Road Rights- Moving Targets: Cyclists and Pedestrians
Your guide to playing nice with pedestrians.
By Bob Mionske
Sharing the road with cars is fairly straightforward: Cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists. But when you’re pedaling near people on foot—who move less predictably than drivers—the rules depend on the route you’re riding. Here’s how to deal with some common scenarios.
On the Sidewalk
Unless it is against the law (see map) to ride on the sidewalk or in a crosswalk (considered an extension of the sidewalk), you may lawfully ride there, although you might be required to yield to pedestrians.
When a Pedestrian Crosses the Road
If the pedestrian is lawfully crossing, you are required to stop. Don’t hammer to cross ahead of the pedestrian, and don’t weave between walkers. “Lawfully” means that the person crosses with a green light or in a crosswalk and steps off the curb with enough time for you to react. (This doesn’t mean it’s open season on jaywalkers—you’re still obligated to try to avoid hitting them.)
In a Bike Lane
Cyclists usually have the right-of-way, unless the law states that the lane is also for pedestrian use.
On a Bike Path
The rules depend on the type of trail and local laws. On a multiuse path, you may be subject to speed limits and should always yield to pedestrians. On dedicated-use paths, walkers, runners, and skaters are restricted to a pedestrian lane, and you must ride on the bike portion.
You’ll likely encounter pedestrians who break the rules. But even if you have the right of way, it’s your legal duty to prevent a collision if possible.
Research and assistance by Rick Bernardi, J.D.
This article, Moving Targets, originally published on Bicycling on November 2, 2011.
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