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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
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    Dallas
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    Cyclists on Sidewalks

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    I was waiting for a chance to turn out onto the 4-lane street from a parking lot and I saw a couple of cyclists -- Mormon missionaries -- riding toward me on the sidewalk.

    My reaction? "You don't have the right of way so I hope you're ready to stop," as I turned in front of them.

    They weren't close enough that it could have caused a collision, or I'm suree I would have waited, and honestly I don't know if they even had to slow down. I just saw that they were zipping toward me but I had plenty of time to turn in front of them, although they MIGHT have had to slow down a bit, I'm not sure -- but I also knew that if they'd been riding in the street, I'd have waited and let them go by so there wouldn't be any question.

    None of this was deliberated. My brain process was just -- you're on the sidewalk, so you're gonna have to let me go first.

    I've seen them ride in the streets a lot so I'm not sure why they were on the sidewalk to begin with.

    I'm not sure if this is the same thought I would have had if I weren't a cyclist. And I don't know WHY I didn't err on the part of caution and just let them go by anyway.

    But for the first time I've seen it in action -- in my own brain -- why bikes should be in the street and not on the sidewalk.

    Any comments? I'm not sure if I should be chastised or not! I do know that if I were doing it again, I'd probably let them go by. I was down the street before I started mulling over what had happened, and wondering whether I was a bad driver or not!

    “Hey, clearly failure doesn’t deter me!”

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    2,506
    I often find myself thinking similarly. I'll think, "I have the right of way" when it's between me and a car. Who would lose in that duel?

    I think we have to reach a compromise between asserting our "right of way" and our safety. You were there so only you can tell if you did the right thing.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Vermont
    Posts
    269
    Sidewalks are pretty dangerous places for cyclists. Your brain was probably reacting to the fact that cyclists shouldn't really be on sidewalks.

    As far as who has the right of way- I'm not sure what the law says. My gut reaction is that the cyclist would have to wait, but when I think about it- they probably have the same rights as a pedestrian on a sidewalk (and probably the pedestrian has the right of way?)

    I almost never ride on sidwalks, but there is one short section of my commute to work where I can get on the sidewalk and go against traffic as a result (thereby avoiding 2 annoying left turns). I have to cross the exits to 2 parking lots- I'm always very careful to make sure no one is coming or going- so something in my gut makes me think I don't have the right of way when I'm on the sidewalk.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Dallas
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    1,532
    When I'm on my bike, I never assume I have the right of way, even when I do! No way I'm going that route. In fact, even when driving I will always give way if somebody tries to cut in front of me or pass me or anything. Driving is not a contact sport.

    The more I've pondered it, the more I think I was influenced by a "you know better than that" snark in the back of my mind when I pulled in front of them.

    Again, this wasn't a safety issue -- there was no chance of collision. At worst, they might have slowed a bit. They might not have even done that.

    What I found revealing was knowing that if they'd been in the street, I wouldn't have even considered pulling in front of them had I thought they might have to slow down.

    “Hey, clearly failure doesn’t deter me!”

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Vancouver, BC
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    3,932
    It's nearly certain they shouldn't have been there (although in some states I hear policemen have told cyclists to stick to the sidewalk - a stupid idea but anyway).

    However, I'm certain they had right of way, like a pedestrian would have. (They were probably going about the speed of a fast runner.)

    This is even more true if you were coming out of a parking lot (private driveway) without a light to give you priority and or a stop for them (you have a stop by default coming out of any driveway). Moreoever, usually, slower vehicles (and pedestrians) are thought to have right of way.

    So, yeah, they were not in the right spot. And it's fairly unlikely that policepeople would have ticketed you for that, because they don't care much about pedestrians and cyclists usually. But when I move around with a ton and a half of metal around me, I always prefer to err on the side of caution...

  6. #6
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    Jun 2006
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    Dallas
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    I agree with you, Grog. Which is why I decided to post.

    I knew what I did wasn't dangerous -- I never would have considered it otherwise. But I was astonished at how quickly I (as a driver) dismissed them and their claim on "right of way" because they were on the sidewalk!

    “Hey, clearly failure doesn’t deter me!”

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
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    I'm the only one allowed to whine
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    10,557
    Isn't it funny how different the unwritten rules are in different parts of the country?

    Around here, anyone on the sidewalk (wheelchair, walker, jogger, mom with stroller, blind person with dog, skateboarder, idiot on a bike) has right of way over a vehicle coming out of a parking lot and wanting to cross the sidewalk line.
    "If Americans want to live the American Dream, they should go to Denmark." - Richard Wilkinson

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    WA State
    Posts
    4,364

    !

    Quote Originally Posted by KnottedYet View Post
    Isn't it funny how different the unwritten rules are in different parts of the country?

    Around here, anyone on the sidewalk (wheelchair, walker, jogger, mom with stroller, blind person with dog, skateboarder, idiot on a bike) has right of way over a vehicle coming out of a parking lot and wanting to cross the sidewalk line.
    ooooooh I wish the drivers here actually knew that rule! Some yo-yo nearly killed me the other day shooting out of the Safeway parking lot without stopping- and he was going really fast for being in a parking lot too. Then he had the audacity to roll down his window and yell at me for "hiding" behind a column (I was walking). When I told him that it didn't matter that he needed to stop before crossing the sidewalk his reply was where's the stop sign (and there even actually was one even though the law is you have to stop before crossing a sidewalk no matter if there is a sign or not!!!!) oooooh makes me soooooo mad!!!!!
    Drivers here are getting worse. My husband was nearly hit in a crosswalk by someone running a red light (and no it wasn't even right on red). They got so close that he put is hands on their hood before they were completely stopped - yeah he realizes that he wouldn't have stopped the car, but its just a reaction that you can't stop.

    As far as riding on the sidewalk goes - its legal here in Seattle, though pedestrians have the right of way over bikes. I don't really recommend it though. Its too dangerous for everyone. I've heard one of the worst places for accidents is where a sidewalk or bikeway crosses a street or parking lot exit/entrance. One thing to remember around here is that if you are on a bike in a crosswalk you are technically a pedestrian and have all of the same rights/responsibilities. Though of course you should not push it as you won't ever win an argument with a car, if one does hit you in a crosswalk they need to take the appropriate responsibility.
    "Sharing the road means getting along, not getting ahead" - 1994 Washington State Driver's Guide

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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Nebraska
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    1,192
    On the same theme, I had a similar incident that gave me a thrill recently.

    I was creeping up on an intersection, planning on turning right on a red light. (Legal here.) I was looking left to judge the traffic coming at me, and a guy on a bike on the sidewalk just zipped in front of me.

    Now, I like to think I'm more aware of bikes than your average driver, but I honestly didn't know he was coming, because, frankly, I wasn't looking for something coming from that direction.

    No harm, no foul, but it could have ruined both our days with just slightly different timing. (Did I mention that he was riding without his hands anywhere near the bars/brakes?)

    All that said, I occasionally take to the sidewalk in certain situations, but boy, am I aware of the hazards - and I always have my fingertips on the brakes.
    Give big space to the festive dog that make sport in the roadway. Avoid entanglement with your wheel spoke.
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Dallas
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    It's also the law here that you have to stop before leaving a parking lot. I had stopped and then went on.

    “Hey, clearly failure doesn’t deter me!”

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Vancouver, BC
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    I'm pretty sure it's the law everywhere...

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Illinois
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    3,150
    Ya, you were being assertive and righteous ... and honestly, it might make them think. It's prob'ly similar to when a car decides to get out into the road in front of me and it seems they're assuming I'm going a lot slower than I am... once we're going the same direction I will accelerate so that I'm close to them and maybe they'll think I was even closer.
    Yesterday the reverse happened... it wasn't clear whether a backing-out car had seen me or not and there was a car right in front of me... I'm thinking"yea, is he waiting for that car and going to back right into me?" ... and the driver put the car out of reverse so the back up lights went out, jes' fer me (I've done it myself...)

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    182
    I know in TX bikes are considered vehicles like cars, but we're not allowed on the freeway (obviously). However, most drivers don't realize that. They just plow through like we shouldn't be allowed on the road. And I've seen a lot of cyclists that ride like fools as well. I think that most drivers don't know what to do with cyclists on the road and act accordingly.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Washington, DC
    Posts
    1,315
    There are some spots around here where the multiuse trails are on sidewalks by busy roads. Bikes have to yield to pedestrians, but everyone on the sidewalk has a right of way over the driveway crossings (and pedestrian crossings at intersections on green). That still didn't stop a taxi from nearly slamming into my side as it raced into a hotel parking lot. I was very visible. I did an emergency stop and in the process of jumping off the bike got bitten by the cranks or something. Then when Mr. Taxi (who finally stopped) let me go ahead, I didn't move my bleeding self along fast enough, so he started shaking his fist at me. Did I mention I was test-riding a Madone that I couldn't afford? Super.

    I'm pretty sure this great driver would have treated me the same way had I been on the road. He would've just been closer to hitting me, or he would've turned in front of me, making me run into him.

    Pulling in or out of a driveway, I'd treat everyone on the sidewalk as having the rights of pedestrians. I'm pretty sure that's the law in most places. I don't think it matters whether the law says the bikes are supposed to be on the road or sidewalk in that particular area.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Oslo, Norway
    Posts
    4,066
    Yep, my "favourite" taxi story goes somewhat like that: I came along the bike path/sidewalk parallell with a busy road: ok, there's a bus stopped to the left of me - check, all passengers clear, there's a gas station to the right of me and I'm about to cross the exit - check, no-one pulling out.

    And BAM - a taxi appears right in front of me. Idiot driver had passed the bus and pulled blindly into the gas station without even slowing down. I slammed on the brakes and skidded sideways into the car, hopefully causing a sizeable dent. And then I pulled open the door and put a sizeable "dent" in her hearing...

    Oh, and in Norway pulling in or out of a driveway you have to yield to anything with a pulse.
    Last edited by lph; 01-07-2007 at 12:31 PM.
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