Here’s a question from a reader:

I’ve been taught that bicycles are subject to the same rules as cars, but I see bicycles on the sidewalk all the time.  I’d certainly be cited if I drove my pickup down the sidewalk.  What’s with the bikes?  Thanks a lot.  Randy of Windsor

The answer comes from Gary Helfrich, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coaltion:

Regardless of the legality, riding on the sidewalk a bad idea and should be discouraged. Besides being a danger to pedestrians, bicyclists riding on the sidewalk are 2-4 times more likely to be killed or injured on the sidewalk than those riding on the street. The greatest danger is at driveways, where drivers are not expecting a fast moving bicycle. It’s important to recognize that Sidewalk vs. Street crash rates vary with age and gender, and children under the age of 10 may actually be safer on the sidewalk, but generally it’s a bad idea to ride on the sidewalk.

Legally, it’s the answer you’d expect: “It depends.” There is no statewide California law prohibiting operating a bicycle on a sidewalk, but California Vehicle Code Section 21206 allows local (county, city, etc) governments to regulate operation of bicycles on pedestrian facilities. Here’s a quick summary of most ordinances in Sonoma County:

–Cloverdale: Bikes are banned from sidewalks in the commercially zoned district and the police department is authorized to “erect signs on any sidewalk or roadway prohibiting the riding of bicycles thereon …” Additionally, the Cloverdale ordinance states, “Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk, such person shall yield right-of-way to any pedestrian, and shall give audible signal before overtaking and passing such.

–Sebastopol: Bikes are not allowed on sidewalks in the downtown corridor but are allowed in residential neighborhoods. A map is available which delineates the no-sidewalk riding area.

–Windsor: Bikes are not allowed on sidewalks in the town’s commercial districts, specifically the Town Civic Center and the Town Green. The proscribed area is specifically described, block-by-block in the town’s ordinance.

–Rohnert Park: Bikes are allowed on city sidewalks, except in areas posted with signs prohibiting bikes.

–Petaluma: The city prohibits bikes on sidewalks in the central business district of the city unless traffic signs are posted informing bicyclists and pedestrians that the sidewalk has dual usage. Additionally, the city code states that, “No person shall ride a bicycle on any sidewalk which abuts the front of any school or any building used for public assembly.”

–Santa Rosa: Bikes are allowed on sidewalks, except for sidewalks in commercial shopping areas, the downtown core and Railroad Square.

–Sonoma: Bikes are allowed on sidewalks but may not be operated “at such speed or in such manner as evidences willful, wanton or reckless disregard of the safety of other pedestrians in the vicinity.”

–Unincorporated county: The county does not regulate bikes on sidewalks.

Here’s another question:

I am wondering whose responsibility it is to clean up debris left over (in the streets) by traffic collisions? It always seems very unsafe to have people driving over all the broken car bits and glass that seems to be left all over the place.  Diana

The answer comes from Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Lance Badger. If a police officer and a tow truck are called to an accident, the officer will require the tow truck driver to clean up the debris, he said. If the drivers don’t seek police response, don’t clean up and the debris is reported as a traffic hazard, Badger said, an officer will be sent out to check. If it is a hazard, a city crew will be sent to clean up.


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