Sidewalks are NOT for biking

Dear cyclists of Chicago:

I wish I didn't have to say this. I mean, it should be common sense. But apparently it's not. And so I tell you this: SIDEWALKS ARE NOT FOR BIKING! SIDEWALKS ARE NOT FOR BIKING! SIDEWALKS ARE NOT FOR BIKING!

Sidewalks are for ... wait for it ... walking. That's why they are named as they are. They are too narrow and generally too crowded for bicycles to move safely on them. The risk of bike vs. pedestrian collisions is just too high to be safe. That is why the Municipal Code of Chicago - section 9-52-020, specifically - states this:

(a)   Unless the prohibition imposed by subsection (c) applies, a person may ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district, but only if such sidewalk has been officially designated and marked as a bicycle route, or such sidewalk is used to enter the nearest roadway, intersection or designated bicycle path, or to access a bicycle share station.

(b)   Unless the prohibition imposed by subsection (c) applies, a person 12 or more years of age may ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk in any district, but only if such sidewalk has been officially designated and marked as a bicycle route, or such sidewalk is used to enter the nearest roadway, intersection or designated bicycle path, or to access a bicycle share station.

(c)   Bicycles shall not be operated on Lake Shore Drive or on any public way where the operation of bicycles has been prohibited and signs have been erected indicating such prohibition.

What does all that legalese mean? Basically, it means that if you are over the age of 12, unless the sidewalk is specifically marked as a bike route or being used to enter the street, you MUST NOT RIDE YOUR BIKE ON THE SIDEWALK! And police can ticket you if you do, according to the code. You can, in fact, be fined between $50 and $200 for riding your bike on a sidewalk.

I don't know how many times I've nearly been knocked over by people - all of whom were clearly over the age of 12 - riding their bikes erratically on the sidewalk. As I said, sidewalks are simply not wide enough to safely accommodate both pedestrians and bikers. And if a pedestrian and biker should cross paths, the one who will be most seriously hurt will be the pedestrian. Every time.

Some might argue that there are streets that are not safe enough to ride your bike on. And I would agree that such streets exist. However, that does not make it ok to ride your bike on the sidewalk and endanger pedestrians. If you feel you cannot safely ride your bike in the street, then walk it along the sidewalk until you get somewhere you can safely ride. And if you are worried that doing so will make you late for whatever you are doing, then either leave earlier or find another, safer route on which you do not need to get off your bike.

Does all that make sense? It should. But if it doesn't, don't worry about it. If you remember nothing else from this post, remember these three things:

  1. SIDEWALKS ARE NOT FOR BIKING!
  2. SIDEWALKS ARE NOT FOR BIKING!
  3. SIDEWALKS ARE NOT FOR BIKING!

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Filed under: Rants

Tags: bicycle, bike, Chicago, cyclist, sidewalk, street

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