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Riding in the City: Mythbusting, a Link, and the Need for a Ride.

(Deep in thought.)

This post is in response to some questions BikeProvo has been receiving on riding laws and etiquette. I actually attempted to write a post on this subject and kept running into issues between my opinion, reality, and the law. There definitely will be some Provo specific posts on this issue. First however, I need to get everything straight and clear on how it will be presented. I am sure that a few hearty bicycle rides will help me straighten this all out. Until that time I am going to debunk one of the biggest cycling myths out there and give you all a link to a great document put together by UDOT. The UDOT document is a great starter for anyone wondering what our rights are to the road and, how to ride correctly on the road.

So, what is the biggest myth in cycling? It goes something like this…

“It is safer to ride on the sidewalk all the time.” We are taught at a young age that riding on the sidewalk is the safest place to be because we are separated from moving traffic. This point is arguably true for children moving at slow speeds who are not very able riders. However, if you are a normal adult with some cycling experience riding on the sidewalk is setting yourself up to be side swiped by cars pulling in and out of drive ways and businesses. On the sidewalk you are less likely to be seen. If you are traveling at any sort of speed (faster than an 8 year old) you are in more danger on the sidewalk. From a legal stand point bicycles are viewed as vehicles (41-60-84(1)) and are to abide the same rules as cars i.e. riding in the same direction as traffic on the road.

(Never a good idea.)

Creative Commons License photo credit: Flickr in time

(My opinion) I agree wholeheartedly with not riding on the sidewalk it is dangerous and from a cycling perspective slower and more inefficient than riding on the road. However, sometimes it may be safer to ride on the sidewalk. The one place I am thinking of is Downtown on Center Street. There is nowhere for a cyclist to ride that is not a lane of traffic other than the sidewalk. Two things should be noted here. One, it is actually illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalks Downtown Two, the speed limit on Center is 15mph any cyclist in moderate shape can go this speed with out to big of an effort. We have the right to the road legally and taking the lane in this situation is completely acceptable. If you do not feel comfortable taking the lane just yet then take to the sidewalk. Try to make any sidewalk riding the exception (Center St.) and not the rule. As you ride more often you will become more confident in taking the lane. With that myth out of the way lets take a look at some of the laws and riding techniques that will make you a good, and safe rider. UDOTs PDF.

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  1. It is kind of rough that sidewalk cycling is outlawed on Center – the street where there is absolutely no room to ride on the side of the lane. Because of this, I usually ride on another side street when I’m trying to get somewhere on Center. I admit to sometimes riding on the sidewalk anyway though.

    I like the idea of a green share-the-lane line on Center. That way motorists will be less likely to get frustrated and swerve around cyclists angrily, thinking that bikes belong on the sidewalk.

  2. Jamie,
    With a posted speed limit of 15 MPH on Center Street, cycling in the lane is the safest and most practical place to ride. If Provo would enforce the speed limit as well as they enforce the sidewalk riding rule, there is no reason you shouldn’t feel perfectly comfortable riding on Center. Your solution is a wonderful one however. Choosing a less traveled route close to and parallel to where you would drive is a great solution made possible by the grid design of the older part of Provo. It is unfortunate that the city hasn’t continued in that vein to provide that option all over. The Sharrows and green paint would be a perfect solution for motorist education on Center Street. Hopefully, the city leaders will wake up to the importance of bicycles in the transportation mix.

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