Over the last year some changes have occured to the pedestrian and cycling infrastructure on the roads and sidewalks near where I work. In short, the bikes lanes along the edge of the roadway were removed to accommodate a new bus lane down the center of the road. The sidewalk was then made much wider for peds and bicycles.* It looks beautiful when compared to what was there before and it is much nicer to walk on, which many do during the day, often two or three abreast. Here is a look at the new sidewalk:
I don’t really like riding on it though. And I doubt the city responsible for the construction entirely understood what they were doing, though I am sure they are convinced they had the interests of cyclists in mind.
There are many reasons for bicyclists to avoid sidewalks. By law cyclists are required to give deference to peds, which is fine, unless there are a lot of peds walking three abreast. When I am riding to and from work I don’t like to dally. More importantly is that sidewalks create a situation where cyclists must go back and forth between being traffic and being “peds.” In other words sidewalks remove cyclists from the roadway, but then require them to enter traffic again at each intersection. For peds this is fine. For cyclists moving at cycling speeds this is problematic. This coming and going is only more confusing to the already confused motorists. It is also more stressful for cyclists.
Plus the entering and exiting of intersections includes a bump at each threshold. One experiences a good kathump kathump at each entry and exit. This is unnecessarily uncomfortable, especially when a perfect smooth road is immediately to one’s left.
And then there is this:
The end of the sidewalk exits into a busy intersection. There is a bike lane perpendicular to the path. I typically go right at the intersection, and so do many of the cars. I have to be extra careful coming off the path into the lane. It is better if I just start in the road and behave as traffic. I am convinced that motorists, rightly or wrongly, see cyclists on sidewalks as required (or at least more likely) to yield to motorists, where cyclists in the roadway, even if inconvenient at times for drivers, are treated more as traffic.
I have started not riding on the sidewalk path. Instead I ride with the traffic even though there is no bike lane and drivers might get frustrated that I am not up on the sidewalk and out of their way. Fortunately I feel fairly confident riding around cars and I don’t care that much about their prejudices. Anyway, as a driver myself I know those prejudices well. Plus I keep one eye on my rear view mirror. And I treat each day commuting by bike as a chance to observe and learn. So I could change my mind in the future.
I write this post in part to encourage other cyclists to consider the infrastructure around them and to realize that a “bike path” is not necessarily a bike path if one prefers a better and safer alternative. Ride safe.
* I am not actually sure if the sidewalk is for bikes. There are no signs that say so. At this point saying the sidewalk is for bikes is pure conjecture on my part.