So What do you need to know?
Many cyclists and drivers may not realize that cycling on the sidewalk is illegal, not to mention dangerous. Under Indiana law, cyclists have all the rights given to drivers on roads, but are also required to follow the same traffic regulations. Cyclists on the road are required only to ride as close as what is practical to the right hand side of the road, not to be confused with what would be possible.
Cyclists in Indiana are also legally allowed to ride two abreast. Last summer West Lafayette also enacted a Safe Passage Ordinance to protect cyclists on the road. Drivers have to give three feet of clearance to cyclists when passing. The ordinance states: “The operator of any motor vehicle driving on the roadway of West Lafayette may only overtake or pass a bicyclist when there is a safe distance of not less than three feet between the motor vehicle and the bicycle.” Lafayette also unanimously passed similar legislation on Monday.
I spoke to Steph Silva with Bicycle Lafayette, she says:
It is acceptable for children to ride bicycles on the sidewalk at a slow pace and they must yield the right of way to pedestrians, taking extra care at storefronts and anywhere foot traffic is heavy.
Children who are capable should ride in the street when possible. This might mean their parents ride with them on the side closest to traffic. In fact this is a great way to make sure your kids are ready to obey all traffic laws.
Adults should ride on the road or bike lane/path. In the case of heavy traffic and sidewalks present and in good condition, as well as little-to-no foot traffic, sidewalk riding can be acceptable. Improved bicycle infrastructure would alleviate the need for this patch style of solution.
The most important thing to remember is that crashes are more likely to happen when the cyclists visibility to a motorist is compromised. Sidewalk riding puts yourself and others at risk, and many sidewalks end abruptly or are not suitable for riding.
As a cyclist, your bicycle is a vehicle, and you can ride in the road. As the operator of a legal road vehicle (your bicycle), you must follow all traffic laws, just like any other legal road vehicle (cars) would have to. This means, riding WITH the flow of traffic, stopping at stop signs and traffic lights, and signaling your lane changes. Riding on the sidewalk isn’t only illegal, it’s dangerous. Cyclists are not as visible to drivers when they are on sidewalks.
Infrastructure Tell me more!
Essentially, there are three levels to bike infrastructure. Typically, the most desirable is a completely separated bike path. Completely separated bike paths are most desirable for drivers and novice cyclists alike. Unfortunately, bike paths that are completely separated from the road are not always possible or practical to build, so bike lanes that are physically part of the road are the next best option.
When a bike lane along a roadway would create a narrow situation for both the car and the cyclist a sharrow might be the only option.
Most people are familiar with separate bicycle infrastructure and bicycle lanes, but what is a sharrow? A Shared Lane marking, commonly called a “sharrow,” typically looks like a bicycle emblem with two chevrons above to indicate the direction of travel a cyclist should use. Sharrows remind drivers that the cyclist does have a right to use the road that driver has to share the road. Sharrows also show cyclists the recommended routes to take; however, cyclists are not required to use roads marked with sharrows or other bicycle infrastructure, and may use other roads not marked.
A shared lane marking give some visual connectivity between cycling infrastructure already in place. The markings help the cyclist know the most ideal routes to connect from bike lane to another bike lane or their destination. Behavioral studies have shown that streets with shared lane markings encourage cyclists to ride outside of the door zone, reduce wrong-way cycling, and sidewalk cycling.