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News and commentary from the world of biking and walking.

Bike Law's guide to riding on sidewalks in each US state

Riding bicycles on sidewalks can be confusing topic, and this is exasperated by the fact that many states have vastly different rules about it. Bike Law’s website can help with their page which lists the local laws for every state.

You can read the full list here: Is It Illegal to Ride Your Bike on the Sidewalk? – Each State’s Answer.

Knowing your state’s law is good, but I would also take all of this information with a little caution. My state, Georgia, has this:

Georgia law considers bicycles as vehicles in all circumstances, which means they are not permitted on sidewalks. The only exceptions are local ordinances that allow individuals ages 12 and under to ride on the sidewalk.

The reality is less clear-cut. It’s commonplace to see riders on sidewalks where I live, and I’m not aware of law enforcement planning to stop that. There are many situations where it makes practical sense to ride on sidewalks (as I myself often have to do). But there are still reasons why it’s good to know the letter of the law, for example if you’re in a crash and there’s a dispute over who is at fault.

There’s also a larger question about whether riders should be allowed on sidewalks in general. A lot of these laws are written with the assumption that all streets are safely designed (which is untrue) and have a diverse mix of pedestrians and vehicles. In a community with dangerous, car-oriented streets, then that safety concern becomes more complicated.

Anecdotally, I’ve spoken to numerous people who are surprised that I don’t ride on a sidewalk normally, and they consider sidewalk riding to be common sense. Even if they’re misinformed, they’re not entirely wrong either. This disconnect between common sense and the letter of the law is just another symptom of our confusing street design which prioritizes cars first and people last.