Bicycling and Sidewalk Safety
Most of us know that sidewalks were designed for pedestrians. Sidewalks help to prevent deadly pedestrian accidents and allow people to travel from one destination to another by foot without the same risks associated with walking on a road. At the same time, many reports link bicycle accidents and
pedestrian injuries. Does the relation between bicyclists and pedestrians mean that those of us who ride bikes would be safer if we rode on the sidewalk? According to a report from the Cornell University Bicycle and Pedestrian Education site, sidewalk biking can be extremely dangerous—both to pedestrians and to the bicyclists themselves.
As communities consider ways of making bicycling a safer mode of transportation, the report emphasizes that “it’s not a good idea to encourage bicycling on sidewalks.” What happens when bicyclists ride on sidewalks? Although it can “eliminate the relatively small danger to cyclists of crashes with overtaking motorists,” riding on the sidewalk actually “increases the potential for more common intersection collisions.”
While bicyclists can be difficult to see if they are riding in traffic, experts indicate—and statistics confirm—that drivers have even more difficulty paying attention to bicyclists when they are on a sidewalk. As such, when a bicyclist rides from a sidewalk into an intersection, there is a greater risk of an accident taking place. As the report explains, when automobile drivers turn and do not see bicyclists on the road, they are not anticipating that a bicyclist could be riding through an intersection. Even if a driver does see a bicyclist on the sidewalk heading toward an intersection, it is difficult to estimate that bicyclist’s speed because he or she is riding alongside pedestrians rather than automobiles.
Pedestrians, too, can be at risk of a collision with a bicyclist on a sidewalk. These pathways typically are not large enough to accommodate people on bikes and people on foot. Therefore, bicyclists should ride on the road and avoid sidewalks.
Get the Facts About Bicycle Accidents and Sidewalks
The report from Cornell University provides some important facts and figures concerning accident that involve bicyclists on sidewalks:
- In car accidents involving a bicyclist where the motorist was turning left in front of the bicyclist, 42 percent of injured bicyclists were riding on sidewalks.
- Nearly 50 percent of auto accidents that occur when a motorist drives out of an alley or a driveway involved a bicyclist riding on a sidewalk.
- About one-third of all accidents in which a motorist turns right into a bicyclist occur when the bicyclist is riding on the sidewalk.
- Bicyclists on sidewalks are, on average, 1.8 times more likely to suffer an injury at an intersection than bicyclists riding on the road due to “blind conflicts at intersections.”
- The risk of injury increases for bicyclists engaged in wrong-way travel on the sidewalk.
- Roads with bike lanes and sidewalks, where bicyclists are required to travel in the bike lane, have substantially lower crash rates than roads without this infrastructure (between 38 and 56 percent lower).
Bicycle accidents can happen almost anywhere, but riding on a sidewalk can increase the risk of an injury. If you were injured in a bicycle accident, contact an experienced bicycle accident lawyer to learn more about filing a claim.