What Pedestrians and Bicyclists Want Each Other to Know

Whether you are a person who has just finished deciding which walker to choose or are a cyclist who has bought new gear and are planning to take it for a ride, the news regarding the Santa Cruz bay area may just be perfect you. The Elderly and Disabled Transportation Advisory Committee have generated educational material to help improve pedestrian safety in Santa Cruz County. They’re now working on a “What Pedestrians and Bicyclists Want Each Other to Know” flyer.

Ran across those teens again
I know the blind woman who heads this effort. She’s super sweet and accommodating, but tells me she has been hit by careless sidewalk cyclists, and her service dog has been literally run over by cyclists on the sidewalk. In a nutshell, please be careful around people on foot, in the same way you would like motorists to take care around you on a bike. Here’s the draft text of this proposed brochure.

What Pedestrians Want Bicyclists to Know

Sometimes pedestrians do have the right-of-way.

  • Pedestrians do have the right-of-way on sidewalks and in crosswalks. (1)
  • If you must ride on a sidewalk, yield to pedestrians, slowing your speed and only passing when there is plenty of room to do so safely. (2)
  • When the sidewalk is not useable by pedestrians, they are permitted to use the roadway or bike lane. Respect the speed and manner in which they must travel, especially people using strollers, wheelchairs or other mobility devices. Use care when passing pedestrians. (5)
  • Keep crosswalks free and clear for pedestrians when you are stopped at an intersection. (9)
  • Don’t allow your bike to block pedestrians’ access to walk light buttons when you’re waiting on a sidewalk to cross at a signalized intersection. (10)

Don’t assume that every pedestrian sees you.

  • Speak or ring a bike bell to alert pedestrians of your approach. Proceed with caution as they may be blind, hearing impaired or physically unable to move quickly. (3)
  • Remember to use hand signals. Let people know your intentions ahead of time. (6)
  • Make sure that you and your bike have adequate lighting at night or in inclement weather. Be aware that your lights may temporarily blind pedestrians. (13)

Learn and observe all traffic laws and signs.

  • Walk your bike in crosswalks and where signs instruct you to walk your bike: bridges, railroad crossings, etc. Remember that when you are walking your bike, you are a pedestrian. (4)
  • Obey all traffic lights and stop signs. Pedestrians expect you to observe the rules of the road like other drivers. (7)
  • Don’t be a “hit and run” bicyclist. If you collide with a pedestrian, stick around until all parties’ needs are addressed. (12)

Watch and be aware of pedestrians.

  • Watch for, and yield to pedestrians before making turns or leaving driveways. (8)
  • On multi-use paths, be aware that blind or disabled pedestrians may not be able to walk in the ideal location on the right or may require more space while being guided by a dog or another person. (11)
  • Stay alert! Put away electronic devices. Distracted bicycling is hazardous to all of us. (14)
  • Listen! If using earphones, at least one ear must be free of earbuds and earplugs. (15)

This kid sprinted across Beach Street then stopped right in front of me

What Bicyclists Want Pedestrians to Know

Pedestrians should expect bicyclists on some sidewalks and paths.

  • Sometimes bicyclists are permitted to use the sidewalks. But rules regarding sidewalk riding differ by location. (2)
  • Bicyclists may prefer to ride on the sidewalk when they perceive traffic conditions as dangerous, when they are less experienced or when they are riding with children. (3)
  • On a multi-use path, bicyclists expect you to walk as far to the right side as is practical. This will make it easier to pass. (11)
  • Leave room for bicyclists to proceed if you choose to linger on paths or sidewalks. Keep any dogs on a short leash and under your control. (12)

Take responsibility for your own safety!

  • Don’t assume bicyclists see you even though you may have the right-of-way. (1)
  • Bicyclists cannot stop as quickly as you may think! A bicyclist riding at 15 mph will take at least 8 feet to stop, depending on conditions. (5)
  • Don’t jay walk. Bicyclists expect you to cross at intersections or in marked crosswalks. (9)
  • If you must walk in the roadway or bike lane, it’s best to walk facing traffic. Be aware that bicyclists may try to pass you. (10)

Watch and be aware of bicyclists.

  • Watch for bicyclists before entering the street, bike lane or separated bikeway. Forcing a bicyclist to swerve could result in serious injury to the bicyclist. (4)
  • Be aware of bicyclists’ movements and watch for their hand signals. (6)
  • Be predictable. Look before changing direction. (8)
  • Stay alert! Put away electronic devices. Distracted walking is hazardous to all of us. (13)
  • Listen! If using earphones, you still need to be aware of bicyclists. (14)

Learn and observe all laws and signs.

  • Obey all traffic lights and stop signs. Bicyclists expect you to observe the rules of the road. (7)


  1. A pedestrian advocate complaining about jaywalking?, and getting the definition wrong? Is the automotive industry brainwashing that complete. After actually reading the jaywalking law years ago, and reading online explanations written by a lawyer, I could hardly find a place to violate it outside of downtown areas, and even there not easy to find.

    And why no ped recomendation to look both ways?

  2. I’d like to see it more clearly stated that if you are on wheels (bike, skateboard, etc.) you are not a pedestrian. Unless you are in a wheelchair, you are ONLY afforded pedestrian status when you are dismounted and walking a wheeled vehicle. It’s particularly dangerous for mounted bicyclists to use crosswalks thinking that will gain them the right of way over cars. Drivers may not be able to react to the speed with which riders enter the crosswalk. Experienced riders should altogether avoid riding in crosswalks as well as avoid riding on non-multiuse sidewalks unless road conditions leave no other choice.

  3. Thanks, Rich, for bringing this very helpful resource to my attention, and to SCCRTC’s Elderly and Disabled Transportation Advisory Committee for doing this work. I’m sharing a link to this post in my “Bicycling on Sidewalks: Misconceptions and Advisories” post http://marilynch.com/blog/bicycling-on-sidewalks-misconceptions-and-advisories.html. And I’ve retitled that post to highlight this excellent new resource. I’ve linked to this another place too: in Bicycling Monterey’s Riding Skills, Safety, and CA Bike Laws section of the Tips for Bicycling Monterey County guide.

    I also appreciate the comment of walking-biking-driving-citizen here. I agree that there is much confusion about crosswalks, which my sidewalks post mentions.

    I hope many people will spread the word about this new brochure from SCCRTC’s committee. Thanks again.

  4. Most communities need far more crosswalk locations if they truly want to encourage more people to walk rather than drive. Nonetheless, I appreciate this brochure’s reminder about jaywalking (even though jaywalking often makes sense and isn’t necessarily hazardous in all circumstances). I also appreciate the brochure’s references to distracted travel when walking as well as biking, and the reminder that “Bicyclists cannot stop as quickly as you may think! A bicyclist riding at 15 mph will take at least 8 feet to stop, depending on conditions.”

    I included info about distracted biking, driving, walking on bikemonterey.org even before I had my one and only crash on a public street. That crash was solely due to a distracted pedestrian who was jaywalking and talking on his cell phone. I avoided hitting him, but only by injuring myself and damaging my bike. His phone call abruptly interrupted, his response was to swear, yell, and dash off immediately. No apology or offers of help from him, only from passersby who saw what happened.

    Besides having an unrideable bike, I had bloody scrapes, bruising, soreness. After I’d healed, and paid the repair bill at the bike shop, the issue was past for me. But not forgotten, and a reminder that it isn’t just distracted drivers who are a danger.

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