Why are people walking in the road when there is a perfectly good sidewalk?

No, this is not a rhetorical question.


I see this all the time.  Just the other night, a man in dark colors was walking his dog on the road. Three feet next to him was a perfectly good sidewalk. A sidewalk we’re all required to shovel and otherwise maintain. Only reason I saw him was his the white on his black and white dog.

I know, I know, in the frozen tundra, sometimes not everyone clears off their sidewalk perfectly. But climate change has seen us with the warmest February on record! March has been much the same. There was literally no snow anywhere. So why would you risk walking on the road, during rush hour, rather than on the sidewalk?

Or, if you really hate the sidewalks, why not go to the dog park that’s a mile away? Or, the park that’s at the end of the block?

I’ve heard it said if you’re training for a marathon or 10k and taking it very seriously, roads are smoother and less prone to cracks. Except, of course, for the cars on them. Which, at an average of 4,000 pounds or so, seems like a perfectly safe thing to challenge. Because tired drivers coming home after dark during rush hour are always able to see you in your dark clothes and quickly respond. Especially if you slip, lose your footing, or trip on a rock.


There is one gentleman that runs in our neighborhood who is a serious marathoner. He runs here because we have A LOT of hills, many that are very steep. He wears a lighted vest that flashes on both the front and the back. Very easy to see. I appreciate that.

Still wish he wasn’t on the road, but I can easily see and avoid him.

Not sure why others aren’t using the special trails by us dedicated to bicycles and pedestrians. We have parks. We have waterfronts. Why the street? Can’t be the view, certainly.

Look, I know walkers and cyclists are supposed to have equal rights. I know that some are very dedicated to their sports and want to train.

I’ve often wondered if they know just how dangerous it is to ride in traffic without a bike lane. Maybe even with a bike lane. Especially with impatient drivers that want to get around you when you can’t do the speed limit.


This may be an unpopular thing to say, but I’m not entirely sure why it is okay to ride a bike or walk on any road with a speed limit above 25 MPH.  It seems like a disaster waiting to happen at the worst, or a traffic jam at the best.

Yes, yes, I know. Not very environmentally friendly of me. Or very sharing. But honestly,  sharing the street with others who are not in a car scares the living daylights out of me. I’m terrified I might hit them, and that would be on my conscience for the rest of my life. And, of course, I get frustrated when I have to do 15 MPH because I got stuck behind a bike in a 40 MPH zone.

Yes, I am trying to be more empathetic, but this isn’t about just me and the cyclist. This is about me, the cyclist, and the six people now lined up behind me all angry as they try swerve around me to get to work.

Maybe I’m more worried than the average driver about trying to get around a cyclist or pedestrian. My mother’s friend buried her nineteen-year-old daughter two years ago. See, the woman’s college cycling team was riding down a state road when she and two other members of her team were hit by a mid-sized truck.

None of them survived.

Her father happened to be assisting the coach of the team, and he watched his daughter die. He hasn’t been the same.


The truck driver was fine, and the accident did little more than scratch the paint on his vehicle. Maybe, because of this, I’ve over-exaggerated the danger in my mind. Maybe not.

I’m glad that people are outside and improving their fitness. What I don’t understand is why anyone would want to be on the road with a 4,000 pound car unless they were in one, too.


How about you? Do you ever cycle or walk in the street rather than the sidewalk? Why? Perhaps you’ve seen this phenomena and have more insight into it than I do, especially those walking in the street.

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13 thoughts on “Sidewalks?

  1. I live in a very recreational friendly community, some neighborhoods have sidewalks and others do not. I agree with you, at least wear reflective clothing so I can see you.

  2. As far as the dog goes, where we used to live there was a woman that would come out and yell at me for walking my dog on the sidewalk because we are supposed to “curb” them.

    I used to bike commute, and will resume soon. I had to stop after some shoulder surgery. (Not bike related.)

    There’s a really good reason not to ride on the sidewalk; there are people on it.

    Bikes have it tough. Car drivers hate us for making them slow down and pay attention. Pedestrians hate us for making them look up from their phones and pay attention.

    When I was a kid we were taught that we belonged on the road. At some point that changed and they started building bike lanes. I see this as an unwillingness to hold car drivers responsible. If you want to kill someone in the U.S., hit them with a car. If you want to make absolutely sure that you get away with it, buy them a bike. The police won’t even investigate.

    1. Like you said, it’s tough. Bikes don’t go as fast as cars. If the speed limit is 55mph on a country road, and a bike is clipping along at 30mph, which I sure can’t do, there’s going to be a line behind them to pass.

      Even on city streets by me, bikes regularly can’t do the same speeds as cars. Makes everyone crabby.

      And yet, I get it. Exercise. Reduced congestion. Reduced emissions. All good things!

      I do like the idea of bike lanes as a compromise, but where I live, they are just not used. Partially because of the culture, partially because there are so few of them and they stop and start in random places, but partially because in a normal winter, we have snow for 5-6 months of the year.

      I’d also like to see reflective gear or something more mandatory. Dusk is the worst for seeing them.

  3. Sometimes I find that I have no choice but to walk on the road, but I try my best to minimise it as much as possible and as a driver, I appreciate those who walk sensibly and respect the vehicles around them. Our government is actively trying to encourage more people to cycle, which would be fine were there more dedicated cycle lanes. Roads are not, in my opinion, any place for a bicycle to use regularly. In some sites in London for instance, trucks are now required to have huge signage over the back warning cyclists not to pass them on the left hand side, and audible warnings when the truck is turning left. If someone riding a flimsy graphite frame with nothing but their skin to protect them is not smart enough to know that passing a 40ft, 44t articulated vehicle on the left hand side while it’s turning left is a bad idea, I really don’t think they should be allowed to ride on a public road. Perhaps some kind of mandatory test should be in passed before cyclists are allowed to share the road with vehicles.

    1. A test and a license for the bike isn’t a bad idea. I mean, we have to pass a test for a car

      I so get why people should ride a bike. Health, environment, less traffic. But it just seems so dangerous when you’re riding beside any car, much less as massive SUV.

      I can’t even imagine trying to ride in a huge city like London!

      1. Sometimes I think I’m in the minority on this subject so it’s nice to hear someone with similar viewpoints from where you are! In London you can hire bikes quite cheaply and tourists are encouraged to do so to tour the city. The advantage there is that they do dedicate large parts of the roads to bikes only, but outside of big cities like that bikes just share the road with everyone else. I did unfortunately pass an incident on Tuesday where a van had struck a cyclist and paramedics were in attendance. Thankfully the cyclist seemed to be okay but it highlights the dangers in my opinion.

  4. “Bikes May Use Full Road” is an invitation to disaster. “Share The Road” was more appropriate. In my rural area, bike lanes are nonexistent but for a few parts in town. The narrow, winding country roads are attractive to cyclists, whether solo or in groups. The cyclists though, slow traffic, are stubborn, and reluctant – to an almost hostile degree on occasion – to share the road or move to the side. Large groups are a PITA, but the solo cyclists can blend into the scenery. After a near collision with a rider who didn’t understand why riding single-file is safer than riding side-by-side, I wanted to leap from my car and shake him and ask “Do you have a death wish?”

  5. Like others, sometimes I’m forced into the road. But if there’s a sidewalk or decent trail, I’m using it.

    Our town has great bike and hiking trails and most streets have sidewalks. Yet, we see people all the time riding their bike in the street or on the sidewalk, ignoring the bike lanes (one on each side of the road, in each direction). More dangerously, we discover bikers riding the wrong way down roads. Like Will, I want to shake these people and ask, “Do you realize how dangerous this is for you?” We constantly encounter people strolling down the road, apparently oblivious to the cars and to the sidewalk build and maintained to accommodate a safe stroll.

    No, I don’t have great insights into why this is happening, nor why it seems to be happening more often. We see other rules, laws and customs being broken and ignored more frequently, things like cars running red lights and stop signs, failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks or to cars with the right of way. Are we just being more observant, or is it happening more frequently? We have theory that it’s the later and that it’s a sign of the times. Studies show that drivers of more expensive cars are less likely to stop for others. My wife and I think there’s a creep going on, that people are taking this and decided they’re tired of following rules and laws, or that they’re not for them.

    Sorry for such a long comment. Thanks for an excellent post. Cheers

  6. Excellent post, I agree with your thoughts. Hitting a cyclist or a pedestrian I couldn’t see is one of my worst nightmares. In this corner of Germany a lot of people ride a bicycle in the city. Hardly anyone wears a helmet or anything reflective, so detecting cyclists in the traffic flow always makes me sweat. What annoys me the most is that whenever there’s a red light, the cyclists bypass all the cars and stop in front of them, meaning that as soon as the light turns green, the cars have to bypass the slow, meandering cyclists again, which is not a simple feat in our narrow, crowded streets. A lot of cyclists don’t seem to understand the risks they’re taking. I guess in a perfect world there would be separate lanes for cars, bicycles, and pedestrians.

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