Motorists, cyclists, & pedestrians: Who's road-use rights should prevail?

A woman walking on a sidewalk yelled at a cyclist who was riding on the same sidewalk to “get off the [expletive] pavement!”. The cyclist — presumably riding on the sidewalk to avoid the dangers of the busy street – and distracted by the yelling, veered into traffic and was killed by a passing motorist. Was anyone at fault? Or was this just one of those things that come with three groups of users competing for the road?

In the US, most but not all states allow riding a bike on the sidewalk. It’s against the law in England, so the pedestrian was within their rights to yell.

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We usually used either road or side walk but because of all the blind and deaf in town, bikes could not be parked along the stores downtown. Folks with canes navigated there and would stumble over the bikes. Even as ten year olds we knew and followed the rules and watched for cars.

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One of the old 1960’s Andy Griffith show’s episodes was about a young boy caught riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. Illegal in Mayberry.

It’s illegal in Los Angeles. A cop upbraided me for doing it once.

I usually stay off sidewalks: they’re for pedestrians. In the above instance it was on Venice Beach and I was headed to a sock vendor - and the ‘boardwalk’ was too crowded to ride a bicycle on.

Pedestrians have the right of way, even on roads.

In the above case the cyclist shouldn’t have gotten spooked. I don’t blame the pedestrian. I don’t waste my breath yelling.

I avoid doing that too. However if the alternative is a busy street w/no bicycle lane, I might ride on the sidewalk for 10-20 meters to pass the most dangerous part of an intersection. Assuming there are no pedestrians using the sidewalk. If there are, I get off the bike and push it along the sidewalk. Not advisable to yell at someone or even honk at another car in this area.

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Since this happened in the UK is it really on a almost exclusively US forum? As far as I know in most of the US bicycles are considered vehicles, and as such need to conform to the “rules of the road” which in most states is No vehicles can drive on the sidewalk. So bicycles should not be on the sidewalk.

Lots of states don’t have laws against it.

I don’t recall what the rules were in Colorado. Many of the streets didn’t have sidewalks where I lived, so not an issue. In this area only a few gadgets can be ridden on the sidewalk.

  • Bicycles for kids under a certain age. The age limit is usually middle-school age, 14.
  • Skateboards, self-powered scooters & wagons.
  • Some types of stand-on electric scooters.

hmm … my thinking is if it is car-related, something you might have heard on the Car Talk radio program, then the topic is appropriate here. Another factor is that paywalls often prevent posting pertinent forum links to US newspaper articles.

Florida allows bike on sidewalks but they must give pedestrians the right of way and warn audibly when passing. Given our high rates of bicycle fatalities, in many instances it is crazy not to use the sidewalk.

But there is a problem… electric bikes. Heavier, faster and more dangerous than pedal only bikes. And ridden by complete a$$hats, by my observation!


We are allowed to ride on certain sidewalks; e.g. within the public parks. Likewise we are supposed to give an audible warning when passing a pedestrian on those sidewalks. This is easier said than done b/c the typical pedestrian walks in the center of the sidewalk here and just ignores you, won’t move to the side to allow you to pass by… Often is it b/c they are distracted by talking on the phone, or just wandering around in a fog. Just the other day

Me: Passing on your left
Pedestrian( in center of sidewalk, leaving no room to pass) : Ignores
Me (louder) Passing on your left.
Pedestrian: Ignores
Me: (Very loud) : Passing on your left!!!
Pedestrian: Finally moves to side, but very annoyed.

That’s quickly becoming a problem here as well. I came across two of the electric bikes & their riders while riding through an unused parking lot last week. Both of them purposely crossed my path within inches, when they could have very easily passed by at a safe distance. These riders appeared to be teenage kids and seemed to be playing a game of "who will yield first? " Modern life … sigh …

I was walking on Central this afternoon when a bicyclist going the other way forced me onto the street. I didn’t say anything. If I could have, I would have told him to take Silver, the parallel street a short block south, which has little traffic, a lot of roundabouts, an 18mph speed limit, and is an official ‘bicycle boulevard’: a street on which bicycles don’t have to stay to the right to stay out of automobiles’ way (I always do.) I never ride Central, except between, say 1 and 5 AM when it’s empty and I can hear a car coming.

I participate in a bicyclists’ forum. When somebody complains about the traffic I opine that there are alternatives. I used to ride between Santa Monica and Pasadena regularly, off busy streets, not that much longer a route. I had a Thomas Brothers. I used to live in DC too, and recommended alternatives to Washingtonians who could only think as drivers.


Our fair city allows riding bikes on the sidewalk except in business districts. I find the street acceptable most of the time but do bail to sidewalks as desired. Will use grass to go around pedestrians as needed.

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This is what the Virginia statute reads

§ 46.2-903. Riding or driving vehicles on sidewalks; exceptions.

No person shall ride or drive any vehicle on the sidewalks of any county, city, or town of the Commonwealth other than (i) an emergency vehicle, as defined in § 46.2-920; (ii) a vehicle engaged in snow or ice removal and control operations; (iii) a wheel chair or wheel chair conveyance, whether self-propelled or otherwise; (iv) a bicycle; (v) an electric personal assistive mobility device; (vi) an electric power-assisted bicycle; or (vii) unless otherwise prohibited by ordinance, a motorized skateboard or scooter.

I live in Virginia in what might be described as an upscale subdivision. There are about 500 homes (all on 1/2 acre lots) and the subdivision is built around a 1-1/2 mile long road. All homes are built on cul-se-sacs or on loops, no homes are built on the “main drag” (it has a 25 mph speed limit). The subdivision is sort of suburban-rural setting. All roads are paved, but the drainage system consists of cement-lined swales (cement-lined ditches…).

As you can see in the graphic, the main drag has bike lanes on both sides of the road and are well marked. We have lots of kids that take advantage of the bike lanes, older folks taking walks, younger families pushing strollers and taking kids for walks and we even have our dog walkers (some of which leave there animal’s calling “cards” not cleaned up…).

Because the grass covered shoulders slope towards the swales and the soft earth, and the droppings, it is not an ideal place to walk…

Generally, everyone not driving, gets along traveling the bike lanes.

The only issue we have are the Elite “Tour de France” bicyclist who are easy to identify, they are on $2000 bikes, wearing $500 of specialized bicycle clothing, racing at 30 to 35 MPH down the bike lanes screaming at any one, child, senior walker, mom pushing a stroller, dog walker, etc… “to get to ‘heck’ out of the bike lane…”

It seems it’s worse on Saturday and Sunday mornings when they tend to collect in Groups (more like mobs…) and assail our and the neighboring subdivisions…

The local sheriff has sent patrols around and it appears to slow them down, but not the verbal insults “for using their bike lanes…”

I for owe wish I had the “Rolling Coal” functions on my diesel truck to turn them into a soot covered, choking mass of asthmatic morons…


Bicycist’s fault for her death. Not touched by the pedestrain. Not blocked by the pedestrian and suddenly had to divert into the street.
If street too dangerous, walk the bicycle on the sidewalk.

On Denver’s 16th Street Mall I have walked our tandem bicycle on the sidewalk with wife sitting in her seat. On Sundays bicycles are allowed to be ridden on the mall.

Your bicylists should ride no faster than the speed limit on the roadway.
Why does the area not have sidewalks?

As I may have mentioned previously, when I take my power-walks along the D&R Canal’s 6 ft wide path, I sometimes have to contend with bikes (mostly pedal-powered) that come uncomfortably close (from behind), and which give an audible warning only on rare occasions.

Last year, I was talking with a woman while her 2 year old daughter was standing next to us. If I hadn’t grabbed that kid and pulled her to a safer position, it is very likely that the marauding biker who came charging down that path would have hit her.

Why don’t the bicyclist go the speed limit, probably for the same reason that you drive 130 MPH, it’s in their heads that they can, so they do…

And why don’t we have sidewalks, probably for the same reason there are no curbs or storm drains, it’s suburban/rural. The use of the swales are useful as we get a lot of rain and we have a lot of wetlands in this area and the water draining off wetlands flows directly into the swales. If we had sidewalks, they would always be wet and they would take up the room for the swales… This is probably the best solution for our area and I am sure you have lots of suggestions to better handle it and if you were an Urban Planner and Civil Engineer, you could come up with a better solution, but until then…

And as for the elitist bicyclist that yell, scream, and curse, even moms pushing baby strollers, you try to get them to ride the speed limit. Our police will ticket them when they catch them, but it happens in the neighborhoods and not on the open roads and it’s not like a the police can stake out every neighborhood.