Biking on the sidewalk: an FAQ

Where can you ride on the sidewalks?

In D.C., you can ride on the sidewalks anywhere outside of the Central Business District. Riding on a sidewalk is allowed in Montgomery County except in Gaithersburg and in Takoma Park if you’re over 12 years old, in Prince George’s County, and in most of Northern Virginia.*

*Please check local ordinances for variations on this rule.

Where is the DC Central Business District?

Right here on this map!

Department of Transportation

Who has the right of way on a sidewalk?

If riding on the sidewalk, you should yield the right of way to pedestrians. As the bigger, faster space user, you must ensure that people on foot feel safe when you pass them. That means slowing down, (politely) using your voice, and passing with plenty of space. You must ride in a “safe” and “non-hazardous” manner that does not endanger other sidewalk users, including riding at a safe speed that is appropriate for the sidewalk. One easy way to remember it is “Pedestrian space, pedestrian pace.”

When should you ride on the sidewalk?

In most cases, it’s safer for pedestrians and bicyclists when bicyclists ride in the street rather than on the sidewalk. But in some situations, like a busy road with no bike infrastructure, you might feel safer on the sidewalk. When you are on the sidewalk, keep these things in mind:

  • Sidewalks are designed for walking speeds and maneuverability, so take them slow, even if they aren’t crowded. 
  • People walking or running may change their speed and direction with little warning, which may not give you much time to react, so give plenty of space, and be aware that obstructions like buildings, walls, fences, and shrubs along sidewalks may limit your sight distance may be limited by obstructions like buildings, walls, fences, and shrubs along sidewalks.
  • Drivers turning at intersections often do not expect bicyclists on the sidewalk, so take extra care when crossing a street. Cross when you have the light, and ring your bell to ensure turning drivers know you’re there.