I used to be one of those drivers. One of the ones that saw cyclists biking on the road when there was a sidewalk six feet over and started mentally telling them to get off the road and over to where they belong.
That was before I started cycling.
I see the driving/cycling world now in a whole new light. I got a road bike last year – not a top of the line road bike, but a used decent road bike so I wouldn’t have to compete in triathlons/duathlons in my mountain bike any more – after three of them and with plenty of plans for more it was time. The first time I decided I was going to ride to work – a short five miles – I was still of the thought that cyclists should ride on the sidewalk. I quickly learned the error of my thinking and began to mentally apologize to all the cyclists I silently berated over time. Thankfully I wasn’t one of *those* drivers who actually yelled at cyclists…I’ll get to that. So without further ado here are some reasons why I, and many others, cycle on the road as opposed to the sidewalk, in case you were once like me wondering WHY?:
1. It is MUCH safer! Period. From the research I have found, the risk of an accident while riding on the sidewalk is 2-9 times higher than when you cycle on the road. A couple reasons for this: one, drivers are not looking for fast traffic coming down the sidewalk when they pull up to intersections (even when you have a “walk” symbol) or the end of a driveway. They typically don’t do what they should, that is to pull up to the sidewalk, look both ways and then proceed further out to get a better view before turning. If you are on the sidewalk you are more likely to get hit. You’ll also not be seen by drivers turning from the road into driveways or onto other roads. Number two, you are putting yourself and pedestrians at risk of danger. If there are pedestrians on the sidewalk, which there usually are during the summer months, you should be cycling at pedestrian pace and if I’m trying to get somewhere on my bike it is because I can go faster than I can on foot. It is dangerous to fly by pedestrians who are walking/running, especially if you have to weave in and out of multiple people.
2. Sidewalks, at least around my neck of the woods, are inconsistent. They start, they stop, they cross the road, they are often in conditions much worse than the roads I’m riding on (and Michigan roads can be BAD). There is no way for me to get to my job, five miles away, using exclusively sidewalks. Its dangerous to have to suddenly dash into the roadway from a sidewalk that abruptly ends. Not to mention I don’t wan to incur damage to my bike from poorly maintained sidewalks.
3. In some places, riding on sidewalks is illegal because they are for pedestrians. Not in my area, but there are reasons why it is illegal in many places.
4. I know many drivers get upset that we don’t hug the shoulder, but there are reasons for that too. If we hug the shoulder we risk riding on debris that can cause blow outs AND hugging the shoulder enables you to buzz by super close. We appreciate it if you give us a bit of room, so we will ride to the left a little bit into the lane so you have to acknowledge us and give us the safe space we need. I know you are usually driving faster than us and it can be annoying to have to move over a couple feet, I get it, but usually it isn’t that big of a deal to get by us. If there is a lot of traffic we’ll try to be as courteous as possible and find a place to move over for a moment to give you a little extra room so you can get by, but if there isn’t an opportunity for a moment, please have a little patience. You’ll get by us faster than you will that reallyyyy slow moving car that annoys you and you just can’t get by during rush hour.
So there you have it. A few good reasons why I won’t be moving over to the sidewalk when I’m biking to work or out for a workout. Maybe if I’m on my mountain bike heading the quarter mile into town to the farmers market I’ll use the sidewalk, but if I’m on my road bike to get somewhere, I’ll see you on the road!
PS. No amount of rude yelling at me from out your car window will make me get onto the sidewalk. It is just impolite and I’ll simply think you are a big ol’ meanie that should try to be in my cycling shoes just once.
PSS. I try to use a bit of common sense as well and recognize there are some (or a lot) of roads around here that just aren’t good for cycling because they are narrow, super congested, etc. I’ll avoid them for your sake as well as mine.
PSSS. I know cyclists have a responsibility to obey laws and such and some don’t…but that is a different topic itself.