Should runners and walkers use bike lanes?

Michael Murphy of Highland commented about the recent letter from another reader discussing how runners and walkers in his Chino Hills community use the bike lanes or traffic lanes. Our Chino Hills reader, Doug McCormick, said this was happening in areas with sidewalks nearby and on major streets and highways and asked if there are laws that address this.

We reported that California Vehicle Code 21966 says pedestrians should stay out of bike lanes and bike paths wherever there are sidewalks for pedestrians nearby. This has been the law in California for years.

“If we are talking about quiet neighborhoods with average traffic, I think that people should be able to use the bike lanes for one simple reason: personal safety,” Murphy said. “I say that because my wife and I are in our late 70s and we walk our neighborhood in Highland twice a day. Using regular sidewalks has proved dangerous to my wife, who has tripped on uneven cracks in the sidewalk and suffered injuries to her arms and legs in a fall more than once. We started to use the bike lanes on the mostly blacktopped streets because they are smooth and less hard on our legs and feet.” Murphy added that during the coronavirus pandemic, walking in bike lanes allowed him and his wife to avoid close contact with other walkers.

We thank Murphy for weighing in and think it merits a short discussion about people walking in bicycle lanes and bicyclists riding on sidewalks.

Laws in effect that bar walkers from bicycle lanes were enacted for safety reasons — the same way cyclists should avoid riding on sidewalks meant for pedestrians even where it’s allowed.

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Individual cities and counties control whether bicyclists may ride on sidewalks as per CVC 21206, but bicyclists are banned from riding on sidewalks in many places. These laws are meant to separate the two groups. Different cities and counties have different laws and rules about this. If you are a frequent bicyclist or regularly walk, it’s advisable to contact your city, county transportation department or police department to find out what the laws and rules are in your area.

If you are walking in a bike lane, you risk being run down by a fast-moving bicyclist, or you could cause a collision that endangers the walker and the cyclist. People walking usually go no faster than 3 mph while bicyclists can go anywhere from 10 mph up to 28 mph. Pedestrians and bicyclists sharing the same space don’t mix and collisions may cause injuries.

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