Get off the sidewalk!

Okay, here’s the deal: I can’t stand it when people ride their bicycles on sidewalks.

I know what you’re thinking—I mean on the road, right? But no, I mean sidewalks. Lately, this irritation comes mostly from the fact that an inordinate amount of students ride their bikes on sidewalks on the Maryland campus and take little measure to 1. warn you of their presence behind you 2. not hog the entire sidewalk. 3. not hit you while coming toward you or approaching from behind. I find it especially annoying.

Now before anyone raises this side of the argument, I will address the fact that others get similarly irritated when they see bicyclists on the road. Fair enough. A person on a bicycle can only go so fast and when you have a Suburban SUV who has somewhere really important to be while honking behind you on a two-way road with no other cars around, I guess you have to remember which one of the two could run over the other and cause some serious damage. (This didn’t happen to me or anything). Maybe your child has a piano lesson they’re late for, or you just really want to drive fast on a country road for no other reason than you can. Point being, I understand how some might get irritated at bicyclists, especially when a bike rider is hogging the entire lane, or weaving obnoxiously through traffic.

But, ultimately, I see things differently for a few reasons.  1. Bike riders have all the same rights to the road that people in cars do. (Look here for proof— 2. I have enjoyed the occasional, or more than occasional bike ride. When I first started biking when living in Missouri (following my traumatic bike-falling-off-my-car-incident-on-the-interstate), I was totally nervous to bike on the road with the scary, fast cars. That’s until I realized I looked like a jackass on the sidewalk and that most people, generally, respect bikers, especially when you’re keeping close to the edge of the road. 3. I have friends in Missouri who were treated not so kindergarten nice by people in cars. One of my friends was biking home late at night and had things thrown at her and two other bike riders. I guess they were the small percentage of people who see it as their job to act like an asshole everywhere they go. 4. I biked with a group of people in Missouri for a while; my friend Jess and I would go on bike rides in the country together. For a while, I joined in on these Wednesday night bike rides with anywhere from 5 to 25 people. These were especially fun because you not only get your exercise on, but you have fun while doing it.

Tour de Cape Bike Ride with Jeanine and Jess

All that being said, I probably am a little too harsh toward sidewalk bicyclists in Maryland. Maybe this comes from being hit by a bike while walking on a sidewalk my freshman year of college. I’m okay and everything, my backpack cushioned my fall, but I mean really. Just as easily as a car can hit a bike rider, a bike rider can hit a person. I’m more inclined to think you’re safer on the road, where you’re going slower than everyone else, thus making you more easily spotted, not zooming by someone on the sidewalk and clipping their shoulder just because you don’t have the courtesy to say “On your left” (again, that didn’t happen to me or anything).

And I know there’s different levels of bike riders out there. If you’re a sidewalk bicyclist, fine. Just please still wear a helmet anyway and let people know when you’re coming. But if you take the big jump and bike on the road—respect. It takes some courage but, once done, you can’t take it back. It’s addicting. So just remember those basic bike laws next time someone gives you shit for biking on the road—just maybe tackle it afterwards. Remember, that SUV can run you over if they so wish.


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