Do the right thing

Dear Ace: Am I allowed to ride my bike on the sidewalk?—Nancy Armstrong

Nancy: Ace understands that you just want to ride your bicycle and ride it where you like. And, trying not to hit you brave bikers when cruising around town in the Acemobile, Ace would definitely be amenable to the idea that you could slip up on the sidewalk when necessary.

But, when he got Sargeant Michael Farruggio on the blower, his dream was deflated. The Sarge told Ace, after looking on his (and this is a direct quote) “handy-dandy computer” to get the exact answer, that riding on sidewalks is strictly prohibited.

According to city code section 15-246, “No person shall ride a bicycle, an electric power-assisted bicycle or moped on any sidewalk or other area designated exclusively for pedestrian traffic.” This includes, of course, the Downtown Mall, the Sarge pointed out.

The code continues, mentioning that only on-duty police officers and “uniformed emergency service personnel” (such as the rescue squad) are exempt from this rule and that “roller-skates, rollerblades, skateboards, scooters, or similar devices on wheels or runners” are definitely not allowed on the Mall. That means you, Children with Wheels in Your Tennis Shoes. Ace is a friend to the wee ones, but when they’re walking next to him in the grocery store and suddenly begin to glide down the isles, he tends to get panicky. The same principle can be applied to the Mall, where you’ll find Ace daily.

After all of these restrictions had been thrown around, Ace got to wondering what happens if, by accident, you are forced to cycle on the sidewalk. Sargeant Farruggio pointed him in the direction of the Virginia state code, which says, “A violation of any ordinance adopted pursuant to this section shall be punishable by a c ivil penalty of not more than $50.” The words “not more than” are a small comfort, but $50 is still a pretty penny to pay for a little convenience. So, says Ace, when it comes to biking, why don’t you do it in the road?

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 18 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to

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