (but sometimes those aren't even safe) otherwise if no one is on the sidewalks I say to hell with it and go for it.