HOWEVER! Amy, one of the wonderful (and fellow) Trek Women Who Ride, pointed this out to me in a comment:
What if the road you are on is just really, really terrible? What if you've chosen the best route possible and you just have to ride along this crummy street and riding in the road spells s-c-a-r-y a-s s-h-i-t. And to top it off, you're an experienced commuter that understands the risks of riding on the sidewalk and will take special precautions to prevent these particular dangers.
Then, YES-- in my PERSONAL opinion.. I think that it would be appropriate to ride on the sidewalk.
Hey RJ! I agree - cyclists on the sidewalk (especially going the opposite way!!!) are generally not a good idea. However, I do have my daughter ride on the sidewalk while I'm in the road (going with traffic on the right side). I take her on-road when I feel it's safe, but overall I just find kids to be way too unpredictable to have in the road. Even responsible and knowledgeable (my daughter's been urban biking for half her little 6 year old life) kids on bikes make mistakes that could be disastrous - swerving out to avoid something, not paying attention, etc. I do teach her to be on the lookout for cars coming out of driveways and parking lots (and I look too), and she MUST ask pedestrians for the right to pass when coming up behind them. That's the only time I see sidewalk riding as necessary. I haven't really had any experiences as an adult that I felt was safer on a sidewalk, but I live in a pretty bike friendly place. Anyway, good blog!!
I absolutely agree with everything that Amy said! The demographic that I was scolding (in my mind) for riding on the sidewalk were those 13 years old and up. But what DO you do when you got a wee little one and they really DON'T know how to behave in traffic? A trailer or a tag-a-long only work for so long until they need to ride on their own. I think that Amy's solves the problem well by riding WITH her daughter. Amy can act as the adult eyes and ears for her daughter, while motorists are more likely to see Amy and stop when appropriate.
But REALLY what we need-- is better bicycling infrastructure. In the Netherlands, the kids go on FIELD TRIPS by BICYCLE. And no, they're not wearing helmets-- that's because cycling is so, so much safer there (and it's fairly safe even here!). In the Netherlands, it would be like wearing a helmet to walk down the stairs.