Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I can ride on the sidewalk if I want to...

...neener neener, so there.  I usually don't want to because turning vehicles don't expect to see bicyclists there coming off the sidewalk to enter the crosswalk area, but sometimes it's convenient to hop on the sidewalk.  Sometimes people complain about cyclists on the sidewalk, but it's legal in Spokane except for an area in downtown that is shown on a map somewhere.  You don't even have to be on the right side of the street.  If I'm faced with heavy traffic trying to cross NW Boulevard, I'll sometimes head west on the sidewalk on the eastbound lanes while I wait for traffic to clear.

On my usual bike to work route, I ride east on Maxwell and then turn right southbound onto Ash at the corner where the Maxwell House Tavern is.  When the light is red, there'll be cars waiting to turn right onto Ash.  Ash is a 3 lane one-way street, but the drivers don't want to turn into the right lane when it's clear because that lane doesn't lead to the Maple Street Bridge like the center and left lanes.  They want to get into the left or center lane.  So the right lane will be all clear but they won't turn because the two other lanes are busy.  Me, that's the lane I want - it's wide, not too much traffic on it and it leads to Broadway where I turn left.  I don't think it's a smart idea to ride by these cars waiting to turn right, so sometimes I hop onto the sidewalk to get by a couple cars,  make my right turn and be on my merry way.  I did this once to get by a woman in a convertible and she cranked her head around in an exaggerated owl like motion watching me ride by.  I try to be patient riding out on the streets, but sometimes I'm in a hurry.

Every once in a while someone writes in to the paper or maybe writes a Jeers in the Inlander complaining about cyclists riding on the sidewalk. A month or so ago a woman wrote a letter to the editor complaining about a cyclist jumping the curb to ride though the crosswalk, and said it's not fair, why can't she jump the curb in her Subaru and get around traffic?  We're supposed to all follow the same rules of the road. I feel for her, because being on a bike, I like having the freedom to hop onto the sidewalk and take a shortcut.   Does come in handy when you're stuck behind some cars that refuse to turn.

On a related note, one of my general biking rules is Rule #7 from BicycleSafe's How to Not Get Hit by Cars is: Don't pass vehicles on the right. I usually follow this advice except when I'm faced with a long line of cars stopped at a stop light, and the street has a wide shoulder. I'll sneak by carefully if I'm reasonably sure none of the drivers is going to crack and suddenly make a turn to the right and jump the curb.

What I haven't figured out is half the people complain about bikes on sidewalks, and then others wonder what we're doing on the road and why aren't we on the sidewalk?

I wish people would make up their mind.

(apologies if this seems like a little disjointed post, it's about 2 or 3 thoughts rolled onto one and I've given up on trying to make it any more coherent.)

This has been another January Blog Clearance post.


  1. Scott,

    A couple years ago I did a map showing where riding on sidewalks downtown is prohibited.



  2. Thx, Hank, that helps! My eyes just kinda glaze over when I read the description in the code, and I didn't realize Monroe is off limits for sidewalk riding up to Broadway.