Dear PoPville – As the District Grows, is it Time to Update the laws on Biking on Sidewalks?

Photo by PoPville flickr user fromcaliw/love

“Dear PoPville,

I live on 16th St near the intersection of R St. More and more often i have noticed people riding their bicycles on the sidewalk at all times of day. While it is not illegal I believe it is rude. Last week a woman was riding her bicycle down R St on the sidewalk while ringing her bell for pedestrians and a woman with a stroller to get out of her way. I told her there was a bike lane on R and she replied that it was going in the opposite directions and to use the available bike lanes she would have had to bike two additional blocks to get to her destination. As the current law states that bike riding on the sidewalk is illegal south of Mass Ave she was within her rights if not a bit entitled.

As the population of DC continues to grow and the city center and sidewalks get more crowded i think it is time we update the rules on sidewalk biking. I wanted to reach out to the Popville community and see what their take on it was. Should the boundary be moved up to Florida? What about Columbia Rd? If so who do we reach out to about this?”

142 Comment

  • brookland_rez

    I think it’s fine as long as you’re not endangering the pedestrians. If the sidewalk gets so crowded that you can’t ride, then slow down to a pedestrian pace or get off and walk it.
    I know when I used to ride bicycles there were certain roads I would never ride on just because of the danger. Those were Constitution, NY Ave, the Dave Thomas circle. i used to ride on the sidewalk in those areas routinely.

    • Something that a lot of cyclists forget: while it is legal to ride on the sidewalks in much of the city, you have to ride at the speed of foot traffic. If there are a lot of people – enough that you need to ring your bell for them to get out of the way – you are legally required to slow down and match their speed. If that is a problem, do what I do and ride in the street.

      • Citation needed. While I’d be the first to say you need to slow down so as to not endanger yourself or the pedestrians, I’m pretty skeptical that there’s a “match their speed” requirement. Suppose pedestrians are walking at different speeds? Which do you match? For that matter, do faster walking pedestrians need to match the speeds of the slower ones?

        • One of the great things about DC is their lax biking laws. We don’t want to become NYC where cops will ticket you if you ride from the street to your doorstep. I commute on bike in DC. I use the bike lanes when I can, on the sidewalk when necessary. I always assume that nobody can see me. I never try to get them to move or change their course. Walkers have the right of way. If for some reason they turn and I have to stop, I do so. I always say “excuse me”. Bikers need to be extra polite.

        • It’s called a common sense rule.

          Are we so far gone as a community that we need a statute to do things like not run down slower walking pedestrians with bicycles?

        • § 50-2201.28.(b-1)(1) uses the language “operator yields to pedestrians”.

          § 50-2201.28. Right-of-way at crosswalks

          (b-1) A person on a bicycle or operating a personal mobility device upon or along a sidewalk or while crossing a roadway in a crosswalk shall have the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances; provided, that:

          (1) The bicyclist or personal mobility device operator yields to pedestrians on the sidewalk or crosswalk; and

          (2) Riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is permitted.

  • YES. Make riding on the sidewalk illegal—and actually enforce it—throughout the entire District. Riding on the sidewalk is dangerous and rude. This isn’t the Midwestern suburbs where the sidewalks are empty because no one walks anywhere. Yes, riding on the street can be daunting, but if you can’t ride on the street, don’t ride at all.

    • There are a number of situations where it’s not practical to ride in the street – very dangerous traffic, one-way street with a mid-block destination, etc. I think this is an area where we just need to use a little common sense (and existing laws are probably sufficient). If a cyclist is riding recklessly on a sidewalk and endangering pedestrians, they can already be cited (and they should be). That said, I think it is reasonable to have a law that says cyclists are not permitted to ride on the sidewalk when there is a bike lane available.

      I don’t understand why so many people in this city are so anti-cyclist. Would you really rather that each of those cyclists was driving a car instead?

      • If cyclist yield to pedestrians on sidewalks, I don’t have a problem with it. But my experience is that (generally) cyclists do not yield to pedestrians and feel entitled to ride on the sidewalk.

        If it is not practical to ride your bike on the route you need to travel, then WALK or take public transportation.

        • I agree with you.
          Honestly, I rarely see cyclists walk their bikes on the sidewalk. They will go as wobbly slow as possible – even for a whole block – instead of dismounting and walking. When they are going that slow, especially in a crowd, they are totally unpredictable as they attempt to keep their balance.

        • “But my experience is that (generally) cyclists do not yield to pedestrians…”

          I (generally) have not found this to be true.

          “[They] feel entitled to ride on the sidewalk.”

          Well, this is because they are under current law.

      • one way street with a mid-block destination, you should proceed around on the streets with 3 right turns to get to your destination safely and in accordance with the law.

        • Or walk your bike half a block! Is it that hard to dismount?

        • “one way street with a mid-block destination, you should proceed around on the streets with 3 right turns to get to your destination safely and in accordance with the law.”

          Did you not read the story? That is NOT the law north of Mass Ave.

      • It’s not anti-cyclist as much as it is pro- pedestrian. SideWALKS were not designed to accommodate cycling, and, in my experience, many cyclists don’t walk their bikes or slow down to accommodate the pace of the pedestrian traffic speed. They often don’t seem to realize that a quietly and swiftly moving bike is not something that many pedestrians can hear or sense behind them – a potentially serious hazard. I’m all for bike lanes, and responsibly shared use spaces. Cyclists often note how vulnerable they can feel sharing the road with thoughtless drivers. As a pedestrian, I’ve often felt extremely vulnerable sharing the sidewalks with thoughtless cyclists.

        • Understood – but the risk to cyclists from vehicles on busy streets with careless drivers GREATLY exceeds the risk to pedestrians on sidewalks from careless cyclists. So there needs to be some compromise (and education) here.

        • Very little infrastructure is designed with cycling in mind. Maybe you should advocate for separate bike lanes on every street? Maybe separate protected bike lanes on every street? This way bikes will never have to go on sidewalks. Bikers will be happy, pedestrians will be happy, and (non-parking) cars will be happy. Until then, share the Sidewalk.

          • (I think) you are making an assumption that it is safer for a cyclist to use the sidewalk than the road – why else is the cyclist on the sidewalk? In my personal opinion , based on years of reading about transportation behavior theories, examining studies, and personally getting around by all means, I have never found anything that would make me think riding a bike on a sidewalk at biking speed (~15mph) is ever a safe choice.

  • I completely agree. I am am a frequent biker myself, but riding on the sidewalk should be a rare exception and not the norm. And even if you’re doing so legally, pedestrians still have the right of way, so don’t expect them to scatter just because you ring a bell.

    • I agree with what you say in that that is certainly my practice as a bike rider and what I would recommend to other people. But that does not translate into making it *illegal* to ride on the sidewalk as there are the occasional unsafe roads, etc. Not to mention kids in my neighborhood.

    • +1000

    • gotryit

      +1 As a bike rider, I fail to see how some biker riders don’t have the courtesy for pedestrians on sidewalks that we expect from car drivers on roads.

    • +++ I love that people are cycling more, but, as a pedestrian, find cyclists on the sidewalk to be a serious hazard.

  • The old unwritten standard was that children road their bikes on the sidewalk, adults and teens with adult sized bikes road in the street, or walked their bikes on the sidewalks. I hate that this has to be legislated for pedestrian safety, but this makes sense to me – whether we’re talking dense downtown areas or quieter neighborhoods.

    • The problem is that there is no commonsense when it comes to bikers on the sidewalk. I have nearly been bowled over many many times. Bikes should be in the street and should follow the rules of the road!

  • First, I am a cyclist. I feel anyone who rides on the sidewalk should grow up and get on the road; however, I do feel commonsense need to play into it. For instance, if I find my self riding up 16th by Meridian Park, I will ride on the sidewalk to be out of traffic climbing the hill plus the sidewalk is pretty wide, but I ride in the traffic going down 16th b/c usually I am keeping up with the flow. The woman in this post was an idiot and should have gone out of her way rather than harass pedestrians. If you feel you need to ride on the sidewalk you need to respect the others using the walk
    What I wonder about, living in Mt. Pleasant, is why so many Latino bikers ride on the sidewalk? From what I have seen they are never rude and will slow down to a crawl until there is room to pass. This is the case even on Columbia Rd where there a a bike lane just on the other side of parked cars. Any guesses?

    • Easy there gabacho

    • They don’t have insurance and are worried about getting hit by a car?
      When I didn’t have health insurance, there’s no way I’d ride on the street with traffic. I also stopped snowboarding, as well. It’s not worth the risk.

    • +1 to riding up meridian hill sidewalk and down the hill on the street

    • Agreed. I’ve noticed that rude/dangerous cycling on sidewalks is much more common in Mt. P and CoHi than other neighborhoods (and at the risk of being jumped on for saying this), the cyclists I see are disproportionately Latino. Although I’m all for banning bikes on sidewalks in most situations, I think some outreach with the DC Latino community to put a stop to this kind of behavior or aggressive ticketing of dangerous behavior by cops might be more effective.

      • hahahhhaha…right…

      • Huh?? I agree with DCrat, most of the hispanic bikers in Colmbia Heights and Mt P go pretty slow and are respectful of pedestrians on the sidewalks

        I realize this isn’t what the OP was writing about, but it drives me nuts seeing tourists biking on the sidewalks downtown.

    • Came here to say exactly this. (The first part…not touching the second part with a 10ft pole.)

      I used to live in MtP and work near Scott Circle. It was pretty dangerous riding up and down 16th north of Florida. Traffic is always backed up (usually with bunched buses) and so cars are constantly changing lanes trying to get an edge. It’s just not safe on a bike. I would always ride that one stretch on the sidewalk, but on my brakes the whole time, barely going any faster than a brisk walk. And if there were more than a few people gathered at the bus stop, I’d either dismount or get back in the road for a sec. It’s true, the sidewalks are really wide there (esp on the east side) and frankly, it was safer for everyone for me to be out of the street.

      That being said, when I see someone cruising down the sidewalk simply because…I want to tell them to get a helmet like the rest of us and ride in the street like a grown up.

  • There are already laws on the book stating that cyclists must yield to pedestrians while on the sidewalks. Better enforcement or education/self-policing within the cyclist community may be a better solution that an outright ban, since your problem seems to be the fact that the cyclist is expecting pedestrians to yield to her, not the other way around.

  • There are already laws on the book stating that cyclists must yield to pedestrians while on the sidewalks. Better enforcement or education/self-policing within the cyclist community may be a better solution that an outright ban, since your problem seems to be the fact that the cyclist is expecting pedestrians to yield to her, not the other way around.

  • I saw no – not until we add more bike lanes and make the city a safer place to bike. FYI, I drive every day and bike about every other day. There are still too many streets in this city that are simply very dangerous to bike on and too many drivers not accustomed to sharing the road. I agree, it’s rude to bike on sidewalks on which there are pedestrians. But I think safety comes before courtesy. Getting hit by a multi-ton vehicle traveling 30MPH is a bit riskier than bumping into someone on a sidewalk.

    Having said that, I do the vast majority of my biking on roads. If I don’t feel safe, I get on the sidewalk and proceed slowly. If the sidewalk is crowded, I walk my bike.

    • It’s not just rude to bike on sidewalks — it’s dangerous. Bikers go to fast, walkers and dogs step out not knowing that a cyclist is coming, and bad things happen. New York doesn’t ban biking on sidewalks because it’s rude — they ban it because it’s unsafe.

      • Is there evidence that more pedestrians are hurt by bikes on the sidewalk than bicyclists hurt by cars on the road?

        • Shouldn’t the goal be safety for everyone? Why is it so hard for cyclists who use the sidewalk to simply walk their bikes? That way everyone avoids potential injuries.

    • Safety and courtesy are not mutually exclusive. If cyclists were as concerned about the safety of pedestrians as well as their own safety, they could walk their bikes on the sidewalk. Win/win, no? Cyclists who insist on protecting their own safety while potentially imperiling the safety of pedestrians are not choosing “safety over courtesy’ their choosing their own safety, convenience and comfort over someone else’s.

      • I think this sentiment needs to be up voted + a million

      • The same should be said about drivers on the road. Pedestrians can be selfish on sidewalks, drivers can be selfish on the roads. Where can the bikers be selfish???? I guess the MTD.

        • So glad you admit that you’re just trying to be selfish.
          This “shit rolls downhill” attitude is why a lot of pedestrians hate cyclists on the sidewalk. Look, we get that cyclists get treated poorly by a lot of drivers. But that should have no bearing on how you treat pedestrians. Sidewalks are designed for traveling *at pedestrian speed*. So either ride on the street or deal with your frustration another way.

  • Hm, my comment disappeared. That was weird since I didn’t say anything offensive? Anyway, it seems like the problem here is the cyclist not yielding to pedestrians. There are already laws against that. Better enforcement and education/self-policing within the cycling community (which I’m a part of) may be a better solution than an outright ban. There are real reasons that it is safer to ride on the sidewalk sometimes. Better to enforce the yielding law than remove that safer option for cyclists.

    • Ok sorry, now it looks like I posted my comment three times. I’ll stop saying the same thing over and over now. I blame the comment system.

      • Prince Of Petworth

        The site’s been experiencing some technical difficulties this week, we are hoping to identify and fix asap. Sorry about that.

        • Shouldn’t the goal be safety for everyone? Why is it so hard for cyclists who use the sidewalk to simply walk their bikes? That way everyone avoids potential injuries.

          • Believe it or not, cyclists and pedestrians CAN share the same space safely. When I have to ride on the sidewalk and there are pedestrians around, I ride at a slow pace and pass pedestrians with great care at a crawl. If the sidewalk is very crowded, I will walk my bike. I yield to pedestrians as the law states I should. I’m sorry that others can’t do that, but it doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

        • Thanks for posting this PoP. I’ve had a lot of trouble this week and I’ve taken to reading my posts multiple times before I post because I was afraid that I’d inadvertently been offensive & gotten flagged.

  • More cycle track would help as well. But yeah, sidewalk riding is a big pet peeve of mine

  • I was hit by a cyclist riding on the sidewalk last year while exiting Meridian Hill Park. She was going downhill and travelling too fast to stop before she collided with me, barely missing the woman behind me with a baby in a stroller. No broken bones but I was knocked to the ground and had some nasty bruising and scrapes. As a cyclist, I think it should be made 100% illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk in DC, it creates an unsafe environment for pedestrians. If a cyclist has to be on the sidewalk to get to a specific location they should walk their bike.

    • I’m very sorry to hear this.

      I’m a cyclist too and I’d *never* ride on a sidewalk downhill (esp. one as steep as Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park).

      There are commonsense times to ride on the sidewalk, though. For example, when I am returning a Bikeshare bike, I ride from the street where I have been traveling onto the sidewalk to return the bikes. I think cyclists should be extra cautios around pedestrians just like drivers should be extra cautious around cyclists…everyone should look out for the slower moving person.

      As a sidenote, sometimes there are people on foot in the road as well: drivers climbing into or out of their vehicles, joggers, and – in some dangerous neighborhoods – people walk in the street late at night to avoid being accosted by people who may be on the sidewalks. Just like I don’t think people on foot should be banned from ever entering the roadway (so long, parallel parking!), I don’t think cyclists should be banned from the sidewalks, entirely. Common sense is what we need….giving citations for people who ride recklessly would help too…a sizable citation for hitting a person is definitely fair.

      • You can talk about common sense all you want, but the fact that so many people have stories similar to Anonymous’s above you would strongly suggest that common sense isn’t exactly common. Leaving it unregulated defers to common sense… and in the opinion of a lot of people, that’s not working.

  • We don’t need an outright ban on riding in the sidewalks- there are still places in this city where is too much fast moving traffic to do it safely on the street, for example Benning Rd or Bladensburg Rd. NE. That said, cyclists need to realize when they do go on the sidewalk, pedestrians are the king and we have to yield to them.

    What’s interesting is that riding on the street, you’ll have drivers scream at you to get on the sidewalk. I think you just can’t win with the anti-bicycle crowd.

    • +1 to all of this.

    • +1. On the day that there are enough safe, protected bike lanes in the city, the problem will take care of itself. I’ve ridden on the sidewalk on Rhode Island Ave a few times because 1) the MBT isn’t safe after dark, and 2) drivers there are homicidal and apparently feel entitled to drive 10 MPH over the speed limit.

  • Great idea. But if you promote getting bikes off sidewalks, I hope you’re also promoting — actively lobbying for — protected bike lanes on all of our streets. Otherwise, your suggestion is just to push bicyclists into car traffic they’ve already registered their discomfort with. So, you can either have a lot more carnage or a lot fewer bicyclists. Which may seem fine until you realize that could mean a lot more cars. And there is nothing fine about that.

    • The rights of peds come first on sidewalks. If you are uncomfortable riding your bike in the street that shouldn’t mean you get to hop on the sidewalk and endanger pedestrians. Bikes typically go a lot faster than pedestrians on sidewalks creating a hazard.

    • I’m missing something in this logic – how does getting bikes off sidewalks promote more bike lanes and lead to more car traffic? If there is more/better bike infrastructure, wouldn’t that promote more bikers in bike lanes?

      While more bike lanes would be great, riders should feel safe no matter what roads they’re riding on.

  • I don’t think that riding your bike should be made illegal throughout DC, but I would certainly be amenable to updating the region where it’s not allowed. DC’s density has increased quite a bit in a number of neighborhoods since the law was first enacted.

  • Well, cyclists often use the sidewalk because it’s either more convenient or safer than the road. I think you’d see more people using the road if the roads were more accommodating to cyclists. In the meantime, I think it should be legal to ride on the sidewalk but cyclists should be courteous to pedestrians. Pedestrians should have the right of way on the sidewalk. Of course there are always going to be jerks out there no matter how sensible the laws are.

  • Some people are legitimately not (yet) comfortable, confident, and skilled enough to ride on the road (bike line or no bike lane), especially on a street like 16th. I have no problem with people biking on the sidewalks, but when passing other people (whether in same direction or opposite), do it just like you would if you were a pedestrian. Most pedestrians don’t barrel down the sidewalk ringing a bell or shouting at other pedestrians for people to get out of their way.

    • > Some people are legitimately not (yet) comfortable, confident, and skilled enough to ride on the road

      Then they shouldn’t be endangering pedestrians by riding on the sidewalk. If you can’t bike in the city, don’t.

  • Bikers annoy the heck out of me, but I don’t think we should ban bikes on all sidewalks – yet. I think we need to start by enforcing existing laws for bikers, particularly the rules they must follow when riding in the street (in bikes lanes or not) and the rules they must follow when riding in pedestrian areas (such as keeping off sidewalks downtown and leaving crosswalks free). Simultaneously, the city needs to invest decent resources in education campaigns for cyclists, to help them understand the laws, and common courtesy. Some people will flout the laws anyway, but I suspect many riders simply don’t know any better and would be willing to fix their behavior.

    Also, to whomever that biker was who prompted this post: You are a horrible human being if you think mowing down innocent people, even babies, is justified by saving you 3 minutes.

    • And cars annoy the heck out of me. But I don’t think we should make all streets one way – yet. I think we need to start by enforcing existing laws for cars, particularly the rules they must follow when driving in the street and the rules they must follow when driving with cyclists or yielding to pedestrians. Simultaneously, the city needs to invest decent resources in education campaigns for drivers, to help them understand the laws, and common courtesy. Some people will flout the laws anyway, but I suspect many drivers simply don’t know any better and would be willing to fix their behavior.

  • binpetworth

    I just wish MPD would actually enforce the rules for not biking on sidewalks in the business district. Yesterday I was almost hit by 2 cyclists speeding down the sidewalk on L St (and going the same direction as the bike lane right next to them). And not long ago, the police force was ticketing jaywalkers on 16th and L but didn’t say a damn thing to the bikers breezing past them on the sidewalk.

  • you know what grinds my gears? cyclist backing up traffic on rock creek parkway. it never fails. there’s always some schmuck with 10 cars (that can’t pass) behind them. how do we go about fixin that one?

    • Worst part of that is there’s a bike path right off of the road, at least south of Blagden.

      • That “bike path” is more or less unusable for a cyclist going more than 12-15mph. Chopped up/ bumpy pavement and way too many pedestrians to bike safely…..

      • that’s a sidewalk, which we were told not to ride on!

    • You know what else back’s up traffic? Too many cars trying to use a low capacity road. Especially if one of them is obeying the 25 mph speed limit. Damn cyclists.

    • That bike path is not adequately maintained. Parts of it are closed at night. Some of it is falling into the creek. All of it is heavily used by joggers and walkers. Large parts are in disrepair due to tree roots. Rehabilitation has been in the works FOR 20 YEARS. See, e.g.

      Get NPS off their butts. That’s how you fix that one. We can easily fund rehabilitation(*) by ticketing speeders and people that turn on to Beach Drive from RCP after the merge lane ends.

      Finally, most cyclists I’ve seen there go 20-25 mph through lower Beach Drive. It’s a 25 mph road.

      (*) Yeah, I know NPS gets the $ but DDOT would pay for rehab.

    • gotryit

      Make a legit bike path, not a torn up pedestrian trail. Seriously, I’ve biked on that before, and it’s not particularly great or wide enough to comfortably share with pedestrians. If I could maintain ~25 mph, I’d take the road also.
      If you don’t want bicyclists on the road, then advocate for a better off-road option.

      • how about choosing a road that has a legit bike path?

        • gotryit

          I choose the route that’s best for me overall. A dedicated bike path is a big part of it, but not all of it. It’d be a bigger part of it if you could guarantee that people wouldn’t park or drive their cars in them too.
          You can also choose to drive on roads that don’t allow bikes on them. Like I-495, I-395, I-66,etc. The rest, you just get to share.

    • HA! But this also happens if there is a car that is actually following the speed limit. The “problem” you are pointing out here is actually that most cars speed on RCP, not that bikes hold up traffic. Try driving the speed limit and you’ll be less frustrated by this.

      • No, I’m clearly talking about cyclist peddling way under the speed limit. Even if they’re going 20 mph does that mean everyone behind him/her has to go that slow? All I’m asking for is a lil wave of the arm to let me know it’s clear to pass, you know courtesy.

        • gotryit

          Why don’t you just move to the left lane and pass?

          • bc, Einstein, sometimes it’s a no passing lane and sometimes it’s a curve and that’s not very smart to pass someone on a curve. why dont you go into the left lane and let me pass? or get on the right shoulder? or go the speed limit? now that i’m ranting there should be more speed minimum signs…

          • Prince Of Petworth

            Einstein? Let me just add a quick Friday reminder – while I know these discussions can get heated – no need to be a jerk when responding. Thanks.

          • gotryit

            OK, Heisenberg. So your real complaint is that there are sections that are only one lane in each direction? Then why don’t you go drive somewhere with two lanes in each direction so that you can pass slower traffic.
            You don’t get to tell other people to get off the road that you want to drive on. Well, you can – I just don’t care.
            PS. I like the physicist insults – let’s see how long we can keep that up. Eh, Ms. Curie?

          • gotryit

            Not a fan of her work?

          • make like Neil and ride your bike on DeGrasse……Tyson?

            or we save this argument Faraday next week?

          • my name’s not Max and I wasn’t Born yesterday?

          • gotryit

            What a Bohr, this Hertz my head.

          • that’s all Fermi, I’m gonna go home and hit Dirac

          • gotryit

            Fourier sake and everyone else’s too, I’ll stop.

        • “Even if they’re going 20 mph does that mean everyone behind him/her has to go that slow?”
          If there’s oncoming traffic and therefore no room to move left and pass, then yes, that’s what that means.
          “All I’m asking for is a lil wave of the arm to let me know it’s clear to pass, you know courtesy.”
          If it’s clear to pass, you can see that from your car, you shouldn’t need a “lil wave”. Besides, that cyclist is going to end up riding one-handed all the way down the parkway if that’s what’s required. I’d prefer they have two hands on the handlebar.

    • Seriously, right? It’s like they think it’s a public park or something. ParkWAY. Sounds like highWAY. High five me, bro.

    • Then I would suggest finding another road that better suits your desires.

  • Even some of the bike lanes are treacherous. I very rarely use the 14th st bike lane anymore after a 5ft stack of doors came sliding off a construction site into the street crashing into me and wiping me out into a car. Albeit that is totally a fluke, but still, construction along 14th blocking the lanes, taxis weaving in and out, and navigating around buses (who i think do a great job of not managing to kill a billion oblivious bikers everyday) makes it rather daunting to take some of these bike lanes that we must be confined to.
    I actually do bike a few blocks out of my way to 11th or 15th and back so that i do not have to take sidewalks and feel a bit safer.

    • My God, did you sue the construction company?

      • no, they gave me their info and were really nice/helpful, but other than some not so shallow roadrash, being sore and no bike damage, it could have been wayyyy worse. just glad i was wearing a big backpack and helmet!

    • I often try to avoid the 3 or 4 blocks on 14th street around DCUSA. Traffic slows there so much that cars regularly raid the bike lane, pedestrians cross mid-block, car doors open, etc. There are too many things to pay attention to. I have started to use 11th, as well. It’s much calmer and more pleasant on my way home.

  • I walk to work everyday and I am almost hit by idiots riding bikes on the sidewalk several times a week. It is always when they are coming from my back so I have no way of knowing. I have and will in the future push these idiots over when I get a chance.

    • Don’t break Rule #1. See below.

    • And when you get hit upside the head with a U-lock for pushing someone over, I’m sure no one here, cyclist or pedestrian, will feel sorry for you with that attitude.

  • Biking on the sidewalk should not happen, but we can’t simply make riding on the sidewalk illegal and be done with it. Bikes need a place of their own that isn’t intermixed with traffic but isn’t on the sidewalk. Any legislation like this has to come with an expansion of on-street bike paths. People ride on the sidewalk because they want to get around with bikes but are afraid to ride on the street. So give them a safe alternative.

  • I support cyclists using sidewalks as a “last resort” if the road is simply unsafe, as long as they use it in a sensible and courteous manner. However, while there are jerks who walk, run, ride and drive, there seems to be just enough of a critical mass of jerk cyclists that sadly ruin it for all. I’ve seen idiots on the sidewalks of 15th St just feet from an awesome cycle track. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been nearly hit in protected crosswalks. I’ve gotten so frustrated that I pretty much take a “stand my ground” policy: Go ahead, side swipe me in a crosswalk, but you’re going down too!

  • While I make no excuses for my fellow District bicyclists, pedestrians don’t always have clean hands either. I often see A LOT of peds walking into streets without looking, or walking in the bike tracks, or are too focused on their smartphones to know what’s going on around them.

    I am all for enforcement of current bicycling laws on cyclists but maybe the answer is for every transit person – whether it’s on foot, bike or car – needs to find a way to coexists because it’s not going to change.

    • maxwell smart

      100% agree with this comment – I have nearly taken down pedestrians countless times on my bike when I have had the green light. Pedestrians see a car and stop but will willingly step in front of cyclists.

      • gotryit

        It’s those situations that make me want to get an airhorn. I don’t want to hit them, but surprising the heck out of them and making them spill their coffee on their iPhone… well, ok.

  • 20 year cyclist. Always in the street. Never on the sidewalk. Walkers are unpredictable and cyclists could seriously hurt a pedestrian (and maybe even themselves) in a collision at any worthwhile speed. Studies have shown that cyclists who use sidewalks/crosswalks to navigate intersections and crossings are much more likely to be hit by a car than a bicycle that’s in an on-street travel lane.

    Do not hurt anyone
    Do not get hurt
    Don’t damage property
    Laws of physics trump laws of man

    If everybody followed those rules in that order, we’d have nothing to argue about.

    • I’ve not been riding in DC nearly as long as you, but I subscribe that philosophy. I ride everywhere and I will never use the sidewalk unless I get run off the road to avoid getting hit by another vehicle making an inappropriate turn. (it happens). I get really upset when I see people riding on the sidewalk downtown. I had a girl on a bike scoff at me because i didnt step out of her way at a pinch point on the north side of L St NW (near 16th). I almost always tell people to get off the sidewalk when I see them downtown, and am often told to “mind [my] own f–king business a–hole”.

    • Good stuff. The only thing I’d add: Be aware of your surroundings on the road.

    • +12345

    • Nearly 10 year DC biker, here, and I still occasionally use crosswalks to navigate (always properly with the lights and cautiously of pedestrians) certain intersections that I am not comfortable with. But you are making me curious. Can you point me to the studies you are referencing?

  • they need to write tickets to bikers on 16th street during rush hour. Its not acceptable its not right, go down 15th street in the bike lanes you @-hole

    • Wow. Entitled much? Do you live in DC?

    • How about you go down 15th street? Then you’d know that bikers will be in the bike lane, and not in your way. Biking on 16th St during rush is not illegal as far as I know.

    • gotryit

      DC doesn’t even ticket cars in a bike lane, so… NO!
      Also, heading south on 15th street is ridiculously slow unless you run red lights. So… no thanks.

      • come on, I rarely if never see a cyclist come to a complete stop at red lights and if you say you stop at every stop sign and red light then…..

        • gotryit

          I come to a complete stop at red lights. And stop signs when there are other cars or people that have the right of way. I do slow to <5 mph but don't stop at a stop sign when I can clearly see that no one else is around. About the same as most drivers (myself included when I'm driving a car).
          I also notice a good number of other bicyclists who do the same. It's just the a-holes that don't (especially in fantastically blatant ways) that get the attention.

          • I do the same, but I do wish more bikers would stop or at least slow down when there’s clearly a car at a stop sign that has the right of way.

          • I do the same. But I can’t control other cyclists nor am I interested in doing so. I just hope one doesn’t get creamed in front of me when they run a light.

          • Maybe you * should* care. Maybe if cyclists cared about policing your own community of cyclists, they wouldn’t be so demonized. I say something every time I see a pedestrian fail to yield.

      • Some evidence for your point about the 15th Street South bound protectected bike lane being ridiculously slow:

        • gotryit

          That would be great if it was a real video, but TWO bicyclists stopping at red lights? That would mean that all the haters are wrong…
          Seriously though – great video – that’s exactly how I feel about going southbound on 15th.

          • Took a massive effort from the CGI team to get those bicyclists to appear stopped at the lights.

    • Wow – write tickets for riding on the street? Delusional much?

    • Useless suggestion – the southbound bike lane on 15th St doesn’t start until below Meridian Hill Park and in any case it’s 100% legal to ride on 16th St during rush hour.

      • True. But there are bikers who go south in the 15th St bike lane north of their along the park. They scream down the hill through intersections (Belmont & W) where walkers aren’t expecting them. I’ve seen one collision, and am just waiting to get hit myself.

    • I find this pretty hilarious considering that the traffic is so bad on 16th that cyclists can hardly be blamed for slowing it down further. In fact, drivers are probably impeding cyclists in that scenario, not vice-versa.

  • It should be allowed throughout the city.

  • I ride my bike a lot. Sometimes I ride on the sidewalk – BUT, the pedestrian ALWAYS has the right of way. DC is working to improve the number of bike lanes and bike share and even the bike carriers on the busses. I think as sidewalks become more and more crowded, people will need to displace bicycles on the sidewalks, and as the streets become more and more crowded, bikes, streetcars and busses will need to displace automobiles on the streets.

  • I also want to note that I think allowing able-bodied adults to ride on the sidewalk is counter-productive to making the roads safer for cyclists. That is my opinion, and one that many cycling advocates probably do not share. However, I’ve read that one of the most effective ways of increasing the safety of cyclists on the road is to increase the number of cyclists on the road. Allowing cyclists to ride on the sidewalk takes pressure off the city to implement better dedicated cycling infrastructure and reduces motorists’ exposure to the concept of sharing the road with cyclists. In this way, a cyclist on the sidewalk is not totally counter-productive, but it doesn’t aide in the improvement of the city’s multi-mode goals like riding on the roads could. Again, just my opinion.

  • After all this…I hope the girl we are talking about reads this! A few rotten apples people. I am a biker and get angry when some clown whizzes down the sidewalk on a bike without realizing that if I was to swerve he / she would ride that bike right up my parts unknown! The street of DC are safe….pretty much all of them. I am pretty sure you can get to all parts without riding on Mass, NY or CT. Use a side street!

  • More bike infrastructure will make this less of an issue over time.

  • Some people ride on the sidewalk because they’re lazy or entitled or whatever, but others do because the roadway is a big, scary place. When they feel more comfortable riding in the road, they’ll do so because of all the inherent advantages – they can go faster, it’s more comfortable, etc. It would be great to discourage the former while preserving the latter, because more people who feel safe riding their bike in the street means it’s safer for all roadway users.

    Statutes are too blunt an instrument to do that. Not to mention that I’d rather have law enforcement solving murders and assaults than having this on their plates. I prefer tried-and-true public shaming. We should publicly shame the lazy/entitled sidewalk riders while leaving room for sidewalk users who are just timid.

  • OP here. I didn’t want to start a war between cyclists and pads but i did want to point out what I think is a dangerous situation.

    The original rule about no bikes on sidewalks south of Mass seems to be in response to the density of the city and population during the work day. The urban core of he city is expanding and I think the law should change to reflect that.

    I agree that more bike lanes need to be created but riding on the sidewalk because you don’t feel safe is not the answer. Pedestrians tend to assume they will only run into other pedestrians on the sidewalk and thus have a tendency not to be looking for bikes to go zipping past while the exit buildings, turn corners etc.

    In a perfect world bikers would walk their bikes on the sidewalk when they felt unsafe riding in the street or in a bike lane. This is not a perfect world and sometimes we need rules to help people figure out what is the correct way of behaving to minimize their effect on other people.

    • Consider this an example of the limitations of rules. Many people aren’t even aware of the original rule and it’s basically unenforced, except to the extent that downtown density itself provides an incentive to stay off the sidewalk. There are many incentives against enforcement – an officer who issues the citation would have to support the citation, often on their day off. Expanding the statute would only complicate the D.C. Code. I love my bike and I HATE being buzzed or yelled at by a cyclist on the sidewalk, but more rules won’t help.

  • Can we get dedicated lanes for people who have extra wide strollers? Maybe we need laws against for them too? They’re as big of a nuance as cyclists ringing their bell expecting people to get out of the way…

    • No, they’re not. Don’t be fatuous. A person walking a stroller is much less likely to hit you. They’re not going to do any damage in the rare case they do.

  • The problem is SPEED. Just slow down. Speed kills.

  • I bike everywhere and I’m not the problem. These MFs pretending to drive while looking at their phones is the problem. As long as it’s insanely dangerous to ride in the road I’m on the side walks.

  • In my view if you are cycling you should be in the road. If you feel unsafe in the road you should take courses on bike safety and ride the roads on weekends to boost your confidence. Once confident you are now able to ride defensively while commuting. Once a scenario feels unsafe, dismount and join the pedestrians on sidewalks as a pedestrian.

    I’m circumstances where you are riding to an establishment mid block on a one way either ride around or dismount and walk it.

    If you must ride the sidewalk be overly polite and recognize that every pedestrian fears you just like you fear cars

  • DC hasn’t made it intuitive to direct bikers to bike paths going in their desired direction – where bike paths have been established. Personally, I think a step in the right direction would be better signage and posted maps. This is the challenge for bike advocates, city planners and elected officials to address.

  • What’s this? People acting entitled in DC? YOU DONT SAY!!!

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