Children riding bike on a sidewalk. Photo by Fotolia/dasharosoto

Reposted with permission by The League of American Bicyclists.

Here's a look at biking on sidewalks — which is a perfect microcosm of the complicated relationship between traffic and bicycle laws in most states.

What Are Sidewalk Riding Laws?

Sidewalk riding laws define the rights and duties of a bicyclist when riding on a sidewalk. Whether a bicycle can be legally ridden on a sidewalk highlights the complicated and hybrid nature of the bicycle under current traffic laws in most states. A bicycle is at once a vehicle, given all the rights and duties of a vehicle; its own entity, subject to specifically tailored alternative rules; and in some cases treated as a pedestrian, with all accompanying rights and duties. In some instances, laws related to sidewalk riding can also highlight a division between adult and child bicycling.

When states do not explicitly allow bicycles to be ridden on sidewalks, court interpretations of statutes may still allow bicycles to be ridden on sidewalks. In most, if not all, states, either statutes or court decisions say that whatever laws govern bicycle behavior on sidewalks will also apply to crosswalks.

In addition to these issues caused by the hybrid nature of bicycles, many states leave their traffic laws open to change by localities, either in limited circumstances or through a general grant of power. Whether a bicycle may be ridden on a sidewalk is often explicitly allowed to be a local decision and may also be limited in central business districts, where pedestrian traffic is likely to be heavier.




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