San Luis Obispo debates allowing bicyclists to ride on sidewalks

February 27, 2023


After installing bike lanes through much of the city, San Luis Obispo is debating whether or not to allow bicyclists to also ride on sidewalks.

The city’s Active Transportation Committee last month debated the pros and cons of allowing bikes on sidewalks before voting 5-1 to bring the topic back, with Jonathan Roberts dissenting. On Tuesday, the committee will again discuss recommending changes to an ordinance that bans bicycle riding on sidewalks.

Currently, officers ticket bicyclist caught riding on the sidewalk, a consequence of the ordinance committee members worry could dissuade people from riding bikes.

The city currently has a goal of increasing the share of citywide commute trips made by bicycles to 20% by 2030. City staff estimates that currently 8.3% of city traffic is by bike.

Proponents of allowing bike riding on sidewalks voiced concerns about bike safety on several arterial roads, including Foothill Boulevard. They also argued that children are safer riding their bikes on the sidewalk.

Several committee members voiced concerns that motorists backing out of their driveways will not be looking for bike traffic on the sidewalk. Another member worried about bicyclists crashing into and killing pedestrians.

The committee members were looking at three options:

  • Continue ban on riding bikes on sidewalks
  • Allow bike riding on some sidewalks, with a ban in business districts
  • Allow only children to ride their bikes on sidewalks

The committee provides oversight and policy direction on matters regarding pedestrians and bicyclists. If the committee votes in favor of changing the ordinance, their proposal will require approval by the SLO City Council.

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Where I live now it is an everyday occurrence bikes on the sidewalks. There are bike lanes both ways. The Traffic is minimum with the exception of early morning and early evening when people are going and coming from work. These are not Children riding bikes, but Adults. They come up behind you and yell at the top of their lungs RIGHT or LEFT that is their means of telling you they are going to go by you either on the right or left. That is their rules of the sidewalk, and therefore preparing you to jump out of the way as quickly as possible. This is not only bikes, but electric scooters, and skate boards.

Good Luck

SLO is where I was born, raised, graduated high school (SLO Hi), and also Cal Poly. But now . . . . although I have fond memories of yesteryear and in my weaker moments wish I could return, I am sadly grateful I was able to escape what once was a wonderful place to live.

“Adult” bicyclists (over 12?) on sidewalks – OK, but add a traffic ticket that says if a pedestrian moves to avoid being hit by a bike the bicyclist gets fined. I know, I know, a bike rider knows how to navigate around walking people, IF the people just keep walking. But few people can just continue normally if they are in the direct path of an oncoming bike moving faster than a walking pace. This fine is similar to the “too fast for conditions” rule for other vehicles.

I have a much better idea that requires far less regulatory monitoring and police interaction and will result in a safer city. No riding bicycles on sidewalks, with the only exception being children under 10 years of age riding in residential neighborhoods.