Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cycling on the sidewalk

Ray of Bike Noob confesses and explains his rationale. Andrew of Carbon Trace links to Ray and offers his own take.

What say y'all on this?

I'm in no position to pontificate one way or the other. Personally, I use either the streets or designated bike paths; but on occasion, due to heat or getting winded, I've been known to hop onto the sidewalks for a little bit until I feel stronger. That happened much more often during my early days of cycling than it does now (the weather is cooler, and I'm in better shape now). But I am of the opinion, and I've seen it borne out, both while out and about and on others' blogs, that riding in the street and observing of traffic laws (riding with traffic, taking your lane at lights, stopping at lights and stop signs) is on the whole not only safer but faster than (proper) riding on the sidewalk is. And (okay, here I will pontificate a wee bit) if we want to see the day when cyclists are regarded by motorists not as moving road hazards but as also deserving of the same care and caution as other motorists are, the only way that will happen is if we're on the streets as well--it's then that cycling ceases being thought of first as recreation and, instead, as legitimate transportation.

As a commenter says in response to Bike Noob's post, if you feel uncomfortable in the street, you should consider changing your route to your destination. To which I say, "Absolutely!" If I hadn't found Mt. Vernon as an alternative to Pawnee for my commute, I'm not sure I'd still be persisting with cycling to work. As Robert Frost says in a rather different context,
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Though I'm not sure Frost's speaker is being entirely truthful here (read the whole thing carefully), I assure you that, as regards bike-commuting, I am.

9 comments:

rebmoti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rebmoti said...

The most direct route from my house to work is north on Rock and west on Central - two streets that would not be safe to ride - 2 lanes each way, 40 mph speed limit. I cut through a neighborhood instead, although the last 50 yards or so I ride on the sidewalk on Central to get to my building.

Today I had a meeting at the Starbucks on Rock and Central. There was no way there except directly down Central. Riding on Central at that time would be like riding on K-96 - worse, because no shoulder. So I rode the sidewalk. I agree with principle that riding in the street is a political statement, and I do it whenever I can, and I don't feel great when I don't, but I'm just not willing to get squished for the principle.

John B. said...

I hear you, Reb. That part of Central is very busy at just about any time of day, and I know the frustration of trying and not being able to plan a safer route somewhere. Discretion is the better part of valor, it seems to me: It's hard to reduce CO(2) when you're pushing up daisies.

coppercorn said...

Okay, here's where my blood pressure goes up. You may not be comfortable riding on those streets, and that is fine. Please don't say that it is dangerous to do so. It's not. My husband and I both ride on those streets, at those locations. I go to the Dillons at Central and Rock all the time.
Practice and education are the keys to riding in traffic.
http://www.labreform.org/miseducation.html

John B. said...

Coppercorn,
I think we're all saying the same things, just with slightly different emphases. One's perception of danger is contingent upon the amount and kind of past experience, one's comfort with risk, etc. I think of myself as fairly cautious; compared to my mother, though, you'd think I had a death wish.

One person's assessment of risk doesn't invalidate or render suspect another's.

Peter Janson Paggi said...

Cycling is dangerous. It's not really debatable. All around you, you have 2000+ lb cars traveling at 50+mph (at least here in Wichita). You can do things to greatly reduce the risk of cycling, though, like taking the lane when needed, using proper signaling/lighting, and asserting yourself while on the road. I rode down Webb every day for a couple weeks, then switched over to Greenwich when my office changed. I ride on Rock and Central on the weekends to get to the bookstore and grocery store, and just around town in general. When I feel like cars aren't giving me enough room, I just move out a bit and make them pass me in the left lane.

On that note, I rode on the sidewalk until it ended last week when it was pouring out, because I was going about 7-10mph and it was pitch black at 7:00am.

I can't really blame people for 1) thinking sidewalks are where bikes belong, and 2) thinking it's safer than the road due to the fact that Wichita drivers aren't the most courteous or aware bunch, and the city itself seems to be actively trying to discourage vehicular cycling (or at least in no hurry to adapt for it). Anyone up for a Critical Mass?

Peter Janson Paggi said...

Also, just a quick story...

My current commute is something like this:

Head out east on 29th St
Make a right onto Webb
Quick left onto the K-96 Bike Path
Take the Bike Path to Greenwich
Head south of Greenwich until I get to Beechcraft

Coming home, getting off the Bike Path and making the quick turn off of Webb onto 29th can be tricky. I usually wait until there are no cars coming in the right lane, hop in, immediately take the lane and signal for a left turn so I can get into the turning lane. Sometimes people let me in, sometimes not. Yesterday was a time when they weren't. As I was going particularly slow, waiting for some room, a big semi came up behind me. It took me about half a minute to finally get over, which is about 3 times as long as most drivers usually last before they start laying on the horn. As I got over into the turning lane, I look over, and the truck driver gave me a nice smile and wave.

I guess the moral of the story is that not all drivers are out to kill us, and it's best to understand that we aren't impeding traffic, but are traffic.

I'll also be heading to the Bicycle X-Change this weekend to check out the Surlys they might have in stock!

coppercorn said...

Yes, but some communities have tried to ban bicycles because they say they are too dangerous. Some schools have prohibited students from riding their bikes to school. That is why I am saying we need to be careful of the language we use. 40,000 Americans a year are killed in automobiles, but nobody says that driving is dangerous.

It's also why I have started saying "crash" rather than "accident" to describe what happens when two cars hit each other. Language matters.

Bryan G said...

I rarely use a sidewalk. As my years of cycling have gone by I have learned to ride further away from the curb and let drivers know I intend to use my lane. I choose to cycle the more lightly traveled roads. To go east/west in Wichita I choose Lincoln or Mt. Vernon over Harry or Pawnee. To go north/south take Woodlawn instead of Rock Rd. Take Washington over Broadway. Meridian is much more lightly traveled then Seneca.

I live within a half mile of Watson Park. I can get on the river bike path and go all the way to Sedgwick County park in less then an hour. Macarthur is lightly traveled in the morning when I go to work. So I get to work by heading west on 31st to West st. Then south to Macarthur and west to Hoover and north to work. When I leave work I go on north on Hoover and either turn east on Maple or go on to Sedgwick County Park and catch the river bike path. Macarthur is way to busy in the afternoon to battle traffic.

There is in my opinion a good cycling route to anywhere in Wichita. Just take some time to try different routes at different times. If I am not sure I try that route in a car first.