You buy a new bike, feeling excited to finally have a way to commute to work that is good for the environment and that gives you an easy way to get some exercise. You get yourself a helmet, a light and the other accessories. Then you hop on and ride out into the road in Phoenix.
Instantly, your excitement turns to fear. The cars feel so close. You know that you legally have a right to ride in the street, but you do not think other drivers respect that right. They pass far too close, they break the speed limit, they cut you off and they turn in front of you. They commit all sorts of mistakes, and you know that it just takes one error to put you in the hospital.
Would you be better off to just ride on the sidewalk? Are you putting yourself in danger trying to share the road?
Sidewalks are more dangerous
While many cyclists feel safer on the sidewalk, experts warn that it's an illusion. It's not real. The truth is that sidewalk cycling is far more hazardous to your health than riding in the road.
Problems abound with sidewalk riding. For one thing, you essentially become invisible to people driving on the street. When they pull out of a side street or a driveway, they theoretically check the road to make sure the way is clear before turning. Most of them do not check the sidewalk at all. They never see you, and that can lead to an accident.
Even if they do see you, they often fail to anticipate your speed. They may glance at you and not even realize you are riding a bike. They expect people on sidewalks to be moving at about 3 miles per hour. If you're actually moving at 15 miles per hour, you're going to cover the distance five times as fast as they assume you will. They can hit you when they thought they had enough space.
Remember, a cyclist in the road feels in danger as cars pass them on the left. However, while these accidents do happen, most crashes happen at intersections, driveways and cross streets. They don't happen when people pass you.
By riding on the sidewalk, you may reduce the chances of getting hit by traffic moving in the same direction, but you increase the chances of getting hit by a driver at one of these crucial danger points.
So, you opt to stay in the street and share the road with cars, trucks and SUVs. That may be safer, but you could still get injured in an accident. If you do, you need to know exactly what legal options you have.