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SPD: Man attacked for biking on the sidewalk (which is legal)

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 4.08.24 PMYikes.

Details from SPD:

Seattle police were called to the western slope of Capitol Hill Saturday afternoon after a cyclist called 911 and said he was attacked for riding on the sidewalk.

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The cyclist called police around 1 pm and told officers he was slowly riding east up Denny Way near Summit Ave when he passed a man on the sidewalk.

The man, who was carrying a full can of soda in his hand, took a swing at the cyclist, striking him in the neck and knocking him off his bike.

The suspect then told the victim ”this is what you get for riding on the sidewalk.”

The victim—who was not seriously injured—collected himself and walked up the hill away from the suspect, who continued screaming obscenities at the cyclist.

After returning home, the cyclist called police to report the incident. Officers searched the neighborhood, but weren’t able to find the suspect.

Now we’d like to remind all of you that, yes, cyclists (including SPD and King County Sheriff’s Office bike patrol officers) are able to lawfully ride on sidewalks, as long as they pedal carefully and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. From the Seattle Municipal Code:

11.44.120 Riding on sidewalk or public path. 

Every person operating a bicycle upon any sidewalk or public path shall operate the same in a careful and prudent manner and at a rate of speed no greater than is reasonable and proper under the conditions existing at the point of operation, taking into account the amount and character of pedestrian traffic, grade and width of sidewalk or public path, and condition of surface, and shall obey all traffic-control devices. Every person operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or public path shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian thereon, and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian.

We hope this paves the way for a better understanding for pedestrians and cyclists of our city’s regulations on sidewalk use.

Of course, violent strangers travel by all modes or transportation.

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16 responses to “SPD: Man attacked for biking on the sidewalk (which is legal)”

  1. Joseph Singer

    Of course it doesn’t help that the SDOT makes us either go into traffic because of the destroyed bike way or use the sidewalk for a block on Broadway.

    1. Charles B

      It also doesn’t help that some cities in this state do ban bicycles on the sidewalk and create a confused message for both cyclists and pedestrians.

      1. dave

        I’ve heard this before, but I wonder if it would actually be enforceable since riding on the sidewalk is legal according to state law (RCW 46.61.755 ). I honestly have no idea.

      2. Josh

        The Washington State Model Municipal Code includes language that cities may adopt banning bicycles from sidewalks in business districts. It’s optional, not every city adopts this, but it’s provided by the state as a model for local regulation.

        Bicycles—Riding on sidewalks.

        (1) No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk in a business district.
        (2) A person may ride a bicycle on any other sidewalk or any roadway unless restricted or prohibited by traffic control devices.
        (3) Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk, such person shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian.


  2. Allan

    If you cannot ride on the sidewalk than you cannot safely use a bicycle for transportation because some streets are just too fast and dangerous to ride on. You should do everything you can to reduce your risk when riding and reducing your time mixing with road raging drivers is a big part. Sometimes your speed might be nearly the same as cars, for example riding down hills or with a tail wind and you should be on the road. Other times you might be going 3 mph up a steep hill where the traffic is doing 40 mph. There is a great difference in speed there and I recommend riding up that hill on the sidewalk.
    Bicycling is almost impossible in some countries I have been in. (Russia, Ukraine, and South Africa). In those countries the auto death rate is 10 times higher than in the USA and bicycles are not allowed on the sidewalks in the cities. So if you want to ride it is Russian Roullette.

    1. Allan

      I just want to add that a few riders terrorize pedestrians and that is just stupid. People like that could get us all banned from the sidewalk. They are actually sabotaging their fellow riders, who sometimes need the sidewalk for safety. They are just as bad as the car that buzzes by cyclists going to fast and too close. I get really mad when I see people riding 20 mph past toddlers. One time when went on a Critical Mass ride a fellow was actually bragging about causing an accident where a girl got her teeth knocked out. We don’t need maniacs on two wheels.

      1. Jayne

        I agree with you completely but the idea of a few bad seeds getting us banned from paths just makes me think of a world in which the menacing of bikes by car drivers gets the cars banned from the roadways..

  3. JB

    How about a description of the suspect?

  4. DK

    Yeah. I have been hollered at, too. But I agree that some streets are just too dangerous, so I do ride on sidewalks when I think it’s the only way to go.
    If someone ever clobbered me off my bike, I don’t know how I would respond. I seriously wonder if I would lose control and come at him. I think swinging a U-lock I’d at least make him reconsider ever doing that again. But I suppose he might have a gun, and that would be a stupid way to die. At the very least I would take a photo with my phone.

    1. Joseph Singer

      You might be hot for the moment to clobber him, but the cops might still arrest you and put you in the clink for the night. Best thing to do is *when* it happens (not when you get home) call 911/112 and report it right there.

      1. Gary

        Thing is if you are still in danger fighting back is reasonable, but if you can, stepping back is probably the best response as much as I’d want to clobber someone back…. Nothing like ending up in the emergency room with even more cuts and bruises even if the other guy gets the worst of it. $1000, just to walk in…never mind a bandage.

  5. Enduser

    Sometimes it’s prudent to dismount from your bike & walk it on a sidewalk especially if the margin to pass a pedestrian(s) is too narrow. Fairly basic etiquette is often overlooked –

    1. Joseph Singer

      Then again, some people feel that they have an entitlement so you shouldn’t be surprised at their actions.

    2. Gary

      I just wait riding very slowly behind until there is room. I can ride slower than most folks can walk and I don’t ring my bell, or yell or anything. The only time I ride the sidewalk is when the street is too dangerous.

  6. Ron Parks

    I’ve been noticing that near construction sites signs are sometimes put up telling people they must dismount their bikes and walk them. Does anyone know if this is actually legal? The signs look like they are put up by the construction companies and I am not aware of a clause in the city/state law which states that this right to ride on sidewalks can be taken away around construction sites.

    1. Joseph Singer

      SMC (Seattle Municipal Code) 44.11.121 says that you *can* ride on the sidewalk but that you must yield to pedestrians.

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