Slog - The Stranger's Blog

Line Out

The Music Blog

« And You Thought Seattle Critic... | On a cheerier note »

Friday, January 6, 2006

Bike Etiquette

Posted by on January 6 at 14:10 PM

I have been clipped twice in the past week while walking around town by people riding their bicycles on sidewalks. That’s bullshit. I’m an avid bike rider; the only way I navigate this city is by bike or foot. When I ride, I always ride in the street. I can understand the need for cyclists to ride on sidewalks, especially in the rain (there is no way I’d commute in traffic in a downpour as I see a few brave souls doing), and so I don’t have a problem sharing the sidewalks.

However, the vast majority of people who ride on them don’t alert pedestrians of their presence before they pass. It doesn’t take much. All you have to say is “On your left!” or “Coming up behind you!”.

Where I grew up in Idaho, there were two types of cyclists: Those who had jersey tan lines and legs smoother than mine, and those who were pedaling off DUIs. And even the latter had the courtesy to make their presence known. It’s all I’m asking for.

Even a bell would even do the trick. Anything.

The first time I was struck this week, I had stepped to the left of the sidewalk to pass a woman and her dog, and was clipped by a young man on a bike. The rider didn’t hit me hard enough to slow down his momentum, and yelled back at me, “You think you own the sidewalk…”

To which I absurdly screamed, “Jay Leno!” because it was the first awful thing that popped to mind, and I don’t react well to stress.

It happened again last night as I was headed home from a bar. A chick on a bike nearly took me out on Broadway, and she wrecked herself (her head was cushioned by dreadlocks rather than a helmet). This time I was able to speak with relative composure, mostly because I’d been stewing about the first incident all week.

“You should really say something when you’re passing people, just to let them know you’re coming up behind them,” I said sweetly.

“Huh. Thanks,” responded the uncommunicative hippie. She then rode off and managed to pass two rather startled couples, again, without saying a thing. Perhaps if I had beaten my message out on a pair of bongos in Morse code, it would have sunk in.

Now, has anyone else experienced this, or do I just have hippies gunning for me?

CommentsRSS icon

All people on bicycles in the downtown area are marked for death. Whether it is their fault or not, I am amazed a cyclist a day doesn't die in the street, with the way some of them ride. (ofcourse, also with the way some drivers drive.)

actually, if you go to the DOT website, the bike routes they recommend you take and actually say you are supposed to take often specifically say "ride on the sidewalk" at such and such point.

the reason riding your bike on the side walk is not illegal in Seattle, is because Seattle lacks the infrasctructure for bike travel and at the sime time tries to act "bike friendly" when it most definately the fuck is not.

so the comprimise has been to tell bikers to share the sidewalks with pedestrians so more hummers are saved from getting dents.

I'm also a dedicated bike rider, and former bike messenger, and I agree with you 100%. In the same way that car drivers need to show courtesy toward smaller and slower bikes, bike riders need to be cognizant of pedestrians. Bike riders who think they're too cool to be kind are just assholes.

I mainly have had near misses around the financial district downtown from Messengers who are on the clock. (Other times (rarely) it's when walking around Greenlake.) I don't really consider them at fault the messengers because I understand they are in a hurry and fear I might be the same if I were in their shoes. But I've never resorted to calling them J** L***

you could always go on the offense and go around shoving sticks in people's spokes and proclaiming "it's not a side-RIDE"


I commute every day by bike to and from work, and I totally agree with you. I always yelp a "on your left" or such or ride in the street. For that, I've been hit four times by rear-view mirrors on Fairview by the hutch. As bad as some cyclists are, drivers are 10 times worse. ?

'To which I absurdly screamed, "Jay Leno!"'

HA! That made me laugh tea out of my nose. (And also, I agree with you.)


Consider this your invitation to come riding. We will get you drunk. You will have fun. Most of us neither shave our legs, wear the spandex or are riding off DUIs.
Thursdays, Westlake Mall, 7pm.

Once when I lived in Switzerland I rode a bike on the sidewalk for no more than ten feet, and a policeman stopped me. He said, "Was war das fur ein fahrt?" which still, 12 years later, strikes me as hilarious in the way that many totally ordinary German sentences are hilarious.

Back to the present: I'm familiar with the nuisance you describe, and have sometimes fantasized about carrying around a hammer in my pocket (I have big pockets) for the purpose of hurling it at sidewalk bikers. I would be like Thor, but lesser.

The Jay Leno thing is very funny.

Hey, it's not only a good idea, it's the law. See The Seattle Department of Transportation, specifically Section 11.44.120 at the bottom: "Every person operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or public path shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian thereon, and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian."

Yes, I hate being passed on the sidewalk without warning. I feel like a cone in an obstacle course, except that I'm like a cone with AI which detects turds and whatnot and moves about accordingly.

Another thing that has scared me a few times is how some bicyclists (and peds) ignore traffic lights. I've noticed some who seem to jump the gun, like they go when the light turns yellow on the cross street, and here I come on my motorcycle, entering the intersection on yellow only to find a bicyclist in my path.

I'm fine with bike riding on the sidewalk, but as Cienna stated, use your voice when passing and dammit, go at a slow speed!

Just today, on my way to work some guy whizzes right by my left arm on the sidewalk. Dude, I'm not part of an obstacle course, I'm a HUMAN being. Lean another foot to the left and ride past me without coming thisclose to clipping me.

I hate sidewalk bicyclists. I've been nearly hit by them numerous times coming out of a store or just walking along. If you're too scared to ride a bike in the street, don't ride a bike. I lived in San Francisco for several years and rode a bike. If I can survive there without serious injury, you can ride a bike on Seattle streets.

I don't think it's fear, I think it's a matter of caution, especially in tighter-packed neighborhoods with narrow streets, on street parking and generally no room for cars and bikes to share the road, especially if there's nowhere to fall or stop, should you get hit or something happen.

And Scott, just because you personally managed for years in the streets of San Francisco doesn't mean it's easy and/or safe for everybody everywhere, unless you have proven methods you're willing to share.

I think Scott's issue is with bicyclists being careless and rude, rather than with their being on the sidewalk itself.

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 45 days old).