Social Question

nikipedia's avatar

Why do people walk on a bike path when a pedestrian lane is clearly labeled next to it?

Asked by nikipedia (27523points) May 26th, 2010

All right, I know this sounds petty, but hear me out. Several of the places I travel regularly have separate bike and pedestrian paths right next to each other, divided by bushes or curbs. They are extremely clearly marked, yet I continue to see pedestrians regularly walking in the bike path (e.g., this guy on the Santa Monica beach path).

What would ever possess someone to do this? They gain no advantage that I can conceive of by walking in the wrong lane, and it’s inconvenient and/or dangerous to the bikers to have them there. A few days ago, I was riding my bike to school and two girls were walking in the bike lane. When I was about 5 feet away from passing them, one of them, who was talking on her cell phone, randomly took a gigantic step to the left, forcing me to brake hard, swerve into the bushes, and eat pavement.

Now, I concede that I have on occasion veered into bike lanes temporarily while running if the crowds in the pedestrian lanes are impassable. I think this is justified if a runner’s pace is closer to the average cycling velocity than to the average pedestrian velocity.

So the situation that continues to baffle me is: why are the pedestrians in the bike lane if the pedestrian lane is not (a) insanely crowded and (b) moving at a substantially slower pace? Can I stop and ask them sometime? Is it rude if, as I ride past, I gently suggest that they move to the pedestrian lane?

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12 Answers

susanc's avatar

I agree, niki. I think that’s just crazy.
A horn or a bell? Would that help? Because I know from many sad experiences that asking strangers politely to do anything
reasonable in America is just asking for trouble. Because! this is the Land of the Free! And the Stupid.

Theby's avatar

Because these people are egocentric and socially inept. I would actually stop my bike and just ask them straight out, “Excuse me. Why are you walking on the bike path?” I do the same with people who use sarcasm. I ask them why they feel the need to be sarcastic (in a non-accusatory voice.) They really don’t know how to answer that.

perspicacious's avatar

Why do I park in the fire lane at the supermarket?

lilikoi's avatar

Well in that photo, there is one guy in the bike lane, and four people on the sidewalk.

Maybe the guy is a loner.

Or maybe, while the bike lanes have faster moving traffic, the traffic is in general sparser – perhaps because there are less bikers than pedestrians, or perhaps because cyclists pass quickly – over the entire path this guy has to walk such that he feels the bike lane is less crowded and like he has it more to himself. And maybe he likes that.

Or maybe he simply does not know that – like standing on the left side of an escalator – walking in a bike lane is a social faux pas. Not everyone has special bike lanes, separated from traffic, separated from pedestrian paths. God I wish we did! He probably sees wide open pavement and assumes a biker can easily go around him.

I can imagine how it could be frustrating.

You could stop and ask them sometime. If I cared that much about this, I would. Might be an interesting convo. Or they might just look at you like you’re nuts, as you look at them like they’re nuts.

Is it rude to suggest they move to the pedestrian lane? Certainly not ruder than the oblivious girl that took a giant step.

reverie's avatar

I’ve seen this lots of times before, and do find it mildly annoying and fairly inconsiderate. As people have noted above, I think there are a wide number of reasons for this, ranging from not being aware, being lazy, simply not caring, not being observant, and so on. The only time I can really understand it is that if it’s very quiet and no-one else is around.

Having said that, I see cyclists doing equally bizarre things. Every day I see cyclists choosing to cycle in the road with the traffic, rather than in the designated cycle path on the pavement right next to them. I was thinking about it the other day, and what I came up with was the only advantage that cycling in the road rather than on the cycle path confers is that sometimes, people reversing out of their driveways may not notice a cyclist on the path. Having said that, if they don’t notice a cyclist on the path, they probably wouldn’t notice a cyclist on the road. I can’t understand why a number of cyclists seem to ignore a designated lane, just for them, that has been put in for their own safety and convenience. Is it people who want to assert their position as a valid user of the roads, and enjoy cars being held back behind them, or having to briefly enter the lane for oncoming traffic to get past them? Is it that they simply don’t notice there is a bright red cycle path right next to them? Is it that they do they not give a toss? Most odd.

Unfortunately, being English, I would never dare to confront someone about this sort of thing. I would, of course, be happy to grumble about it to my friends, on internet forums, and mutter passive-aggressively under my breath to the person that is vexing me. Oh how sensible our national character is…!

jaytkay's avatar

For the same reason same people don’t use their cars’ turn signals.

I ring my bell at the pedestrians, right behind them, to make them jump. I’m not by nature mean, but I hope it conveys a lesson.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@reverie , if you’re talking about a side path – a bike path adjacent to the roadway, but not part of it – there’s a very good reason not to use it: staying alive. If you’re not on the roadway, you can’t be seen. A motorist traveling in the same direction as the cyclist, making a right-hand turn, will often cut off the cyclist, or just hit him. As far as I’m concerned, side paths are good places for pedestrians, but I want to be out on the road where I belong.

On-street bike lanes are not as dangerous, although you still have problems. They tend to accumulate debris and glass if they’re not swept regularly. Motorists park in them, or use them illegally to get around traffic jams. I see this all the time on A1A down in Florida.

The best place for a bike is in a curb lane that’s wide enough to accommodate both bikes and cars. Unfortunately, politicians don’t ride bikes, so they don’t build what we need.

reverie's avatar

@IchtheosaurusRex The highway code doesn’t work how you describe in the country that I live in, so that wasn’t what I was referring to in my answer above.

Here in the UK, cycle paths are either designated lanes on the road itself (in the UK it looks like this), or are on the raised pavement, beside the road (which is what I was referring to in my answer above, they look like this). Cyclists using cycle paths on pavements are still expected to check when they need to cross over a road junction (see here – you can see the road markings on the cycle lane where the road junction is, indicating that the cyclist needs to give way to vehicles in the road), where cars have right of way, so unless the cyclist is ignoring the highway code and failing check at the road junction for traffic, an incident like the one you describe wouldn’t occur, as our give-way rules are there to prevent it.

To clarify, what I was confused about is why cyclists would choose to cycle in the road with the cars, when there is a safe designated lane on the pavement beside them, where there is no motorised traffic. If cyclists, cars and pedestrians obey the highway code and use lanes that are designated for them, to me, it seems like the most sensible thing to do.

Actually here, cycling is fairly common for our politicians and members of parliament in London (here’s the mayor of London and our new prime minister – quicker and easier than trying to drive anywhere! On the whole, I think cycling is fairly popular here in the UK. Where I grew up (Cambridge), bicycles were everywhere, and there was excellent provision for cyclists – I loved cycling to work!

aprilsimnel's avatar

The one thing that gets me are the groups of tourists who see that there’s separately marked bike and ped paths on the Brooklyn Bridge, but proceed to walk anywhere they please. It’s the worst place in the world to try and get somewhere between 10am and 8pm from spring to late autumn, as there are hundreds of thousands on the bridge at any given time. You can immediately tell the tourists from the natives. The natives are focused straight ahead and doggedly walk/bike.

The tourists, almost to a person, seem to want to take photos of themselves and want you to wait while they snap 30 shots until it’s “perfect”. If they think their shot is on the bike path, then they crowd up there, and have the gall to get angry at the bikers and other peds for wanting to get by them, and for not stopping to wait until they’ve taken all their goddamn photos. It’s worse if a biker uses his/her bell.

It’s one of the few things that truly irritate me about using the bridge.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@reverie , I should have read the fine print. I suspect attitudes in your country are different from ours. Most countries are more civilized then we are when it comes to cyclists.

I will use a bike lane if one is present, but I won’t use a side path unless it’s part of a larger trail system that generally doesn’t coincide with the roadway. Even at that, I will hop on to the pavement if there are road and driveway crossings, for the reasons mentioned above.

lilikoi's avatar

@reverie Thanks for sharing. From my little experience in the UK and in talking to people from there, I definitely got the sense that cycling is more popular where you live, and in other parts of Europe compared to the US. * sighs * Hopefully one day we will catch up

@IchtheosaurusRex I know exactly what you mean about cycling on a sidewalk being more dangerous than on a roadway (lots of personal experience with that as both a cyclist and driver…). On the other hand, in my city, the bike lanes (where they exist, which is almost no where) are narrow and often in the middle of two lanes of moving traffic and drivers often ignore them completely because they are not as well used as the car lanes. They also sometimes end abruptly, as do sidewalks (brilliant urban planning!). Usually there are no designated bike lanes and you are expected to just ride in what little shoulder of the road is present. When cars park on the side of the road, you get a little sliver of road between the cars and the lanes of speeding drivers, and you have to hold your breath that no one opens their door. I’d say there are definitely places where riding on sidewalks in this city is safer than riding on the road, despite the driveway threat. But you stand a chance of pissing off pedestrians if it is an area where a lot of people walk. In my city, I don’t mind that cyclists use sidewalks (except in Waikiki—too many pedestrians) or roadways as they/we really have no other choice. People have little to no sympathy for cyclists here but if those people would trade in their giant SUVs, we’d be able to accommodate a lot more traffic without having to look at expansions. There is only so much asphalt you can lay on an island (and they should really be laying concrete). Wow – /rant

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