One thing that I’ve learned from bicyclist friends and from serious bicyclists and studies is something I’ve always suspected: Sidewalks are more dangerous for bicyclists than riding in the street, provided the bicyclist follows traffic laws. Last July in the Washington Post, professional cycling coach and transportation writer, Ashley Halsey III, wrote as one of the ten things every cyclist should know was “Stay off the sidewalk. It’s illegal in some places (such as downtown Washington) and it’s dangerous for you and pedestrians.” And the Guide for Development of Bicycle Facilities published by the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials explains why:
“Sidewalks are typically designed for pedestrian speeds and maneuverability and are not safe for higher speed bicycle use. Conflicts are common between pedestrians traveling at low speeds (exiting stores, parked cars, etc.) and bicyclists, as are conflicts with fixed objects (e.g. perking meters, utility poles, sign posts, bus benches, trees, fire hydrants, mail boxes, etc.)..pedestrians often have difficulty predicting the directions an oncoming bicyclist will take.”
Of course, usually in a sidewalk collision between pedestrian and bicyclist the pedestrian is more seriously hurt. One of our museum directors has had the misfortune of being hit twice. The first time he was knocked to the ground but luckily not seriously hurt and the bicyclist sped away. The second time, both he and the bicyclist ended up down–and the bicyclist had the nerve to yell at the director because the bicyclist had a few scrapes. What’s a pedestrian to do?