I enjoy walking around our office neighborhood a lot, and watching the protected bike lane on King Street & Punahou brings a couple thoughts to mind. Personally, I am glad to see the number of bike share users increasing. I also wish the City and County of Honolulu would add more bike lanes. I’ve also hear from many friends, clients, and neighbors about bike users on the sidewalks. On the flip side, traffic congestion explains the desire to ride on the sidewalk. The streets in Honolulu (and in Hawaii) are scary for bike riders!
However, as a personal injury attorney, I am concerned for the general public, and particularly motor vehicle accident (MVA) clients. Why? Because where you ride your bike matters. If you ride your bike on the sidewalk, and are hit by a car, that may impact your ability to seek recovery. Compensation from insurance is often determined by variables. One important variable is what you chose to do to contribute to the accident. Like the choice of where to ride your bike.
Why Does It Matter Where A Bike Is Ridden?
The State of Hawaii and the City and County of Honolulu put a lot of energy into encouraging alternative transportation. More bikes, buses, and walking are all goals for a livable community. The City and County even has a dedicated page to a Bicycle program here.
These efforts are made with safety in mind. Protected bike lanes, enlarged sidewalks, and clear street signs makes streets and sidewalks safer. If you follow the traffic laws, then getting around is predictable for all. However, when a person walks down the middle of the street, or a rides their bike on the sidewalk, it creates an unsafe situation. Why? It makes traversing the area unpredictable. Additionally, it can create animosity between the various roadway users.
Most drivers, or pedestrians, do not expect to see bikes on the sidewalks. If a bike user rides on the sidewalk and is involved in an accident, they could be deemed more at fault than the other person involved. This could mean a bar to recovery for the bike rider. Putting it another way – it may be found that it was the bike rider’s choice to ride on the sidewalk, and getting hurt was their fault, and thus, no recovery.
What Does Honolulu Law Say About the Situation?
Specifically, City and County provides the following on their FAQ page:
Q: Are bicyclists allowed to ride on the sidewalk?
A: The City and County of Honolulu prohibits bicyclists from riding on sidewalks within business districts or where prohibited. In all other areas, bicycles may be ridden on sidewalks provided the speed is 10 mph or less. The bicyclist must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians, giving an audible signal before overtaking them. ROH 15-18.7
The State of Hawaii defines business districts as “the territory contiguous to and including a highway when within any six hundred feet along such highway there are buildings in use for business or industrial purposes, including but not limited to hotels, banks, or office buildings, and public buildings which occupy at least three hundred feet of frontage on one side or three hundred feet collectively on both sides of the highway.” HRS 291C-1
The Government Should Continue Their Effort To Better Educate Tourists
Many people ride bikes on the sidewalks. My understanding, from transportation specialists, is that in many other countries riding on the sidewalk is the norm. My business partner, Ryan, recently attended the Honolulu Society of Business Professionals (HSBP) Multimodal Transportation Luncheon. The attendees and presenters echoed the same in their experiences. Todd Boulanger, the Executive Director of Biki (Honolulu’s bike share service) understands this issue as well. Biki is working on ways to educate their customers, so they do not hurt themselves by riding on sidewalks when they should not. Perusing Biki’s website, I see they provide information in other Japanese about Biki services.
However, the government can and should continue to better educate the public about where to legally ride their bike. Ideally, this will help prevent accidents, whether riding on sidewalks is due to this cultural difference or not. Further, for educated bike riders that do get into accidents, at least they were following the law, and the path to recovery is more predictable.
What Else Do You Think Can Be Done: Improving Cyclists’ Safety And Transportation Means
What can Honolulu do to alleviate these problems? Please email me your thoughts. I am happy to discuss this issue with you. Or if you have ideas, maybe we can approach a legislator to introduce a bill for the legislative process. I think there are opportunities to make Honolulu a safe bike riding city for all.