When Can We Ride on the Sidewalks?



My wife got a bike a few weeks ago and asked about where to ride without having to worry about getting ran over. It’s been a while since she rode on two wheels, so I understand her caution. I know some basic routes around our house to stay off the road or where the road traffic is lightest, but she wanted to know if she could ride on the sidewalk.

I prefer to stay off sidewalks myself. They’re usually in worse condition where the sidewalk buckled; there’s usually more debris in the way, especially after a big storm; and pedestrians in front of you, especially the ones with dogs, can be harder to dodge than someone in a car.

And coincidentally, there’s an article about what the law says about biking on sidewalks.

Biking on Sidewalks in DC

The question of who’s in the right here — the frustrated pedestrians, or the wary cyclists — is the subject of our latest What’s With Washington investigation. Who exactly should be on the sidewalks around here? And why do they suddenly feel so crowded?

The first question comes with a straightforward answer: Bicycling on the sidewalks in D.C. is legal, except in an area called the “Central Business District,” which is roughly bounded by Massachusetts Avenue and the National Mall.

This is good to know, considering I’m guilty of riding on some of the sidewalks near the U.S. Capitol Building. And I like the curvy sidewalk south of the U.S. Capitol Building, when there aren’t many people out there. The Capitol Police haven’t said anything to me so don’t see myself biking on Pennsylvania Ave anytime soon.

Regardless, I’m sure once the lady gets used to her bike and feels more comfortable in the road, we won’t be a threat to the pedestrians walking their dogs on the sidewalk.

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