Can Pedestrians Walk on Bike Lanes & Trails? (Explained)

Bike lanes and trails are critical infrastructure for encouraging active transportation and providing safe riding areas for cyclists.

However, as cycling and walking become more popular, there may be confusion about who can use these spaces.

This article will discuss whether pedestrians can walk on bike lanes and trails:

Here are the Rules for Bike Lanes for Pedestrians:

Pedestrians are generally not permitted to walk on bicycle lanes, which are intended to provide a dedicated space for cyclists to ride safely. Some bike lanes are shared by both pedestrians and cyclists. In this case, both groups must be aware of each other and follow the rules of the road.

Eye-view photograph of crosswalks over a large intersection

Where Should Pedestrians Walk?

Pedestrian trails are generally designed for walking, running, or hiking and are typically marked or signed as such.

Cyclists may be permitted to use some of these trails. However, they must typically yield to pedestrians and maintain a reasonable speed.

Mostly, pedestrians should walk on sidewalks in cities and towns.

It is important to note that different cities and regions may have specific rules and regulations regarding bike lanes and pedestrian sidewalks and trails.

So always check with the local authorities to ensure you follow the correct guidelines!

Who Are Considered Pedestrians? (7 Types Explained)

What Are the Laws Regarding Pedestrians on Bike Lanes?

Bicycle lanes are generally intended to provide a dedicated space for cyclists, and pedestrians are not permitted to walk on them.

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. In some states and countries, it is legal for pedestrians to use bike lanes when there is no sidewalk or obstructed sidewalk.

Even in such cases, pedestrians must generally yield to cyclists and remain as far to the right of the lane as possible.

For example, if no sidewalks are available, pedestrians must walk on the left side of the road, facing oncoming traffic, according to the California Vehicle Code. This allows pedestrians to see approaching vehicles and move out of the way as needed.

Bike lanes are often marked with signs or pavement markings indicating they are only for cyclists. So pedestrians should always pay attention to such signage and follow the rules.

It is crucial to highlight that some cities or regions may have additional rules and regulations regarding pedestrian use of bike lanes. So always check with local authorities to ensure you follow the correct guidelines.

Violations of these laws may result in fines or penalties, so understanding the rules in your area is essential.

Can Pedestrians Use the Bike Lane When there’s No Sidewalk?

Pedestrians should not use the bike lane or path if a suitable alternative is available.

An “adequate pedestrian facility” may include a sidewalk, footpath, or other designated pedestrian route separate from the bike lane or path.

In the absence of a sidewalk, pedestrians should make every effort to walk on the shoulder of the road or as close to it as possible.

The purpose of creating separate paths for cyclists and pedestrians is to improve safety for everyone.

This rule reduces cyclist-pedestrian conflicts and promotes safe and efficient road use.

Where Can Pedestrians Cross The Road? (5 Scenarios Checked)

Can You Run on the Bike Lane?

For safety reasons, it is not recommended that runners use bike lanes. Bike lanes are meant to give cyclists a place to ride.

If runners use the bike lanes, it can make it more likely for accidents and collisions to happen.

Instead, runners should stay on the sidewalks, footpaths, and other paths specifically designed for pedestrians. Many state and local laws require runners to run on the road facing oncoming traffic if there are no sidewalks. 

By doing so, runners will be more easily seen by motorists and have more time to avoid potential danger.

Here are some safety tips for runners when running on bike lanes:

Be Aware of your Surroundings:

Always stay alert and aware of any cyclists or other vehicles using the bike lane.

Look both ways before crossing the lane, and be prepared to move out if necessary.

Stay Visible:

Wear bright or reflective clothing, especially when running during low-light hours.

This will help ensure that you are visible to drivers and cyclists.

Yield to Cyclists:

Cyclists have the right of way on bike lanes, so be prepared to move out of the way and yield to them when necessary.

Use Caution at Intersections:

Intersections can be particularly dangerous, so use caution when crossing them.

Look both ways before crossing and be prepared to stop if necessary.

Stay to the Right:

Run on the right side of the bike lane, as far away from cyclists as possible.

This will help reduce the risk of accidents or collisions.

Follow the Rules of the Road:

Runners in bike lanes have the same responsibilities as cyclists. This includes stopping at stop signs and red lights and using hand signals to indicate turns.

While it is generally not recommended for runners to use bike lanes, there may be situations where it is necessary.

Runners can protect themselves and other road users by following these precautions.

Situations Where Pedestrians DON’T Have The Right Of Way

Should Bikes Stop for Pedestrians?

Cyclists are expected to give pedestrians the right of way whenever possible.

The law in many areas states that cyclists must yield to pedestrians crossing the street or using a crosswalk. Therefore, cyclists should reduce their speed, give pedestrians plenty of space, and move forward only when it is safe.

Bicyclists should always put the safety of pedestrians before their own.

In addition, they should be alert and cautious whenever they share the road with pedestrians.

 This includes:

  • Being ready to stop or slow down at any time
  • Using hand signals to indicate turns
  • Using bike bells or other warning devices to alert pedestrians

While cyclists are not always required to stop for pedestrians, their safety should always come first. Therefore, they should always yield to pedestrians when appropriate.

Cyclists can help ensure pedestrians and other road users are safe by obeying traffic laws and exercising caution when sharing the road.

Do Pedestrians Have The Right Of Way? (11 Scenarios Explained)

Do the Rules Differ Across U.S. States?

The rules for whether pedestrians can walk on bike lanes and trails are pretty consistent throughout the United States.

In addition, there are several common themes that you’ll find in most states:

Only Use Bike Lane When Necessary:

Pedestrians should use the bike lane only when no dedicated pedestrian path or sidewalk is available.

Keep to the Right:

Pedestrians using the bike lane should stay as far to the right as possible to avoid interfering with cyclists.

Walk Facing Oncoming traffic:

This allows pedestrians to see oncoming traffic and take appropriate action to avoid accidents or collisions.

Yield to Cyclists:

Cyclists have the right to the bike lane, so pedestrians should yield to them when necessary.

Be Aware of your Surroundings:

Pedestrians should be aware of any cyclists or other vehicles using the bike lane and be prepared to move out if necessary.

Follow the Rules of the Road:

Pedestrians using the bike lane should follow the same rules as cyclists, including obeying traffic signals, using hand signals to indicate turns, and only crossing the bike lane when it is safe.

Safety First:

When using the bike lane, pedestrians should always put safety first. It’s not just cyclists who must be cautious around pedestrians in the bike lane.

 Pedestrians should remember that cyclists in the lane may be moving at high speeds. If you are unsure whether or not pedestrians are allowed to use bike lanes, it is best to ask the appropriate authorities for clarification. 

Pedestrians can aid in making sure that all road users are safe and treated with consideration if they adhere to these rules and put safety first at all times.


DDOT – Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety

Street Smart – Laws

California Highway Patrol – Pedestrian Tip Card

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