Washington D.C. residents against sidewalk biking

July 17, 2013
No Bike Riding on Sidewalk Symbol

No Bike Riding on Sidewalk symbol. Image by MFMinn.

Even though Washington D.C. bans bike riding on sidewalk in its central business district (CBD), some residents want reforms in its 30-year-old law that imposes limited restrictions on sidewalk biking. Cycling on sidewalks puts pedestrians’ safety at risk and leads to congestion on sidewalks, especially when biking has nearly doubled since 2007 in the city.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission requests study

The Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F, which represents D.C.’s Logan Circle area, has requested the city to paint symbols on the ground at CBD’s north border so that cyclists know sidewalk biking is prohibited there.

On June 5, the ANC unanimously passed a resolution asking the city council to direct the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to study measures like expansion of the area where sidewalk biking is illegal. It also asked to reduce the speed limit for bikes on sidewalks.

DC Central Business District- No Bike Riding Map

Route map of city’s central business district where sidewalk biking is prohibited. Image by dc.gov

“A sidewalk is for people to walk,” says Jeanne Mallett, a D.C. resident who runs a blog against sidewalk biking. Washington D.C. ranked sixth in a survey of the country’s most bikeable large cities.

Why then do D.C. cyclists choose the sidewalk so often? One reason is that sidewalk biking is legal with few exceptions. The other is convenience. Cyclists on the sidewalk can go against the flow of traffic, and they oftentimes think that car-free sidewalks are safer than streets.

Why sidewalk biking is a bad idea

Sidewalk biking is risky for three reasons- speed, visibility, and predictability. As cyclists move faster than pedestrians, those on foot can be caught unawares by a cyclist. It can get difficult for people on foot to avoid people on bikes in this scenario.

Cyclists are often hidden by trees, parked cars, and other barriers so motorists don’t see them until they enter a driveway or a street. Drivers may not have the time to stop in cases like these. Also, cyclists dart around pedestrians and in and out of crosswalks, making it tough for others to predict cyclists’ next move.

Still, sidewalk biking is popular in the country. The New York Police Department issued more tickets last year for sidewalk biking than speeding. But Washington D.C.’s Logan Circle ANC has set a six-month deadline for the study, so D.C. sidewalks may look different soon.

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Category: Enforcement, Infrastructure, News & New Products, Pedestrian safety

About the Author ()

A graduate in English Literature from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, India, Nupur also has an MBA from the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University. Nupur is currently trying to be as savvy a cook as she is with a book. She likes watching plays and sunsets. Nupur first lived in Kolkata and then for a decade in Delhi, still her favorite city.

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