Bike Ban? D.C. Sidewalk Laws at Stake

Bike Ban? D.C. Sidewalk Laws at Stake
D.C. bike laws over sidewalks

D.C. bike laws over sidewalks

Just when you thought you knew D.C. bicycle laws and where to legally pedal in Washington, one councilman wants to change them to protect pedestrians.

It all comes down to the city's sidewalks and who should use them.

Currently, D.C. law allows cyclists to ride on any sidewalks that are not located in the the capital city’s Central Business District.

That’s not good enough, though, for Councilman Jim Graham.

Graham recently introduced a bill that would require cyclists and Segway drivers to stay off all Washington sidewalks and use designated bike lanes throughout the city when those lanes are available.

Bike lanes have become common through much of D.C., and the city has seen a major increase in residents opting to using bicycles as their preferred mode of transportation.

That change, however, has not been without some growing pains. Graham hopes to ease some of those.

Are Pedestrians at Risk from Cyclists?

The Democratic lawmaker tells The Washington Post he has received “reports of bicyclists who ride on the sidewalk without sufficient regard for the safety of pedestrians,” especially of the elderly and mothers with young children.

Graham’s plan troubles the city’s bike advocates.

“We understand that there is a need to deal with conflict between bicyclists and pedestrians,” Shane Farthing, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, tells the newspaper.

“I do understand that pedestrians get frustrated, but from a cyclist’s perspective, what the cyclist is looking for is a protected space. Until that exists, banning the cyclist from the sidewalk is really a questionable idea.”

Regardless of the outcome of Graham’s bill, it’s always smart to put safety first when riding your bike. Consider these five tips whenever you hit the road on two wheels.

Be Visible

Regardless whether you take a morning ride or a midnight jaunt, it’s imperative that motorists see you. Wearing bright, fluorescent colors and reflective clothing are your best bets for catching eyes and staying safe.

Protect Your Brain

Although not required for everyone by law, wearing a helmet is recommended by highly rated bicycle shops. Make sure, too, that the helmet is properly fitted.

"Although you don’t have to wear a helmet if you are over 16, we still sell a lot of helmets for all ages," says Alex Finkel of the highly rated The Bike Lane in Springfield, Virginia. 

Follow the Rules of the Road

Treat your bicycle the same as any other vehicle on the road. Follow the signs, signals and lane markings. Getting pulled over by police while on your bike does happen.

Pay Attention

Always be on the lookout for obstacles that could send you flying over the handlebars. Potholes, storm grates and railroad tracks are some of the biggest offenders.

Maintain Your Ride

Caring for your bike will provide more reliable riding. Check your brakes and tires often. Also, consider getting a professional bike fitting. You may be surprised how much more comfortable your time on two wheels can be.


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D.C. bike (Photo by Jason Hargraves)
A change in D.C. law could give you more rights if you and your bike are sidelined after a vehicle collision. (Photo by Jason Hargraves)

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