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Thread: Question about riding on the SIDEWALK--input please

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    Default Question about riding on the SIDEWALK--input please

    Hi, I'm hoping someone can answer this for me. I was riding my bike on the sidewalk recently in part of Capitol Hill--definitely NOT within the DC Central Business District (where it's illegal to ride on the sidewalk under any circumstances). As I approached a guy walking two dogs, he started a tirade about how I should be riding on the street. When I said it was legal to ride on the sidewalk in this part of the District, he insisted it wasn't unless I was going under 10 mph. (I was probably going about 15-20 until I got approached him and slowed down.) I've pulled up the bike parts of the DC Code, and as far as I can tell, outside the Central Business District, you can ride on the sidewalk up to the speed limit of the street you're on as long as you yield to pedestrians. I can't find anything about 10 mps. Does anyone know if this is true?

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    mstone is offline I really need to log off the internet and go for a ride.
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    Just ignore the angry man.

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    I don't believe it's against the rules to bike on the sidewalk outside the CBD in DC, and I've never heard the 10 mph thing. So I think you're okay in the letter of the law.

    But, I ride around the Hill every day, and I usually find that at much over 10-15 mph, I feel most comfortable riding on the roads on the Hill, and I see most other bikers doing the same. The Hill is generally pretty bike-friendly (avoiding certain roads like Penn. SE, Independence SE, C and H St NE). The only common exception I see is when parents are biking with their kids, e.g. to school in the morning - sidewalk riding is pretty common (and probably sensible) then. I ride on the sidewalk for the last half-block to home.

    Good luck, and keep riding!

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    I think riding 15-20 mph is way too fast for sidewalks on the Hill. The sidewalks are narrow, there are driveways, peds aren't looking out for bikes, it's a residential area, etc. On most roads there cars aren't going too fast either. On most sidewalks (esp the narrow ones) I think one should try to stay at the pace of a fast runner, no more.

    In my neighborhood, we have bikers on the sidewalks frequently and it really causes problems. It's also really irritating since the road has a very decent bike lane on one side (I can't say the same for the other side but that's another story). If the cyclists are travelling at the speed as a ped in the crowded areas, people don't seem to get upset.

    If there is any way you can ride on the road safely I would highly suggest doing so. I understand some roads do not allow that and one must take to the sidewalk.

    Good for you for following the law though If you are uncomfortable riding in city streets, I would highly suggest taking one of the confident cycling classes sponsored by WABA (Washington Area Bicycle Association).

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    I think riding 15-20 mph is way too fast for sidewalks on the Hill. The sidewalks are narrow, there are driveways, peds aren't looking out for bikes, it's a residential area, etc. On most roads there cars aren't going too fast either. On most sidewalks (esp the narrow ones) I think one should try to stay at the pace of a fast runner, no more.

    In my neighborhood, we have bikers on the sidewalks frequently and it really causes problems. It's also really irritating since the road has a very decent bike lane on one side (I can't say the same for the other side but that's another story). If the cyclists are travelling at the speed as a ped in the crowded areas, people don't seem to get upset.

    If there is any way you can ride on the road safely I would highly suggest doing so. I understand some roads do not allow that and one must take to the sidewalk.

    Good for you for following the law though If you are uncomfortable riding in city streets, I would highly suggest taking one of the confident cycling classes sponsored by WABA (Washington Area Bicycle Association).

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    Thanks, KLizotte and others, for responding.

    Just to clarify, I'm guessing I was going 15-20 mph on the sidewalk, but I really don't know, could've been less. I was pedaling very casually. More importantly, the sidewalk was completely empty until I encountered this guy, and I slowed down well before I got to him. Part of his tirade was that he would sue me if his dogs got tangled up with my bike, and that was never even close to happening. But I take your point, and I agree. When I come in the vicinity of pedestrians, if I have to pass within several feet of them, I slow to the speed of a walker. Still, I want to know what legal ground I'm on.

    And I do plan on taking that confident cycling course. Thanks again for responding.

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    +1 on slowing down if you are riding on the sidewalk. 20 mph is way too fast. What if someone walks out of a door or from an alley? I can understand why the guy would be upset about seeing a fast cyclist on the sidewalk.

    When I ride on sidewalks, I try to fit into pedestrian traffic. Unless I can see that there is no possibility of any pedestrians walking into the sidewalk for the next 100 ft., I will barely ride faster than walking speed. If I want to ride faster, I'll ride in the street. If it's not safe to ride in the street, then I just accept that I'll have to ride slowly on the sidewalk.

    It's good to know the laws but we should also use common sense and be respectful of other road, trail and sidewalk users. In the case of the sidewalk, the cyclist takes on the role of the larger and more dangerous occupant, just like a car is the larger and more dangerous vehicle on the road.

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    I only resort to the sidewalks when the road is busy and my legs are too tired to spin at 15-20 mph. I think that sounds like a fast pace to go at, and people on the roads should be fine with it. I tend to top out at 10-12 on the uphills of north Arlington (on a good day!) and still feel pretty safe next to traffic. Occasionally the odd expensive car will honk or cut me off, but I pay taxes too and have just as much right to the road as they do!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pantangali View Post
    Still, I want to know what legal ground I'm on.
    I'm not a lawyer but from what I've read and seen the law would be very fuzzy if you got tangled up with someone's dog leashes on a sidewalk. I think whomever has the better lawyer and/or eye witness would win. Similarly, cyclists should yield to peds but what if a ped jumps out in front of you and you have no opportunity for an evasive maneuver. Again, a better lawyer and/or eye witness is your best recourse.

    Unfortunately, our infrastructure hasn't really caught up with our needs yet (completely separating cars, peds, and cyclists from each other at all times).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Justin Antos View Post
    The Hill is generally pretty bike-friendly (avoiding certain roads like Penn. SE, Independence SE, C and H St NE).
    In fact, when we lived on the Hill, we found the bike lane infrastructure to be pretty much the best in the city. Sometimes you have to go a block out of your way, but it's still far faster than ducking pedestrians and getting into confrontations with stupid people. Especially in an area where there are so many people out that it's difficult to "share" the sidewalks. If you bike in that area often, consider checking out all of the different bike lanes that can get you where you want to go to avoid this type of fun in the future!

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