Santa Rosa will be swarming with bicycles this weekend as the Amgen Tour of California rolls into town, so this reader question about bicycle safety arrived just in time.

The question: In the “California’s Rules of the Road” bicyclists are to follow the same rules of the road as motor vehicles. I understand some communities allow bicycles on sidewalks, but does the law allow them the right-of- way in the crosswalks as well?

Many near misses have occurred as a bike speeds across a crosswalk. Drivers have warning when a pedestrian steps into a crosswalk but not as much with a bike. The uncertainty of what a bicyclist is going to do leaves driver and cyclist in peril. — Janet Lowy

The answer: Just because a behavior is allowed does not mean it is safe or even a good idea. The sidewalk issue is a bit cloudy since people of all ages can ride bicycles.

For example, parents might be nervous about allowing a 6-year-old to ride in the street, but it is still more dangerous (to ride on the sidewalk) than riding in the road. The danger is cars backing out of driveways that do not expect a fast moving kid on a bicycle. With the exception of major arterial roads, it’s safer for kids (and everyone else) to ride on the street.

The Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition feels the safest way for people to enjoy the road on a bicycle is to behave like a vehicle, not a pedestrian. This means that if people riding bicycles use a crosswalk, they need get off their bikes and become pedestrians. We also recommend that even if riding on the sidewalk is allowed, people walk their bikes rather than ride them. — Gary Helfrich, Executive Director, Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition


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  1. jeff

    Walk your bike on the sidewalk. It’s a sideWALK, not a sideRIDE. Also, motorcycles should not be allowed to park on the sidewalk. That’s what a parking lot is for. It’s not rocket science. Well, maybe to some it is.

    May 17th, 2013 7:37 am

  2. jeff

    There was a time when the sidewalk was a relatively safe haven for pedestrians. Now they have to share it with moving vehicles.

    May 17th, 2013 7:56 am

  3. Mark

    If cyclists want to use the roads, they should be treated like any other vehicle on the road. Make them put a license plate on their bike, have headlights, brake lights, and turn signals like any other vehicle on the road. Require them to have insurance and pay a road tax (alternative to gas taxes)

    They want to have access like a motor vehicle, treat them as such.

    May 17th, 2013 8:25 am

  4. Tim

    Here in Roseland,only undocumented Democrats ride on sidewalks.

    May 17th, 2013 9:58 am

  5. Dan

    Safer to ride on the street then a side-walk…are you kidding me? Have you seen what people are doing in their vehicles these days? Texting, talking on a cell, rocki’n’ out to loud music, taking pics, cutting off other drivers because they are going to slow, woofing down a bowl of cereal, applying makeup, slapping their kids, watching cd’s, dang, for all its worth, I’ll take the sidewalk any day of the week over the ‘street’. At least there I do not have to worry too much about getting run over from behind…safer on the street…geez!

    May 17th, 2013 3:20 pm

  6. Tim Wallace

    When is the work on the Airport Blvd interchange resuming? Seems like it’s been weeks since the trees were cut.

    May 17th, 2013 3:46 pm

  7. bunga gunga

    @Jeff It is illegal for a motorcycle to park on the sidewalk. Do the police enforce it…. sometimes i think. you take a chance of getting a ticket for it

    May 17th, 2013 4:56 pm

  8. jeff

    …and the undocumented republicans ride on the sidewalk in Orange County, Tim.

    May 17th, 2013 6:15 pm

  9. Road.Warrior

    It’s scheduled to start June 3, according to Caltrans. Stay tuned.

    May 17th, 2013 7:04 pm

  10. Big E

    Bicycles violating any and all DMV code i.e. riding without a headlight and taillight being ridden after sundown and before sunrise should be confiscated. owner fined and then can have their vehicle returned. If no response from owner of bicycle within 60d sell the vehicle. I am sure Creams etc. could and would tow and impound those just as they do autos.

    May 18th, 2013 9:04 am

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