Can You Ride A Bike On The Sidewalk?

Many of us choose to commute on our bicycles to improve our health, cut our costs, or wait for vehicle repairs. Whatever your reasons, I’m sure you’ll agree that the road can be a sketchy place to ride, and sometimes the sidewalk offers a much better alternative. It’s also true that many pedestrians strongly dislike sidewalk bikers. What about law enforcement? Are bikes permissible on the sidewalk?

You can bike on the sidewalk if that state permits it. Riding a bike on the sidewalk in New York is illegal unless you are 12 years or younger and with bike wheels less than 26 inches in diameter. Houston prohibits sidewalk bikers in business districts or areas with no biking signs.

While cycling on the sidewalk is acceptable in some states, it’s best to for sure about your own state to avoid unnecessary confrontations with the law. We’ll cover which states permit and prohibit cycling on the sidewalk and examples of some sidewalk-biking rules you can expect to see. Lastly, we’ll discuss the perspective of the pedestrian and the cyclist regarding cycling on the sidewalk.

Are Bikes Permissible On The Sidewalk?

It may not be illegal to bike on the sidewalk in one state, but another state may say differently. Some cities ban riding on the sidewalk to protect pedestrians. Other cities improve their infrastructure to offer their citizens a service and become bike-friendly. Each city can pass its own law, so it’s best to check before you start sharing the sidewalk with pedestrians.

For example, biking on the sidewalk in New York City is illegal unless you are 12 years old or younger and the wheel of your bike measures less than 26 inches in diameter. On the other hand, the law permits you to ride your bike on the sidewalk in many states like Michigan, Colorado, and Florida.

Some states like New Jersey that tolerate sidewalk cyclists may also apply specific restrictions to their laws. While riding a bicycle on a sidewalk might be acceptable in states like New Jersey, some authorities still ban bicycle traffic on selected sidewalks.

Law Enforcement firmly believes that sidewalks are for pedestrians and, as such, requires that bicyclists yield right of way to pedestrians, like motorists.

Riding on sidewalks may lead to disputes with people and, like wrong-way riding, can result in collisions since it puts bikers in situations where others do not anticipate them. Sidewalks are not for riding, save for young bikers under parental supervision.

States that permit sidewalk bikers include:

Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island,

  • Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, Connecticut,
  • New York, South Dakota, Wisconsin, DC, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts
  • , Missouri, Montana, Nebraska,
  • Pennsylvania,
  • Utah, Delaware, Washington, Virginia, and Minnesota.

Cities that prohibit riding bikes on sidewalks include:

  • New Hampshire, North Dakota, Arizona, California, Texas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas,
  • Maine, Maryland, West Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey
  • , New Mexico, Alabama, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina
  • , Tennessee, and Vermont.

You must visit the official website of every state or city to know the exact limits or restrictions regarding biking on the sidewalk.

Are There Any Exceptions For Riding On The Sidewalk?

There might be no shoulder on the road you’re on, or the bike lane and travel lane are so narrow you can’t share them – In this case, can you then use the sidewalk?

In truth, there are no exceptions for cycling on the sidewalk, except if you’re 12 years old (feeling as young as a 12-year-old doesn’t count!), the authorities won’t like you using the sidewalk.

The police suggest that the best approach is to position yourself several feet out into the lane where motorists will see you, so they do not squeeze into your lane. Regarding narrow lanes ten feet or less, a bicyclist might lead the lane, i.e., riding near the center of the lane.

It will enable overtaking motorists to see them, conveying that the overtaking vehicle should move left to pass when it is safe.

If you feel nervous about riding your bike on the road, know that accidents almost always depend on a rider’s competence on the road. Statistics show bikers are about as safe as driving or riding in a car. Local and bicycle-compatible streets are generally easier to navigate than busy public streets.

If you’re an anxious rider, consider improving your cycling skills and, perhaps more importantly, ensure you know the road rules so you can ride confidently. If you encounter problematic situations that feel beyond your capabilities – like a busy intersection – you can consider dismounting and walking your bike.

How Do Pedestrians Feel About Cyclists?

While drivers behind the wheel of a car often dislike cyclists, what about pedestrians? Surely there must be a reason why law enforcement in certain states wants the sidewalk bike-free, no?

Pedestrians who get around mostly by foot may feel like bicycles are an unnecessary risk of injury. They also believe the sidewalk should be for walking purposes only, and having a cyclist come up behind them unexpectedly, nearly hitting them, is an infuriating experience. Such an event can become especially heated when young children are the victims.

Furthermore, pedestrians dislike sidewalk cyclists because they often have shopping carts, open doors, animals, and even cars that pull into and out of driveways.

Sidewalks might seem like the safer alternative for cyclists, especially when there are a lot of cars on the road. For instance, some cyclists state they prefer riding on the sidewalk when cars are driving too fast or wildly on the road. They also do not have to worry about drunk or inattentive drivers hitting them, crossing their paths, hitting potholes, or riding on heavily damaged roads that need repair.

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration point out that 29 percent of bicyclist injuries result from car collisions. However, riding on a sidewalk doesn’t remove the threat of crashing into a car. Instead, sidewalks make bicyclists invisible to motorists who don’t expect to see them in driveways and crosswalks.

Thankfully, the improvement of bike infrastructure introduced protected bike lanes; these lanes have a physical barrier that separates bicyclists from traffic. In fact, Research from the DC Department of Transportation revealed it reduced the number of sidewalk bicyclists by 56 percent.

Can you Bike Facing Traffic While On A Sidewalk?

In truth, the best place – albeit scary – for an adult bicyclist to ride is in the street with traffic. It requires that they join the traffic and become a part of the flow.

Consider a collision between a bicycle and a car, where the bicyclist was riding against traffic on a sidewalk, and a driver exiting the drug store parking lot pulled forward and hit the cyclists while crossing a driveway cutout. The accident occurs in Illinois, where even if you’re riding a bicycle on the sidewalk, you’re a pedestrian.

You might think it’s the vehicle’s fault because, according to the law, they have a legal obligation to yield to pedestrians when exiting a parking lot.

However, the bicyclist was traveling three or four times as fast as an average pedestrian walking on the sidewalk, so even though the motorist stopped before crossing the sidewalk, they probably didn’t even notice the bicyclist when he checked for pedestrians. So, are both parties at fault?

The truth is this is an actual scenario that happened, and the bicyclist even stated in their deposition that they saw the driver stop and look toward them from half a block away but that the driver never made eye contact. More importantly, the driver was looking away from them when they eventually reached the driveway and had their collision with the front of the vehicle.

Simply put, the bicyclist made several poor choices, culminating in the motor vehicle hitting them. In contrast, the motor vehicle driver made a reasonable attempt to make sure the sidewalk was clear before he attempted to exit the parking lot.

Riding against traffic on the sidewalk puts the bicyclist in a position where drivers, whether exiting a driveway or negotiating another type of intersection, have a significantly reduced chance to see them when looking for traffic. A driver’s focus is, naturally, on specific areas like:

  • Oncoming traffic from the left lanes
  • Oncoming traffic from the right lanes
  • Any immediate sidewalk areas where it is reasonable to find a pedestrian.

Bicyclists riding against traffic on a sidewalk usually aren’t in any of those places. Further, since many bicyclists travel much faster than even a fast walker, they traverse the area between hardly noticeable to what was that sudden clunk of metal quicker than the average motorist can react.

Can You Get Arrested For Biking On The Sidewalk?

Authorities are insistent that bicyclists obey the same traffic laws as road drivers, including stopping at red lights and signaling before a turn. For this reason, if your decision to disobey the road rules causes an accident, officers might have a reason to arrest you. Otherwise, they will not easily arrest someone who cycles illegally on the sidewalk.

While most people will agree that cars don’t belong on sidewalks, local jurisdictions typically set laws regarding bicycling on sidewalks. In other words, riding your bike on the sidewalk in one city could be perfectly legal, but you may have to bike elsewhere once you’re outside city limits.

For instance, California does not have a statewide law against riding bikes on sidewalks. However, according to California Vehicle Code, local governments can enact their own prohibitions. In San Francisco, for example, only children under 13 can ride bikes on sidewalks, according to the SF Bicycle Coalition.

Texas does not have an official law prohibiting sidewalk biking either, but the governing law permits them the liberty to set their own rules. In Houston, their rule states no biking on a sidewalk within a business district or in areas prohibiting cycling.

For example, California has no statewide prohibition on bicycle riding on sidewalks. Local governments, however, have the authority to adopt their own bans under the California Vehicle Code. According to the SF Bicycle Coalition, only children under 13 may ride bikes on sidewalks in San Francisco.

Texas, too, does not have explicit legislation barring sidewalk riding, but the controlling statute allows them to make their own laws. In Houston, the regulation stipulates that no bicycling is acceptable on a sidewalk within a commercial district or in locations where cycling is prohibited.

Why Do Police Sometimes Allow Illegal Sidewalk Biking?

Regardless of the US state, all cyclists must obey the road rules. However, bicyclists are hardly a serious issue unless their actions cause serious problems, disrupt the public, or affect other people negatively. In truth, the police have more serious matters to tend to than the average cyclist.

Furthermore, since allowing cyclists to seek refuge from potentially hazardous traffic conditions (not to mention the results thereof) is sometimes more plausible, police might not see it fit to stop sidewalk cyclists. After all, the first priority in any situation must be public safety, not the letter of the law.

Of course, police might have specific orders like monitoring specific locations for drug activity, so their priority will lie elsewhere. As a result, cycling on the pavement is near the bottom of the list of importance when compared to other stuff.

Otherwise, if an officer notices an illegal sidewalk biker and they do not have something higher on the priority of duties, they may stop the cyclist and have a word. If they feel incredibly unsympathetic, they could even issue a ticket or a summons. However, a summons is highly unlikely unless the cyclist causes damage to property, injury to someone, or carries illegal narcotics.

Many people feel very strongly about one issue or another, and because they feel strongly about it, they feel that everybody else should as well, which is, of course, incorrect. Law enforcement’s responsibility is first to the safety of the people and then the issues that may arise from those people.


The rules regarding riding your bike on the sidewalk are not the same for every state or city. Some states allow only children 12 years or younger to ride on the sidewalk, while others may allow adults to, provided they stay away from businesses and areas with no-biking signs. You need to consult an official website or authority for details about your city.


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