Dear G: I would like to know how bad is it (really) to ride on the sidewalk. Aside from being an asshole, what is the fine? Can you be arrested?
Dear Sidewalk-Rider: Here’s the official word about bicycling on the sidewalk from the New York City Department of Transportation:
“§ 19-176: Bicycle operation on sidewalks prohibited.”*
Specifically, “no person shall ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk unless permitted by an official sign. A person who violates this subdivision may be issued a notice of violation and shall be liable for a civil penalty of not more than one hundred dollars which may be recovered in a proceeding before the Environmental Control Board.”
An exception is made for riders under 14 years of age.
So yes, you can get ticketed for riding on the sidewalk. It happens all the time, in fact. Apart from the legal repercussions however, it’s just not good practice. Have you seen how many people there are on the sidewalks here? It’s bonkers.
If it’s safety that you’re after — meaning, you’d feel more secure riding on the sidewalk for a particular stretch of road – we advise getting off and walking the bike until you feel comfortable getting back out in the street. (We have heard of cyclists getting tickets for standing on sidewalks with their bikes. If this happens to you, document it as best you can to help you get the ticket thrown out.)
Here’s something that it’s taken me a long time to realize: Drivers of cars, by and large, are watching for obstacles in their paths, whereas pedestrians very often are not. I consider pedestrians to be wild cards. Give them wide berth and their designated walkways (aka, sidewalks).
*Outside NYC, check the rules for your municipality.