When you see a rider on a $3,000 bike with a special riding jersey and a sleek helmet, odds are they’re riding on the street. You never see these athletic riders, who clearly invest a lot of time in their sport, on the sidewalk.
As a new rider, though, you may think this doesn’t make sense. Clearly, it feels safer to ride on the sidewalk. Why contend with cars and negligent drivers if you don’t have to? And why is it that these elite riders stay off of the sidewalk?
Though there is something to be said for pedestrian safety, that’s not the main reason. The truth is that experienced riders understand that it’s actually more dangerous, not less, to ride on a sidewalk.
The reason, per a study from Cornell, is that most accidents happen with cyclists and drivers who are turning. When you ride on the sidewalk, the only risk you eliminate is getting hit by a driver who is behind you and who passes you too closely. That happens, but not all that often.
If you ride on the sidewalk, you become less visible to drivers. When they turn and cross that sidewalk or turn through an intersection as you ride in a crosswalk, rather than on the edge of the travel lane, that’s when they’re going to hit you.
Riding on the street may feel more dangerous, but it’s actually safer. That is not, of course, to say that accidents do not happen. If you get hit by a careless driver, you may need to seek compensation for medical bills and related costs.