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.
Now read the fine print:
Bob Mionske is a former competitive cyclist who represented the U.S. at the 1988 Olympic games (where he finished fourth in the road race), the 1992 Olympics, as well as winning the 1990 national championship road race.
After retiring from racing in 1993, he coached the Saturn Professional Cycling team for one year before heading off to law school. Mionske’s practice is now split between personal-injury work, representing professional athletes as an agent and other legal issues facing endurance athletes (traffic violations, contract, criminal charges, intellectual property, etc).
Mionske is also the author of Bicycling and the Law, designed to be the primary resource for cyclists to consult when faced with a legal question. It provides readers with the knowledge to avoid many legal problems in the first place, and informs them of their rights, their responsibilities, and what steps they can take if they do encounter a legal problem.
If you have a cycling-related legal question, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org Bob will answer as many of these questions privately as he can. He will also select a few questions each week to answer in this column. General bicycle-accident advice can be found at bicyclelaw2.wpengine.com.
The information provided in the “Road Rights” column is not legal advice. The information provided on this public web site is provided solely for the general interest of the visitors to this web site. The information contained in the column applies to general principles of American jurisprudence and may not reflect current legal developments or statutory changes in the various jurisdictions and therefore should not be relied upon or interpreted as legal advice. Understand that reading the information contained in this column does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Bob Mionske. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained in the web site without first seeking the advice of legal counsel.