Technically, you should always ride a bicycle on the road and not on the pavement. There are laws to ensure this in many places, but according to the UK Highway Code for cyclists, this is not strictly enforced and there are many occasions when cyclists don’t adhere to it.
Often this is due to main roads being busy and appearing more dangerous than pavements, but this ignores a few factors. You really need to consider all of the following before taking your bike out on pavements.
1) There is no excuse not to wear safety gear
Regardless of whether you’re on the road or the pavement, it’s essential that you always wear a helmet and any other safety equipment you feel comfortable with. This protects you and others.
2) You’re probably making pedestrians feel unsafe
Pedestrians on pavements have no choice about where they walk, so it can often seem unfairly dangerous when they’re forced to contend with bikes trying to pass them at high speed. Many cyclists approach from behind and give no warning that they’re there, which can make accidents highly likely. Expect to encounter some angry pedestrians if you decide to speed along the pavement without warning.
3) Cars are still a danger
If you’re cycling over crossings as if you were a pedestrian, or travelling at speed close to the edge of the road, it’s likely that drivers will not expect you to suddenly appear. This can make accidents more likely than if you were cycling on the road properly.
4) You should use bike lanes where possible
As part of the development of urban and suburban areas, dedicated bicycle lanes are often installed. These can be designated lanes painted on the side of the road, or be protected by an actual kerb which keeps the traffic to one side. Either way, these are always a more appropriate place to cycle and should reduce the number of obstacles you come across as well as protecting walkers.