Whether you are a new rider who cannot yet confidently bicycle alongside motor vehicles, you need to take a slower pace on a particularly steep hill or you want to keep yourself safe from aggressive drivers on a busy road, there are many reasons why you may want to ride your bicycle on the sidewalk. However, sidewalk riding could be hazardous. To keep yourself and the people around you safe, you should take care before bicycling on sidewalks.
There is no statewide law preventing you from sidewalk riding, but you should check your local regulations.
California Vehicle Code Section 21206 allows local governments make their own decisions about whether bicycles are allowed in areas for pedestrians. Some communities may allow sidewalk riding, other communities may outlaw it entirely, and some cities might forbid sidewalk riding in specific areas of town where pedestrian traffic is higher.
It’s also safer to avoid the sidewalk.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that you avoid sidewalk riding if possible. Sticking to the road is safer for you, for drivers and for pedestrians. From cars backing out of driveways to cars that ease into the crosswalk for better visibility before turning, many drivers are simply unprepared for the speed of a vehicle in the sidewalk. Likewise, it is safer for pedestrians if they do not have to share their space with moving vehicles.
Sidewalks also can end suddenly, making it particularly important that you ride with traffic while bicycling. If the sidewalk ends and you need to enter the roadway to continue, riding with traffic will ensure that you are on the right side of the road when you do.
If you must ride on the sidewalk, take it slow and maintain control.
Sidewalks are designed for pedestrian use, and that design can make maneuvering your bicycle difficult. Narrow paved spaces and sharp turns make them unsuitable for high speed bicycle use. Fences, trees and buildings limit your visibility. Because of this, you should maintain slower speeds in order to maintain control. Taking a more relaxed pace also allows you more time to see and react to motorists in driveways and sidewalks.
By riding defensively and taking care, you can share the sidewalk and keep yourself and those around you safe.