The Low Road


Urban cycling 6

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Part VI: Get Off the Sidewalk

Of course, cyclists don’t always agree among themselves what the rules are. Debate rages over the proper use of the road. Whether or not cyclists should use the sidewalk is among the most contentious issues.

Most cyclists agree sidwalks are no place for bicycles, and cries of “Get on the sidewalk!” to the contrary, it’s actually illegal for cyclists to ride there. Police departments in some communities are under orders to take notice.

But some cyclists say certain stretches of roadway are simply too dangerous to ride on in heavy traffic, and sidewalks are the only safe alternative.

Elm City Cycling’s Rob Rocke explains in an online posting that he sometimes gives in to the temptation on a stretch of notoriously poorly paved New Haven roadway with four lanes of traffic and no shoulders. He says he tries to be a good citizen about it.

“I try to ride on the street as much as possible, too, but on my daily ‘commuter’ route into town from the East Rock neighborhood there are a few stretches on Whitney Avenue that still feel a bit daunting, such as the part between Trumbull [Street] and the Peabody Museum, in both directions,” he writes.

“So then I, too, ride on the sidewalk, but excruciatingly slow, and i’m sure to honk a horn or ring a bell when passing any and all pedestrians.”

There are a few hard-liners who insist cyclists should never venture onto sidewalks. But others note that it’s hard to stand on principle when trucks are zooming by at 50 mph.

“When you ride on the sidewalk, we get bitched at by officials from City Hall. When you ride on the street, you get run down. What are we supposed to do?” Streever asks.

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