"Get on the sidewalk!!"

Brent has a red-hot temper and his trigger lately has been people in cars yelling “Get on the sidewalk!!” Many times these drivers throw in some choice profanities and lay on their horns. In some situations a vehicle pulls right up to his side and tries to push him off the road. Brent comes home livid and recounts the tale and I always ask what his response was. It varies from telling the driver “no” to “share the road!” in the verbal arena. He has also looped back to the vehicle, asking them to roll down their window to tell them they need to share the road and it’s illegal* to ride on the side walk. Then there was what he hastened to do tonight, chase the car on his bike.

We have discussions often about what the appropriate retort to a driver should be if we find ourselves in such a situation. I am partial to ignoring them at first and should the belligerent behavior continue, ask them “why?” Yet no one has ever treated me or my children in such a negative or dangerous way. I wonder what it is about him or his bike or the situation that attracts such offense. How many of you encounter such responses from automobiles? How do you handle it?

Brent has gone out of his way, literally, to make his commute less intrusive to automobiles and heavy traffic. The direct route would be to take Hal Greer, he goes in on 20th and home on 10th, adding about two miles to the journey. He rides on the curb side as far as he can until he needs a left turn lane. He uses hand signals. He stops at lights. He pedals as fast as he can to stay with traffic when he can. When he is near the bike trail, he uses it. As far as I know, he’s doing the best he can to be a safe and considerate cyclist. As a driver, please tell us, what else could he do?

I reviewed the state law below very carefully and from what I gather, and your perspective is greatly appreciated, it is not illegal to ride on the sidewalk. If a cyclist chooses to ride on the road, they are granted protection of the law if they follow the regulations stated in Chapter 17C.
For your consideration, the following is the West Virginia laws regarding bicycles. I chose to highlight the portions pertaining to the conversation above:

West Virginia State Bicycle Laws 

CHAPTER 17C. TRAFFIC REGULATIONS AND LAWS OF THE ROAD

ARTICLE 1. WORDS AND PHRASES DEFINED.

§17C-1-8. “Bicycle” means every device which does not have a motor attached and which is propelled by human power upon which any person may ride, having two tandem wheels either of which is more than twenty inches in diameter.

ARTICLE 11. OPERATION OF BICYCLES AND PLAY VEHICLES.
Provides rules of the road for the operation of bicycles on public roads in West Virginia.

§17C-11-1. Obedience to article; duty of parents and guardians; applicability of article to bicycles.
(a) It is a misdemeanor for any person to do any act forbidden or fail to perform any act required in this article.
(b) The parent of any child and the guardian of any ward shall not authorize or knowingly permit any such child or ward to violate any of the provisions of this chapter.
(c) These regulations applicable to bicycles shall apply whenever a bicycle is operated upon any highway or upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles subject to those exceptions stated herein.

§17C-11-2. Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles.
Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter, except as to special regulations in this article and except as to those provisions of this chapter which by their nature can have no application.

§17C-11-3. Riding on bicycle seats; carrying more than one person on bicycle.
(a) A person propelling a bicycle shall not ride other than upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached thereto.
(b) No bicycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed and equipped.

§17C-11-4. Clinging to vehicles.
No person riding upon any bicycle, coaster, roller skates, sled, or toy vehicle shall attach the same or himself to any streetcar or vehicle upon a roadway.

§17C-11-5. Riding on roadways and bicycle paths.
(a)
Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.
(b) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.
(c) Whenever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway.

§17C-11-6. Carrying articles.
No person operating a bicycle shall carry any package, bundle, or article which prevents the driver from keeping at least one hand upon the handle bars.

§17C-11-7. Lamps and other equipment on bicycles.
(a)
Every bicycle when in use at nighttime shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the department which shall be visible from all distances from fifty feet to three hundred feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of five hundred feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector.
(b) No person shall operate a bicycle unless it is equipped with a bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least one hundred feet, except that a bicycle shall not be equipped with nor shall any person use upon a bicycle any siren or whistle.
(c) Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.

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7 thoughts on “"Get on the sidewalk!!"”

  1. Honestly? Ignore, avoid, flee. Arguing with a belligerent fool in control of two tons of metal deathwagon is just not a game I want to play. Having the law on your side (as you clearly do) isn't much use when the other party to the argument has the ability to squash you into a pulp.

    I've never been run off the road, but my response would be to call it in as a vehicular assault or attempted homicide.

  2. We often get feedback when we ride and it's a really tough part of being on the road. I'm sorry to hear that the comments are so upsetting. I do find that ignoring it helps because I can't really change the people that shout at me from a car– or the people that shout at my kids. Stay safe on theroad and don't let them make you ride in a way that could be dangerous to you!

  3. I am with you both on this. I am very glad you spoke up, as I hope Brent takes your advice better than he's taken mine. A new perspective is good, especially around here, where we feel a bit lonely in our "family bike" shoes.

    Perhaps I can get him to comment or start a dialogue on the FB page…

  4. The “Get on the sidewalk!” shout from cars makes me crazy as well, especially given that in my city, it is also illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk. Since this is such a common shout, it is clear that drivers are really not aware of the laws. I find it particularly interesting when they yell it at me as I pedal over a sharrow….

    Anyhoo, getting pissed off and upset doesn’t move me forward in any way. I am often tempted to chase the driver down to ‘educate’ them of the law– pretty easy to catch up to drivers given all the red lights, which they obviously do not think of as they impatiently buzz by a bicyclists:). However, the truth is most drivers who yell such things are not going to be open to hearing my lessons and it will likely just make them hate cyclists more…. So I just try to talk myself out of my temper and just vent about it later on Facebook or to my husband!

    1. Um…how’s this for bike ignorance, What’s a sharrow? (I will be looking it up after I comment). I think your point about making cyclists out to be the “bad” guy is another great onet to share with Brent. Poor guy just can’t get a break, and because of his negative experiences, he “forbids” me from going some of the places I would like to go. He means well.

    1. That was an excellent read. I have been keeping up with him more lately, but missed a lot of things over the summer, thank you.

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