Do You Schluff Enough?

Robert Sullivan, author of the biking etiquette piece that sparked some heated discussion in the comments earlier in the week, presents this video introducing the concept of "schluffing." He says the word is meant to evoke "a kind of sleepy riding" not to be confused with schlepping, which this technique helps to minimize. (The origin of the term, I’m told, has something to do with the Yiddish word shlofn.) Etymology aside, the video makes it pretty clear what he’s getting at:

We present schluffing as an alternative
to riding a bike on the sidewalk. We present schluffing as a Third Way,
a particular kind of compromise that bikers are great at, as opposed to
car drivers.

I’ll have to give this schluffing thing a try. Usually if I want to put one foot on the ground I’ll keep straddling the bike, but this seems like a better approach for that last block on the trip home, before I get to my front door.

  • anonymous

    My guess is The Law will not be open enough to nuance to consider “schluffing” distinct from riding. In essence, schluffing is not much different than skateboarding or scootering anyway, which are both forbidden on sidewalks.

    All the same, if you’re more concerned about pedestrian safety and less the law then schluffing probably is an improvement.

  • Omri

    This method limits your speed and forces you to pay a lot more attention to pedestrians since you have to plan how to avoid them, BUT…

    It’s absolute murder on your pedal axle, specifically the left crank and the bottom bracket. Because of leverage, the force of your pedaling is amplified over 10 time at the axle there. The left crank is designed to be the first thing to wear out and fall off as a result (because it’s easier to replace than the actual axle). Standing on the left pedal is murder on the crank, and what’s worse is that it also increases the risk of a broken bottom bracket.

    I have a rack on my bike, and when I load it, the bike serves very nicely as a cart. When you’re on the side walk, walk the bike.

  • Bongo

    This is new? It’s what you do when you approach your destination with (some) speed. You take your right foot off the pedal, swing your right leg over the bike, and then hit the brakes as you approach the bike rack / railing / fence. When the bike comes to a stop you can put both feet on the ground and lock the bike.
    ‘Schluffing’ (sleeping) is exhausting when the wheels are not spinning fast enough (gyroscope precession/nutation) i.e. when you’re not pedaling. So it’s not for long distances.

  • I have been doing this for years. Good for sidewalks provided you don’t go too fast.

    What’s tricky is not losing your balance!

  • That is also what I did when my kids just learned to ride. I schluffed alongside them.

  • mfs

    I have been doing this as well for some time, especially when with a friend who doesn’t have a bike. I recommend not crossing your legs as the dude in the video is doing.

    I believe this is technically against the law, which requires that you straddle the bicycle, at least while riding in the street. I do not know if this applies to schulffing on the sidewalk.

  • @Omri

    The left crank and pedal axle pressure issue isn’t such a big deal for alot of people.

    If the bike has higher end parts on it, it shouldn’t matter too much, and if the rider doesn’t way more than 150 pounds it’s also less of an issue. Schluffing is still safer than riding on the sidewalk..

  • t

    Why is it so hard to obey the law and walk your bike for one or two blocks? City drivers often have to park their cars blocks away from their homes or final destinations, so why do we, as cyclists, feel we are entitled to bike the last inch of our ride, even in a “schluffy” way? If getting on the sidewalk is safer or easier than riding the last block, I get off my bike and walk. Seems pretty simple, especially if we’re talking about the PR battle in Sullivan’s article. I don’t really have a problem with the “technique” in the video, especially if the sidewalk isn’t crowded, but it seems the real technique should be using common sense.

  • zach

    My college years were full of schluffing. Biking on campus was newly forbidden, and enforced, but campus was big, so everyone schluffed around, ready to dismount at the sight of blue uniforms. Ah, the memories.

  • What’s wrong with old-fashioned walking?

    If you did this in the subways you would still get a ticket. A few years ago I saw someone straddling their bike and pushing it along and he got a ticket. I was very happy, no one should ride even partially in the subways.

    And I think that etiquette needs to apply to sidewalks – for the most part. After all, there are some sidewalks in less populated areas that almost never have peds on them. As long as you use common sense, a momentary jaunt on a sidewalk is okay by me. For example, if I am riding my nabe of Red Hook there are some cobblestone streets that are horrible to ride, if there is no one on the sidewalk and I am in a remote area – I might ride a block or two. But never somewhere like Park Slope, Midtown, or anywhere it is busy.

  • christine

    Bravo Clarence well said. As a pedestrian advocate (CHEKPEDS) I am hundred percent with you. As bicyclists approach the sidewalk, they must dismount and walk next to their bikes. At this point they become pedestrians. Period. That’s the law folks!

    What would you all say if car drivers proposed that driving very slowly on the sidewalk, with a foot touching the floor is ok? Do you see the mounted police ride on the sidewalk? Do you all stay on your bike inside the hallway of your building? inside your appartment? Yes? then bike access in building law is at risk. No? so why do it on the sidewalk?

    This is yesterday’s discussion: Our mission is to make bicycling a true transportation option, which means hundreds of thousands of people will use this mode. Because let’s face it, we need way more people to ride on the bike lanes, for those to be a viable infrastructure that the next admistration retains. So the key fight now is to get masses of people on bikes..
    Pedestrians and bicyclists should be united to take space and respect away from the car culture. By scaring pedestrians , bicyclists are losing a key ally in this battle. As long as bicyclists do not respect the law of the road, we will not win the fight to make this a viable mode of transportation for the masses. Sorry guys, its time to conform, become exemplary, cherish and respect the pedestrians. Please do get off your bike on the sidewalk.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Why is walking your bike on the sidewalk such a good solution? Walking a bike on the sidewalk hogs up a lot of space. It’s almost the equivalent o two people walking abreast.

    When cyclists need to detour onto a sidewalk because of some safety condition in the street, I’d prefer to see them riding slowly, politely and not trying to pass anyone. But, by all means, stay on your bike. You take up less space that way. I think that’s being considerate.

  • Doug

    At the risk of feeding what seems like a troll and his comment…

    Walking your bike provides a sense of control that is important to both the bike owner and the pedestrians he or she passes. That’s why it’s a good solution. As Christine said, building trust between peds and bikers is very important.

    Regardless of the space one takes up, I’m in little danger of falling or hitting someone if I walk my bike. (At least not in a way that could injure someone else.) Yes, it takes up a lot of space, but if your concern is that you’re taking up too much space on a crowded sidewalk, then you definitely shouldn’t be riding your bike there!

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Speak for yourself, Doug. The times when I ride on a sidewalk, I usually have a kid on the back of my bike. Walking the bike with 35 pounds of child sitting in the Topeak seat is awkward, cumbersome and even a little bit dangerous. It is much easier, safer and more controllable — at least, for me — to just ride very slowly and considerately at walking speed when I’m near pedestrians. Or I just pull over and wait until a group of people pass and then go on my way.

    When I’m riding the bike — slowly and considerately, mind you — I am taking up no more of the sidewalk’s width than any other pedestrian. When I walk the bike I’m taking up the space of virtually the entire sidewalk. I’m not doing anyone any favors by walking the bike. There is absolutely no question that my solution is the safest solution for me and my young passenger and the most considerate solution for the pedestrians I encounter on my path.

    If I get hit with a summons for this, so be it. If I get hit with three summonses, then I’ll consider simply driving everywhere instead of biking. I guess that’s what the city and these bikes-on-the-sidewalk cranks would prefer of me.

    Here’s the law that I follow when I’m biking. It’s pretty simple really:

    Prime directive: Keep myself and my kid safe. Assume that no one on the street sees me or is considering our safety or well-being.

    #2: Be extraordinarily safe and considerate towards pedestrians, even though so many of them so often endanger me by their incessant jay-walking.

    #3: Take NYC’s signs, signals, street designs and traffic regulations as suggestions rather than rules. Be aware that — with some recent, notable exceptions — NYC has spent the last 70 years designing its streets for the benefit and convenience of motorists. These streets, for the most part, do not meet your needs as a cyclist. So, improvise accordingly.

    These three rules are pretty much all we need out there.

  • Lee


    When you ring the bell, amazingly,
    most people step out of the way.

    If you don’t have a bell. Get one now.

    If the Bell doesn’t work, get off the bike and walk it around them.

    If you’re in too much of a hurry to walk, you shouldn’t be on the sidewalk.

  • bc

    Sullivan is seeming stupider and stupider. He basically just wants everyone to do what he does? Terrible article in the times about how cyclists need to obey the law followed by a video about how to get away with riding on the sidewalk?

  • The only time I ever fell off my bike (ouch!) since learning to ride, I was schluffing. No more of that. It does not seem as safe as walking or riding.
    I’m with Clarence, Doug and Marty on etiquette.

  • Ken

    To me, the whole point is not what the sometimes dumn and inflexible letter of the law happens to be, but rather to not scare the bejeezus out of pedestrians. I never ride on sidewalks unless I have a good reason to (avoiding cobblestones, for example). If there are any peds around whom I might conceivably startle, I walk or schluff. As a ped (which all of us are at one time or another), I know that seeing a cyclist schluffing is a lot less threatening than one riding by me. I also don’t believe that schluffing qualifies as “riding” in the legal sense and I’d be more than willing to argue the point before a traffic judge. I schluff, therefore I am (polite)!

  • Notice that in the video, he was schluffing as long as the sidewalk was empty, but he started walking as soon as he approached pedestrians. The benefit of schluffing rather than riding is that it lets you shift to walking easily.

    As far as the pedestrians are concerned, this is no more threatening than someone walking a bike, but for the bicyclist, it saves lots of time over walking.

  • bc

    obviously it’s a gray area. however, if the argument sullivan makes is that we cyclists need a pr campaign, and that we need to work hard to change public perception, etc etc, then it is not a significant enough distinction from riding. just walk on the sidewalk and ride on the street, no need to do a halfway thing. if he is worried about perceptions, you can’t know how peds will react to it, and i really bristle at his logic that it’s ok because he doesn’t mind it.

  • Zach what school did you go to where biking was banned?

  • Chris

    Give me a freaking break. This is pathetic and doesn’t help advance any pro-cycling causes.

  • Keram2

    Seriously? This is a thing?

  • Keram2

    Locking your bike to a parking meter is like asking to have your bike stolen (especially if you aren’t using a U-Lock). More bike racks please.

  • “Walking a bike on the sidewalk hogs up a lot of space. It’s almost the equivalent o two people walking abreast.”

    You’re ignoring the amount of empty space that you demand around you. A slowing-moving anything (bike, ped, car) requires less empty space around it to account for unpredicted actions by it or things around it. This is why cars go slower in heavy traffic.

    When you are moving fast, you require several feet – or tens of feet – in front of you, and several feet on either side for safety.

    “There is absolutely no question that my solution is the safest solution for me and my young passenger and the most considerate solution for the pedestrians I encounter on my path.”

    There is absolutely not “absolutely no question.” In fact, there is strong evidence to the contrary of that statement. Just try walking down a sidewalk while cyclists ride past.

  • jim



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