Sidewalk bicycling restrictions
Sidewalk bicycling restrictions are policies that restrict cyclists from riding bicycles on the sidewalk. These policies are intended to make sidewalks safer and prioritize pedestrian right-of-way. They aim to protect a wide variety of travelers, including pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.
Restrictions on sidewalk bicycling differ between states. In some areas, cyclists are limited to roads; in others, cyclists can choose whether or not they wish to bike alongside cars. Sidewalk bicycling restrictions are not universally applicable but can be a legal barrier in many cyclists’ choice to ride on the road or on the sidewalk. Varying state and local policies are potentially due to the conditions of specific localities; the positions of driveways, blind spots, and lane markings impact the safety conditions and behavior of individual cyclists. The volume of pedestrians in specific areas and the ages of people in those populations are common points of consideration when establishing bicycle-sidewalk policies. Some view biking on sidewalks as the safer option, but in doing so, cyclists come in direct conflict with pedestrians; further, this behavior is also associated with many bicycle-car collisions.
These policies are intended to protect travelers, regardless of mode of transportation. For example, sidewalk bicycling restrictions may reduce automobile accidents by preventing cyclists from crossing driveways or entering a driver’s blind spots (reducing the number of times a car may have to swerve around a cyclist or stop abruptly).
Bicycles are treated similarly to automobiles under the law, and cyclists can be ticked for violating sidewalk bicycle laws.
- Goal: Increase the efficiency of bicycle traffic.
- Goal: Decrease the rate of injuries and deaths from bicycle accidents.
- Goal: Increase the rates of bicycle transportation user comfort, convenience and satisfaction.
- Goal: Increase the rates of pedestrian comfort, convenient and satisfaction.
- Goal: Decrease the rate of injuries and deaths from pedestrian transportation.
- Goal: Decrease the rate of injuries and deaths from automobile transportation.
Conceptual example: A jurisdiction faces a problem: pedestrians and cyclists alike are getting injured from sharing sidewalks. In order to address this problem, the jurisdiction takes steps to reduce injuries by implementing a sidewalk bicycling restriction. By implementing the policy, fewer injuries occur, resulting in lower medical costs and safer conditions for all types of travelers, benefitting the jurisdiction by making it safer as a whole.
Specific example: California bike policies vary among counties, cities, and municipalities. California does not have a specific statute that authorizes or prohibits bicycling on sidewalks. The City of Los Angeles allows biking on sidewalks unless it is done “with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Other cities in LA County ban biking on sidewalks entirely, while still others only ban it in designated “business districts.” Common to these policies is the underlying idea that the safety of the community should be prioritized. 
Tradeoffs of implementing this policy may include:
- Decreased commuting via bicycle due to cyclists’ fear of riding in the road.
- Determining weight of factors when creating the policy—depending on exceptions to restrictions, may limit the ability of certain populations (e.g. children, the physically disabled) to safely bike.
- Increased number of bicycle-auto accidents during the policy’s transitional period.
- Negative impact on car traffic flow from increased volume of cyclists on the road.
- Crowding on roads among bikers, resulting in increased bicycle-bicycle accidents.
If answered yes, the following questions indicate superior conditions under which the policy is more likely to be appropriate:
- Is there a high volume of pedestrian transportation in the locality? I.e., are current sidewalks densely crowded and should bicyclists be prohibited from these already-crowded areas? Would prohibiting bicycles from sidewalks alleviate the problem?
- Is there an existing high volume of bicycle transportation in the locality? I.e., is bicycle travel common in the locality and does that bicycle travel overcrowd sidewalks?
- Does the area have a lot of residential districts? Are there a lot of children living in or common to the area?
- Is the area highly developed? Are business transactions common in the area?
- Are bicycle accidents common in the area? Are those accidents primarily on sidewalks?
- Is there demand for the policy? (e.g. from families and business owners)
- Can the program be cost-effectively enforced?
- Are sidewalk bicycling restrictions likely to change behavior?
Assuming that a jurisdiction has decided to adopt the policy, the following questions will need to be answered when determining how to implement this policy:
- How should the municipality weigh demographic factors when determining the policy? I.e. how should factors such as the age and physical ability of riders affect where the policy is put in place and the intensity of the restrictions?
- How should the municipality weigh environmental and community factors when determining the policy? I.e. how should factors such as the presence of blind curves, lane markings, and curb cuts impact the intensity of restrictions in an area?
- What is the penalty towards a rider who does not follow the new restriction? I.e., what happens if a rider continues to ride a bike on the sidewalk?
- Where should the bounds of a particular policy be drawn? I.e., how should a locality determine where geographically a policy begins and ends?
- Could the policy incorporate speed of bike travel into the policy? (e.g. allowing biking up to a certain speed in MPH)
- What criteria should determine whether a locality needs a sidewalk bicycling restriction at all? I.e., should the implementation of a sidewalk bicycling policy be based on the population density of the area, the primary modes of transportation of the area, or some other factor entirely?
- What factors are most important to the jurisdiction? I.e., what do residents in the locality prioritize, and how does that shape the future policy? (e.g. safety, convenience, efficiency)
- Has adoption of: Common.
- For governance level(s): Local.
- For issue type(s): Safety.
Notable entities who have implemented or adopted this policy include:
- Advocates - Bicycle Transportation. Assumption: Policy will make biking safer.
- Advocates - Pedestrian Safety. Assumption: Policy prohibiting bikes on sidewalks will make walking on sidewalks safer.
- Constituent Groups - Parents and Parent Associations. Assumption: Parents will support policies that protect the safety of their children.
- Associations - Business Improvement Districts, Constituent Groups - Local Businesses. Assumption: Pedestrians and customers may feel safer walking around business areas where they are able to walk around freely (without having to worry about bikers).
- Constituent Groups - Pedestrians. Assumption: Pedestrians would support having the sidewalk to themselves.
- Constituent Groups - Automobile Clubs and Owners. Assumption: Drivers would see an increased volume of bikers on the road if bikes were prohibited from sidewalks.
- Constituent Groups - Commuters. Assumption: Those biking or driving to work would have to share the road.
- Government Agencies - Police. Assumption: Law enforcement will be forced to police an extra policy on top of their existing responsibilities.
- Government Agencies - Environmental Protection. Assumption: Policy might discourage biking, which is more environmentally-friendly than other common modes of transportation.
- Sidewalk Bicycling Safety Issues. Research article analyzing commuter cyclist data in Canada. Data found that a relatively large number of sidewalk collisions are with other bicycles; most significant result of the analysis that sidewalk cyclists have higher event rates on roads than non-sidewalk cyclists. 
- The Effectiveness of a Bicycle Safety Program for Improving Safety-Related Knowledge and Behavior in Young Elementary Students. Results of study found that an eHealth software program on bicycle safety can be effective for children. 
- Evidence from Safety Research to Update Cycling Training Materials in Canada. Project aims to improve cycling safety training by comparing cycling education materials to research evidence on cycling safety. 
- Motor vehicle crash injury rates by mode of travel, United States: using exposure-based methods to quantify differences. Research looks at motor vehicle crash injuries by mode of travel, and found that fatal injury rates were highest for motorcyclists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. 
- Transportation Review: Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety. Article provides an overview of safety issues as they pertain to cyclists and pedestrians. 
- Cyclists explain why they sometimes ride on the sidewalk in downtown D.C.. Article outlines interview responses from D.C. cyclists. District law prohibits bicyclists from riding on the sidewalk in the city’s business core. 
- Frequently Asked Questions. FAQ page outlines commonly asked questions about bicycling and pedestrian roles in the context of cycling. 
- Squaring off on sidewalks. Discusses cycling conditions in D.C. Provides insights into arguments for and against cycling on sidewalks. 
- Bicycle Riding on Downtown Sidewalks. Memorandum recommends accepting proposed action plan on bicycle riding on sidewalks in Downtown San Jose. 
- Bicycling and Walking in Virginia. Outlines legal and safety tips for bikers and pedestrians in the state of Virginia. 
- LADOT Bike Blog (2014). “LA County Sidewalk Riding: Part1,” LADOT Bike Blog. Available at: .
- “Bike Smart,” New York City Department of Transportation. Available at: .
- “San Francisco Bike Laws,” San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Available at: .
- “District Department of Transportation,” District Department of Transportation. Available at: .
- “City of Houston Bicycle Ordinance,” BikeHouston. Available at: .
- Aultman-Hall, Lisa and Michael F. Adams Jr. (1998). “Sidewalk Bicycling Safety Issues,” University of Kentucky. Pp. 2. Available at: .
- McLaughlin, Karen A. and Ann Glang (2009). “The Effectiveness of a Bicycle Safety Program for Improving Safety-Related Knowledge and Behavior in Young Elementary Students,” Journal of Pediatric Psychology. Pp. 343-353. Available at: .
- Weddell, Angie, Meghan Winters, and Kay Teschke (2012). “Evidence from Safety Research to Update Cycling Training Materials in Canada,” University of British Columbia & Simon Fraser University. Available at: .
- Beck, L., A. Dellinger, and M. O’Neil (2007). “Motor vehicle crash injury rates by mode of travel, United States: using exposure-based methods to quantify differences,” American Journal of Epidemiology. Pp. 212-218. Available at: .
- Shinkle, Douglas (2012). “Transportation Review: Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety,” National Conference of State Legislatures. Available at: .
- Kelly, John (2014). “Cyclists explain why they sometimes ride on the sidewalk in downtown D.C.,” The Washington Post. Available at: .
- “Frequently Asked Questions,” Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. Available at: Frequently Asked Questions.
- Jenkins, Mark (2013). “Squaring off on sidewalks,” The Washington Post. Available at: .
- Larsen, Hans F. (2013). “Bicycle Riding on Downtown Sidewalks,” City of San Jose. Available at: .
- “Bicycling and Walking in Virginia,” Virginia Department of Transportation. Available at: .
- Bicycle lane design standards
- Bicycle share programs
- Complete street designation
- Protected bicycle intersection designations
- Protected bicycle lane designation
- Unprotected bicycle lane designations
- Helmet use requirements