Bicycles and motor vehicles seem to co-exist much too uneasily for the likes of some California bike riders. Why ride in the street when you can take the sidewalk instead? While some bicyclists view this as a safer option, there are reasons why taking to the sidewalk is not necessarily the better choice and as NPR points out, sidewalk riding may actually increase some risks of catastrophic injury.
For one thing, riding on a sidewalk does not mean that have defeated the risk of striking a moving car. The problem with sidewalk riding is that motorists may not spot you, which can be a major problem when you encounter a driveway that cuts across your path. Also, sidewalks will end eventually, typically at an intersection with another street. As you ride, you may find yourself abruptly deposited onto a street where a motorist has not been able to spot you in advance.
Pedestrians are another concern. Bicycles do not make a lot of noise until they approach closely. An unwary pedestrian may not be aware that you are coming. The person may take a turn right into your riding path, forcing you to stop suddenly or turn. You may end up crashing your bike, falling off it, or you do not avoid the pedestrian at all. You or the pedestrian or both of you may sustain serious injury as a result.
In the event you have no choice but to ride on a sidewalk, there are steps you can take to avoid causing a pedestrian accident. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises bicyclists to watch out for pedestrians. Should a bike rider approach a person, the rider should call out to announce where the bike will pass the pedestrian, such as “passing on your right.” Bicyclists should also consider putting a bell on their bike to make noise that pedestrians can hear in advance.
Basically, while it may seem wiser for bike riders to get off the road and away from automobiles, the truth is riding on a sidewalk presents its own dangers, and even if a bicyclist avoids injury from a moving car, it does not mean that the rider cannot cause injury to a person who is walking about totally exposed.