Riding on the sidewalk

I rode on the sidewalk the other day.

I know, it’s terrible. Real bikers just don’t do that. You might run the risk of being hit by a driver who isn’t expecting to see a biker on a sidewalk. Bikes have the same rights and responsibilities on the road as motorists. Take the lane.

All of which I agree with, except for one case: Slaughter Lane in southwest Austin. I’ve ridden on Slaughter in the past, as part of a club ride where we form a “bus” and are treated as such by the cars on the road. But Slaughter is a different animal for a solitary biker. It is a four-lane, divided road with no shoulders. The speed limit is 45 mph, but most drivers do at least 50. It just feels dangerous.

Slaughter Lane. Picture taken on a Sunday morning when traffic was relatively light.

So, the other day when I was on the last leg of our club ride to Kyle, I had a decision to make: Do I ride on Slaughter by myself, or do I take the sidewalk for the last mile and a half?

I thought back to the Road I course I took in April. The instructors told us that if we were uncomfortable doing something out on the road, don’t do it.

So I took the sidewalk. I make no apologies.


  1. says

    I was just down there in Austin, and all I can say is, more bike paths please! The traffic was absolutely murderous. I thought Atlanta was bad – and it is, in its own way, but sheesh, death wish much?

    As for sidewalk biking, unless and until the roads are bike friendlier up here (I ride a “thick tire” bike), and unless and until I get a nifty 10-speed, I’m biking on the sidewalks. People don’t walk much up here anyway (I’m in the Dallas area), and as for cars not expecting you, slow down when approaching cross streets, especially blind intersections. Me and the area motorists seem to coexist rather peacefully (so far).

    I’m liking your blog, from one n00b to another.

  2. says

    Many of the dual carriage ways around here have shared footpath and cycle lanes alongside them. But where there are not I simply refuse to ride on the road. The speeds of traffic on the dual carriage ways is 70+ miles per hour (70 being the speed limit), these roads are just far too dangerous to be cycling in.

    I’ve seen some rather die hard cyclists out there ride on some hardcore roads but for the average joe or even more experienced city riders such as myself its just a matter of survival. Some roads out there are too dangerous to ride in. I wont appologise for riding the pavement on a very dangerous road, its not a failiure of mine, it is a failiure of the cycling facilities and the road network in general.

  3. Kiyomi says

    As a n00b bike commuter, I was glad to read this post. My route contains a couple of steepish hills on very narrow roads. It’s too scary to be climbing at 6 or 7 mph when the cars are whizzing by at 50 mph, so I’ve been using the sidewalk for those particular stretches and feeling really guilty about it, especially on those rare days when I encounter a pedestrian. It was a relief to find that you and your instructors agree that this is a reasonable thing to do.

  4. says

    “if we were uncomfortable doing something out on the road, don’t do it”

    It’s a good idea to know your route well, and how to avoid the situation in the first place. We have roads like that here (who doesn’t?), and I find a way around them.

    There’s always an alternative. It’s not worth the risk.

  5. says

    I am generally a die hard when it comes to moving onto the sidewalk and giving up the road. I have been yelled at by motorists when I have used the road when there is an adjacent bike path. But the bike paths are often vary rough and as you mentioned the interesections are tough. Some of my closest calls have been where a bike path crossed a road.

    But I do concede at times. I have a route with a very tough climb and a very narrow road. When going down I take the road. When going up I take the sidewalk. I figure it makes no difference I am poking along at a walding speed anyway.

  6. says

    I think choosing to ride on a sidewalk over staying on the road is a personal choice. I would pick a different route if I thought the road was that dangerous.

    I also live in the Pacific Northwest which is a very bicycle centric and motorist are use to seeing cyclist, so I stay on the road.

  7. says

    There are a few routes in my town that sound like Slaughter Lane (is that the real name?) where I’m not comfortable riding the bike. My alternative usually is to find a different route. There is almost always another way to go that is more bike safe.

    However, I don’t blame you for choosing sidewalk over street. From reading your earlier posts, I know that you were careful at driveway and street crossings – acting like a pedestrian rather than a vehicle.

  8. rainycamp says

    According to the Handbook of Texas Online, Christopher Columbus Slaughter (1837-1919) was one of the cattle ranching pioneers of Texas. At one time he owned one million acres of ranch land and 40,000 head of cattle.

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