|Scorching is still a problem sometimes,|
but biking on the sidewalk per se is not illegal today.
(May 3rd, 1903)
But as we think about "Traffic Safety Week," and "Bike Month" it's important that we're on the same page.
One of the answers yesterday didn't quite look right. There might not be enough information to make a definitive right-or-wrong ruling, but at the very least it is an over-simplification that in some instances could be misleading.
True of false: You can ride your bike on the sidewalk even if a bike lane is available.And said:
FALSE, you must use the bike lane when available.I believe this is at least partially wrong.
While Oregon does have a mandatory sidepath law that requires you use the bike lane when you are on the street, there is no such requirement if you are on the sidewalk.
The Oregon Bicyclists Manual published by ODOT and the DMV frames it up this way, saying that riding on the sidewalk is "not recommended." "Not recommended" is very different from illegal!
In general, you shouldn’t ride a bicycle on sidewalks. Many crashes between bikes and cars occur on sidewalks, especially when bicyclists ride against the flow of car traffic. If you do ride on a sidewalk, try to ride in the same direction as traffic next to you...There are many instances on wide busy roads with bike lanes like Commercial, Lancaster, or Wallace when it might actually be necessary to ride on the sidewalk. Sidewalk riding is too often necessary after you have crossed to the other side of the road using in a crosswalk and then need to maneuver further to reach your destination, or in order to reach a signalized crosswalk in the first place. Stroads seemingly require it at times. One-way streets also sometimes require a length of sidewalk biking. And children regularly bike on the sidewalk when no parent would ever say "use the bike lane."
|Would you send your child to Wallace Park|
using the bike lane or the sidewalk?
Note two people on bike in the crosswalk!
(Looking down Glen Creek towards Wallace Park)
a person commits the offense of failure to use a bicycle lane or path if the person operates a bicycle on any portion of a roadway that is not a bicycle lane or bicycle path when a bicycle lane or bicycle path is adjacent to or near the roadway.Here's the definition of "roadway," and note that since the sidewalk is not ordinarily used for vehicular travel, as I read this the sidewalk is not considered a formal part of the roadway:
"Roadway" means the portion of a highway that is improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the shoulder.In his legal guide on bicycling and the law, Pedal Power, attorney Ray Thomas says:
if you ride your bicycle on the sidewalk – and that is your right anywhere in the state where doing so is not prohibited by ordinance – you need to know and obey the laws... (p.119)It is not interesting or important to try to "litigate" this here, and it may not be possible to say with 100% certainty that the answer by the Salem Police is wrong, but even with the constraints of twitter it's still probably not the "best answer." There are many situations in which it is reasonable to bike on the sidewalk even when a bike lane is adjacent and available. The sidepath requirement is primarily to keep people biking from slowing auto traffic, not to get people biking out of the way of people on foot.
|Kids on Center Street at Cottage violating the law|
But where should they be instead?
Some people who ride against traffic may be doing so out of a true rebellious or lawless spirit, but for many is it a cautious, defensive gesture, not a middle finger to the law or to civility.
What is most interesting here is not saying that the Police are right or wrong. What is most interesting is that the answer by the Police here expresses the great double-bind for people biking that is pretty systematic in Enforcement and in Engineering currently: We don't really want you on the road, we don't want you on the sidewalk - we don't want you anywhere at all, in fact!
The focus is on a punitive approach to people bicycling and not instead on an approach that makes the virtuous choice the easy choice. Too often our current system makes the virtuous and lawful choice the most difficult or dangerous or unattractive one. Why not make the virtuous and lawful choice the most attractive and pleasant one?
|This from 1937 remains our ideal - via NYRB|
|4245 people/day speed more than 10mph over limit here|
Salem Presentation Slides, Dec2014
Biking rudely - too fast or recklessly - is still sometimes a problem, and we should have an enforcement framework and cultural norms that curb scorching. But biking at a reasonable pace on the sidewalk, and properly yielding to people on foot, can be a prudent and necessary tool even for the most skillful and experienced of cyclists, and it is not helpful to say that biking on the sidewalk is always prohibited in the presence of a bike lane.