I saw the most improbable bicycle crash today on my way to the MassBike office. Don’t worry, no one got hurt. But it does present an opportunity to talk about the dangers of riding on the sidewalk. I was riding down the street, in a perfectly nice bike lane no less, when I saw another rider coming in my direction on the sidewalk. Not just any old sidewalk, but an obstacle course of sorts. You see, today was trash pickup day, and the sidewalk was full of empty trashcans strewn haphazardly about by the garbagemen. And this cyclist was weaving his way down the sidewalk trying to dodge all the trash cans, when he zigged when he should have zagged, crashing into one and toppling over in slow motion.
Trash cans, parking meters, mailboxes, street signs, telephone poles, benches, trees, bus shelters – the sidewalk is full of obstacles, not to mention pedestrians, baby strollers, skaters, wheelchairs, and unpredictable children. If you manage to safely navigate all of that, you still have to watch out for cars pulling out of driveways and turning at intersections, and they are not expecting bicyclists on the sidewalk. On top of that, riding on the sidewalk is actually illegal in many places in Massachusetts, including all business districts and anyplace else that local towns decide.
Undoubtedly, there are places where the road is not safe for bicyclists, and the sidewalk may be your only option. But give the street a try – you may like it! Look here if you need some help getting comfortable riding in the street.