Question: Is it legal to ride on the sidewalk?
Answer: Maybe, depending on the location of the sidewalk. Although the general rule is that it is legal to ride your bike on a sidewalk, individual cities may enact an ordinance prohibiting it.
For example, the law in the state of Washington provides as follows: "Every person riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk or crosswalk must be granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to a pedestrian by this chapter."
While this statute gives cyclists the rights to ride on sidewalks, Washington Administrative Code sets forth a Model Traffic Ordinance which city governments may incorporate into their local traffic codes which provides as follows:
- No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk in a business district.
- A person may ride a bicycle on any other sidewalk or any roadway unless restricted or prohibited by traffic control devices.
- Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk, such person shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian.
While this article contains just a sample from Washington, I suggest you check the local ordinances where you ride to ascertain whether sidewalk riding is permitted.
If you are going to ride on the sidewalk, keep in mind a few things:
- Pedestrians always have the right of way on a sidewalk.
- While motor vehicle drivers may be accustomed to pedestrians traveling a 3-4 miles per hour, they do not expect to see bicycles entering crosswalks at 10-20 miles per hour. You need to be extra careful transitioning from the sidewalk to the crosswalk.
Please ride safely and obey all traffic laws!
John Duggan is an avid cyclist and Seattle attorney who represents injured cyclists. He can be reached at 206-343-1888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.