Las Vegas Sun

December 1, 2022

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Clarification of law on bikes on sidewalks sought

Area bicycle safety activists and officials decided Wednesday to ask the state attorney general to clarify whether or not bicyclists are legally allowed to ride on sidewalks and agreed they will organize a bicycle safety public- outreach campaign for April and May 2005.

The safety campaign will use bike shops, public buses, schools, government offices, and other outlets to get information to children and adults. The campaign will promote the importance of wearing helmets, riding with the flow of traffic, walking bicycles across crosswalks, parents accompanying young children while riding their bikes, and the rules about riding on sidewalks.

The rules about riding on sidewalks are still somewhat cloudy. While the dozen people at the Wednesday meeting held at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas generally agreed adults shouldn't ride their bikes down sidewalks, there wasn't a consensus on where children should be allowed to ride.

Some say bicycles are transportation and not allowed to be ridden on sidewalks, but Wayne Petersen, a lieutenant in Metro Police's traffic division, said the law isn't so clear.

There is an opinion from the district attorney's office that says a bicycle is not a vehicle, which would seem to allow bicyclists to ride on sidewalks. But, he said, the law also says that sidewalks are for pedestrians, which would seem to preclude bicycles from being ridden on sidewalks. The law makes an exception for children riding bicycles with wheels smaller than 14 inches in diameter, which are legally permitted on sidewalks.

With these apparent contradictions in mind, the group agreed to ask the attorney general to clarify the law.

Bruce Mackey, state education officer for bicycle/pedestrian safety with the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety, said it could take nine months to get an opinion from the attorney general.

Mackey also suggested the group plan its public outreach campaign for next April and May, by which time they should have heard from the attorney general and which will give them enough time to adequately plan the safety campaign.

Maggie Saunders, with the Transportation Research Center at UNLV, said it is important to get the Attorney General to clarify the law, "because a lot of people have different opinions and are telling people different things."

Susan Snyder, a Sun columnist and president of the Silver State Bicycle Coalition, said that while she believes it is not safe for bicyclists to ride anywhere but on the street, she's not sure exactly what the law states.

Henderson Police Traffic Officer Christopher White said that while he and other officers do not give bicyclists citations for riding on sidewalks, he will stop some bicyclists and tell them they shouldn't be riding on sidewalks.

White does treat children differently, and, for example, won't let his 11-year-old daughter ride her bicycle in the street.

Erin Breen, director of Safe Community Partnership at UNLV, agrees that children shouldn't be riding in the street.

"I think we agree that adults should not be riding on sidewalks, but where debate is is with children," she said.

Saunders said added public attention has come to the issue in the wake of a March 22 collision between sport utility vehicle and a 13-year-old boy who was riding his bicycle in a crosswalk. The boy was seriously injured.

Initially police said the driver would not be charged in connection with the accident because while she shouldn't have driven through the crosswalk, the boy was also breaking the law by riding his bike on the crosswalk.

In response to a public outcry over the accident the driver was charged with a misdemeanor, which she has since pleaded no contest to and agreed to pay restitution instead of a fine.