You won’t see this sign in Freeattle. Photo from Wikimedia

Assphalt: Can I Ride My Bike on the Sidewalk?

There’s the law, and then there’s common sense. Let’s discuss.

Dear Assphalt,

My buddy says you’re allowed to ride your bike on the sidewalk in Seattle. This defies everything I know about biking in an urban environment and say he’s wrong. Who’s right?

Your buddy, surprisingly. You can legally ride your bike on the sidewalk in Seattle, even when there is a designated bike lane (and we’ve seen it happen!)

Aside from stating that it is in fact legal, the Seattle bike code doesn’t have much to say about the matter except for vague instructions that everyone riding a bike on the sidewalk should operate in “a careful and prudent manner and a rate of speed no greater than is reasonable and proper under the conditions” as well as take into account the pedestrian traffic, grade and width of path, the condition of its surface and obey all traffic control devices.

But this doesn’t mean biking on the sidewalk is a good idea for anyone involved. While riding on a sidewalk or public path, bicyclists always yield to pedestrians and are required to give an audible signal before passing someone walking. That means that on a crowded sidewalk, a bicyclist is pretty much screwed if she wants to get anywhere in any sort of timely matter.

This rule changes city to city within Washington. In Bellevue, bicyclists can ride on the sidewalk unless this would “unreasonably inconvenience pedestrians.”

For most, it seems riding on the sidewalk is a safety issue. When you’re peddling three miles per hour up a hill with cars whizzing by at 40 miles per hour, it’s arguably safer to ride on the sidewalk despite some pedestrian discontent. If you’re cruising downhill with a tailwind, there’s no reason to veer off the beaten path and take to the sidewalk.

The bottom line: Yes you can ride on the sidewalk, just don’t be a dick about it.

Assphalt brings a sophomoric perspective to your burning Seattle transportation questions. Got one? Write assphalt@seattleweekly.com

More in News & Comment

Most of the tenants at show cause hearings have fallen behind on rent, said Housing Justice Project Managing Attorney Edmund Witter. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
New Report Details Seattle’s Eviction Trends

Analysis of 2017 county records and interviews show that nearly 90 percent of evicted tenants experienced homelessness

Daron Morris Suspends Campaign for King County Prosecutor

After running as a reformer, Morris says medical reasons are preventing him from finishing the race.

Democratic incumbent Rep. Adam Smith of Washington’s 9th Congressional District (right) and challenger Sarah Smith discuss the issues facing the district during a forum the Mirror hosted on Sept. 19. Andy Hobbs/staff photo
Smith vs. Smith: Two Democrats Clash in 9th Congressional District Forum

Democratic socialist Sarah Smith seeks ‘bold new progressive vision’ in bid to replace incumbent Adam Smith.

Teen Immigrants in Washington Programs Claim Sexual Assault and Rape

Police reports from federally-funded facilities in Renton and Fife call the minors’ safety into question.

It’s Official: Safeco Field Will Get $135 Million in Taxpayer Funds

Critical King County Councilmembers call plan “a fleecing” and “irresponsible.”

The Westin Seattle workers represented by Unite Here Local 8 gather at Gethsemane Lutheran Church after voting to strike on Sep. 14. Photo by Abby Lawlor
Hotel Workers Vote to Authorize Strike

The Westin Seattle employees will picket to demand higher wages from Marriott International.

King County Moves to Expand Pre-Booking Diversion Program

Three cities could get money to link low-level drug offenders to services and keep them out of jail.

Immigrant Youth Vulnerable to Abuse in Centers

Federally-funded facilities struggle to maintain health and safety of minors stuck in limbo

Most Read