Depending on where you live, different laws govern whether you can ride a bike on the sidewalk. On this subject, local ordinances and different states’ laws differ. Let’s examine the underlying legal principles that support the various state laws concerning cycling on sidewalks.
Laws governing riding on the sidewalks can be extremely complex, differ from town to town, and even from block to block. Please be aware that this is only a general overview and not legal advice, and that it should not be used to analyze a particular scenario. We can help you find a local attorney if you contact us. We are available for that purpose.
Is It Illegal to Ride a Bike on the Sidewalk?
You can ride a bike on the sidewalk or not according to the following state regulations. For example:
- Kentucky: Bicycles are not allowed to be driven on sidewalks as vehicles.
- Georgia: Also no dice. They’re considered vehicles…unless you’re under 13. Apparently, then they magically become toys (we guess). In the end, children are given a pass.
- Wisconsin: The state says no, but local ordinances could allow it.
- Minnesota: However, you must remember to give way to pedestrians when doing this. And give them an audible heads-up when you turn. And stay within a certain speed. OH, and none of this is relevant in heavy business areas because, in an about-face, sidewalks there are off-limits. Have fun.
- Delaware: You’re good, barring a bike lane, of course. Then use that.
- Ohio: Go for it!
- West Virginia: No idea!
If You Can Ride Your Bike on the Sidewalk, Should You?
Compared to actual bike laws, this topic has a lot more room for interpretation. Just because you can do something (like, say, ride without a helmet) doesn’t mean you should, right?
We’re not going to go existential on you, and we’re not going to point the finger of morality either. Suffice it to say that, where this is allowed, the choice should be based on which option is safer right now. Which makes more sense: sharing the road with cars or the sidewalk with pedestrians?
Both have good justifications.
Why Share the Road With Motor Vehicles?
Depending on where you are, the street might provide a clearer route. On city sidewalks, anything from signs to fire hydrants to utility poles to trash cans and more can turn them into a true obstacle course. Taking a local neighborhood ride? These days, you can see cars pulling out of driveways, kids running around carelessly, dog walkers pushing strollers, etc. Just keep in mind that, despite the fact that you have the same rights as drivers under the law, much bigger and faster things than you share the road with you. Which leads us to…
Why Share the Sidewalk With People?
Going 25 mph through a school zone is one thing. It’s quite another to start your commute to work with nothing but a piece of aluminum and a prayer standing between you and the emergency room. Even the most rigid road cyclist is aware that there are times when it is prudent to deviate from the pavement because of danger. If you do cross the curb, remember that sidewalks are meant for walking. Give way to pedestrians and tame your inner speed demon until it is safe to rejoin the roadsters. They weren’t made for pedalers.
Should My Kids Be Riding on the Sidewalk?
Good question; yes, if your neighborhood permits it. Our official response, well, no, if you live in a state that technically forbids sidewalk riding, regardless of age.
BUT, if we may say it yet again, use common sense.
How about youngsters riding balance bikes or training wheels? If there is a safer option just three feet away, do we really want them learning to ride in the street? Another option would be to switch from coaster to hand brakes. In a panic, it’s better for them to run away across the grass than to flit from one parked car to the next while frantically pedaling backward.
All of us support encouraging children to ride their bikes. However, it goes without saying that you don’t want to endanger them or prevent them from enjoying the benefits of two-wheeling because they’re afraid of another concrete spill. Isn’t parenting all about finding the right balance?
In the end, it’s okay if you’re unsure of where you can or cannot bike (you’re not alone). There are numerous local resources at your disposal that can answer your sidewalk-riding questions:
- Government (such as the Dept. of Public Safety)
- Attorneys specializing in bicycle law
- Law enforcement
- Riding club or bicycle association
- Bike shops
Are none of these reachable? Weird, but okay. In that case, you guessed it…
Use. Common. Sense!
Read about Can You Ride Dirt Bikes on the Road?