bicycling on sidewalks

The release yesterday of the report Arrested Mobility: Barriers to Walking, Biking, and E-Scooter Use in Black Communities in the United States demonstrating that tickets for riding on the sidewalk are one of the ways in which laws and law enforcement discriminate against black bicyclists, and Latinx bicyclists as well.

Let me say that I am not in favor of bicyclists on sidewalks, but the conflict between bicyclists and walkers is often exaggerated, and bicyclists are making the best decision they perceive to keep themselves safe from traffic violence. I don’t do it, but I understand why other people do.

So what is the situation in the Sacramento region?

City of Sacramento code 10.76.010 Riding bicycles on sidewalks prohibits bicycling on sidewalks only where signed and where in-street facilities are provided. The code says:

  •  A. No person shall ride a bicycle on a sidewalk where a sign is posted indicating that bicycling is prohibited. The city manager shall designate sidewalks where such signs are posted upon a finding that:
    • 1. The sidewalk abuts a road that is designated a “Low Stress Bikeway” using the criteria for the Facility Selection Guidelines in the City of Sacramento Bicycle Master Plan; and
    • 2. There is either a demonstrated or probable conflict between pedestrians and bicycles. This may be shown by information including, but not limited to: 311 reports, incident data, or estimated high pedestrian activity determined by counts or adjacent land uses and densities.
  • B. Subsection A of this section does not apply to the following persons:
    • 1. City employees acting within the course and scope of employment, including but not limited to:
      • a. Peace officers, as defined in California Penal Code section 830.
      • b. Emergency medical personnel as designated by the fire chief of the city.
      • c. Parking enforcement officers.
    • 2. Children under the age of 18 years old and an accompanying adult.
  • C. Where bicycling on a sidewalk is permitted, the following apply:
    • 1. Bicyclists must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians by slowing down, stopping, or dismounting, as needed.
    • 2. Before passing a pedestrian traveling in the same direction, bicyclists must give the pedestrian an audible warning.
  • D. The city manager or designee shall report to the city council annually regarding the impacts of sections 10.76.010 and 10.76.030. (Ord. 2019-007 § 2; Ord. 2017-0033 § 1; Ord. 2016-0024 § 1; prior code § 25.05.070)

There are some designated bike routes on sidewalks in the City of Sacramento, which were designated before this code came into effect and are still valid. N Street between 8th Street and 15th Street, and the area through the convention center/performance center between 13th Street and 14th Street.

SABA has a summary of sidewalk riding rules, on Sharing the Road page, scroll down to ‘Is it legal to ride on the sidewalk? This page may be out of date.

Note that the County of Sacramento, Elk Grove, and Rancho Cordova code sections are identical, and the Folsom and Galt code sections are identical, examples of mindless copying of code from other locales.

I do not have any information on whether these codes are being enforced in a discriminatory way, but given the almost universal pattern of law enforcement oppression of people of color, I’d not be the least surprised.

On the positive side, AB-825 Vehicles: bicycling on sidewalks (Bryan) has been introduced which would prohibit sidewalk prohibitions except where there are high quality bicycle facilities available on the street,  invalidating all of these code sections except, perhaps, the City of Sacramento. The relevant paragraph is: Notwithstanding paragraph (1), a local authority shall not prohibit the operation of a bicycle on a sidewalk adjacent to a highway or corridor that does not include a Class I, Class II, or Class IV bikeway, as defined in Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highway Code.

I hope readers will support this legislation. The bill passed the Assembly Committee on Transportation on March 20, 2023, and was referred to Assembly Committee on Appropriations, but not yet scheduled. See also Streetsblog CA Traffic Safety Bills Pass First Committee.

If passed, the legislation might well cause cities and counties to accelerate projects to add safe bicycling facilities to streets, in order to reduce sidewalk riding. One can hope.

One thought on “bicycling on sidewalks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s