Gary Richards aka “Mr Roadshow” is the traffic columnist for the San Jose Mercury News. He tells cyclists to ride in the road in today’s column: Pedestrians, drivers plead for bicyclists to stay off sidewalks.
Sidewalk riding is legal in the city of San Jose, including in the heavily traveled downtown district, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good idea. I’ve witnessed a number of bike-vs-car crashes in and near downtown San Jose. I know the plural of anecdote is not data, but every collision I’ve witnessed has been a sidewalk cyclist getting nailed when he crosses an intersection at speed.
From the Roadshow column, we see also that the practice is hazardous and inconsiderate to pedestrians.
The specific example given in today’s column is Agnew Road in Santa Clara. I work on Agnew Road, and I frequently see adults and children riding on the sidewalk in spite of the very wide and very clearly labeled bike lanes here. (Occasionally, that rider will be me when I’m with walking friends or I’m leaving Safeway for a very short distance, but I will ride at walking speed and I will not try to squeeze past unless there’s plenty of room.)
The online comments following today’s Roadshow in the Mercury News illustrate widespread misunderstanding about California’s sidewalk riding rule. The California Vehicle Code has a uniformity provision so that cities can’t just make stuff up that could result in a patchwork of contradictory codes. The state does leave regulations for the “operation of bicycles [and] electric carts … on the public sidewalks” up to local authorities, however, in CVC 21100(h). The city of San Jose does not regulate sidewalk riding, hence no legal proscription.