Can I ride my bike on Indianapolis sidewalks?

biking_on_sidewalksIn some cities, it’s illegal for cyclists to use the sidewalk instead of the roadway. However, it’s not illegal in Indianapolis.

Safety is a primary issue for cyclists, and riding a bike on the sidewalk continues to be a topic of debate. Some people believe the sidewalk provides a safer avenue for getting from point A to point B; others believe it’s more dangerous.

If you’re a cyclist who favors the sidewalk, it’s important to understand the dangers involved, as well as a few critical safety tips.

Causes of Bike Injuries

Cycling is a great way to maintain good physical and mental health. So, it’s not surprising there are approximately 80 million cyclists in the U.S. But according to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, bicycle fatalities have increased 13 percent since 2014.

While there are a variety of reasons a cyclist experiences an accident while riding, one-third of all bike injuries are caused when a bicyclist is hit by a car, according to the 2012 National Survey on Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behaviors. These accidents account for 29 percent of cycling accidents.

The types of cycling accidents include:

  • Being struck by a car: 29 percent
  • Falling: 17 percent
  • Riding on roads or walkways that are in poor condition: 13 percent
  • Riding while distracted, not paying attention, or making an error: 13 percent
  • Crashing or colliding with another person or object: 7 percent
  • Colliding with a dog: 4 percent

Why It’s Dangerous to Ride the Sidewalk

Riding on the sidewalk can seem like a better option than riding on a busy roadway, but there are hazards with this option, and sidewalk riding doesn’t reduce the risk of crashing with a car.

Here are some important points to consider:

  • When cyclists ride their bikes on sidewalks, they're less visible to drivers. When people get into their vehicles, they’re distracted by putting on their seat belts, adjusting the radio and mirrors, positioning their coffee mugs—all during the time when they’re leaving their driveway. Many motorists consider the sidewalk crossing part of their driveway, and they don’t often stop at the edge of the sidewalk to look both ways for cyclists.
  • When cyclists ride sidewalks, they're more likely to make contact with pedestrians. Sidewalks can be narrow, making it more difficult to maneuver around groups of people or someone stopped in the middle of your path. Additionally, it’s common for pedestrians to be eating, texting or talking on cell phones, and not paying attention to their surroundings. Their unpredictability can make moving around them a challenge and dangerous. If you’re traveling at a high speed and hit a pedestrian, you can do serious damage, and it’s possible that you could be sued.

Four Rules to Follow

If you’re a cyclist who prefers to use the sidewalk over roadways, here are four rules to follow to make the trip safer—not only for you, but also for the pedestrians sharing the sidewalk:

  • Ride slowly. This is the primary rule for sidewalk cyclists. Because a sidewalk was designed for pedestrians, it’s important that you don’t go much faster than they are. Don’t ride faster than a relaxed jog.
  • Yield to pedestrians. If you ride up behind a group of people, be courteous and ask them to let you pass. Be prepared to wait for them to move out of the way. When you need to pass a pedestrian on the left, you should never startle him by ringing your bell or yelling because it may cause the person to inadvertently jump in your path. Simply say, "On your left," and most people move to the right quite quickly.
  • Walk your bike. Especially if you ride to work in a busy city, you may need to get off your bike and walk for a while. Congestion can make it impossible to maneuver easily, so if there are too many people, walk your bike. Don’t risk hitting a pedestrian by attempting to swerve in and out of groups of people.
  • Check each driveway and cross street. Make sure that when you ride past a driveway, parking garage, or cross street, you check for cars. This means you need to slow down and be vigilant about looking for traffic at every type of entrance or exit. Remember that drivers aren’t usually looking for cyclists to be traveling down the sidewalk, and many forget that the end of their driveway is part of that sidewalk.

If You’ve Been Hurt in a Bike Accident

If you’re a bicyclist who was injured by a negligent driver, you need experienced legal representation. Contact Sevenish Law Firm to help you get the compensation you deserve. Our skilled legal staff will visit the crash sight right away and begin investigating the accident. We have a reputation for being aggressive with insurance companies, and we’ll work hard to get you the compensation you deserve. You’ll pay no fee unless we win your case. Call us today, or fill out our online form.