With summer in full swing, your kids are likely spending much of their time outside, and for many kids, riding bicycle can be one of the best outdoor pastimes. However, bicycling near motorized traffic can be dangerous, especially for young children who may not behave predictably on their bicycles.
Depending on your children’s ages, it may be safer for them to bicycle on the sidewalk. However, it is important to understand when it is okay to do so and when it is not.
Who can bicycle on the sidewalk?
Bicycling on the sidewalk can jeopardize the safety of the pedestrians who use that space. California law specifies that bicyclists should travel on the right side of the road, going in the same direction as motorized traffic. However, the law allows individual cities to control whether bicyclists are allowed to ride on the sidewalk. Los Angeles municipal code specifies that riding bicycles on the sidewalk is not allowed if it is done with a disregard for safety.
However, some children may be safer bicycling on the sidewalk than they would be if bicycling on the road. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), children younger than 10 years old are unable to make the types of decisions necessary to bicycle safely on the road. NHTSA suggests that riding on the sidewalk may be appropriate for children in this age range.
How can I keep my child safe if he or she bicycles on the sidewalk?
If you allow young children to bicycle on the sidewalk, make sure that they are compliant with municipal code. This means that each child must be bicycling safely and not posing a danger to pedestrians or property.
If you allow your children to ride bicycles on the sidewalk, consider reminding them:
- That pedestrians have the right of way
- That bicycling must be at a comparable speed to adults walking on the sidewalk
- To look carefully before crossing the street
- To be mindful of vehicles that may be backing out of driveways
- To alert pedestrians that they are close by
It is always tragic when a bicyclist is hit by a car, but it can be even more devastating when the bicyclist is a child. Safety should always be the most important factor you consider when deciding what to allow your children to do. However, it is important to keep in mind that while bicycling on the sidewalk may be the safest option for young children, it often is not the safest option for older children.