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I just started bike commuting, and the two times I've gotten flats were when I was biking on the sidewalk, and in both cases they seemed pretty random. I use a mountain bike. Is it just a coincidence or is there more to it?

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I would say semi-concidence. Least likely to puncture, as Moz says, is an actual vehicle roadway, since it's effectively cleared by the passing traffic. –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 29 '13 at 0:57
    
What punctured the tire, was it glass slivers, thorns or other objects? Are the sidewalks in urban / commercial areas or residential neighborhoods? In my area, the sidewalks and trails are typically much cleaner than the sides of the roads. –  Joe Oct 2 '13 at 3:44
    
Karma. Unless - and hopefully - you are referring to shared use facilities; riding on the pavement is anti-social and should be avoided. –  Unsliced Oct 2 '13 at 10:45
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2 Answers 2

There's almost certainly more debris on the sidewalk.

Sidewalks are swept less often, and vehicle movement pushes debris off the travelled areas. You can more easily see the latter on wet days - there will be wheeltracks from motor vehicles with much wetter areas between. The worst areas are the edges of major roads, where debris gets pushed into the bike lane by passing motor vehicles.

On my ride to work the most puncture-prone area is where the bike path crosses a major road - there's a shield wall between the road and nearby houses and at the break in that wall is a small space for people to wait before crossing. That acts as a dust trap for all the stuff thrown up from the road and is rarely or never swept. It's common to see broken glass, sharp metal fragments and even nails in this spot.

I often carry a pair of secateurs and a small hand broom in my pannier so I can clear plants and debris from the bike path. It's a small amount of extra work but it helps a lot, especially on Monday mornings when the bike path often has broken alcohol bottles on it from the weekend.

Sidewalk cycling is also much more dangerous so should be minimised.

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I find that riding on the shoulder of a relatively busy road is pretty puncture-prone, since stuff "lost" (or tossed) from the vehicles ends up there. Another hazardous (to tires) area is any area where there's construction. (But, as you say, riding on sidewalks has been shown repeatedly to be more dangerous than riding in the street.) –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 29 '13 at 0:56
    
It depends I suppose on the community. In my riding areas, sidewalks and trails are always much cleaner than the sides of streets including those with dedicated bike lanes. There is way more 'drunk' and accident glass on the streets than sidewalks or trails. Yes, you are more likely to get hurt on the sidewalks but an accident on the street is more likely to be fatal than on any sidewalk or trail. We have had 3 or 4 bike deaths in the Boulder county area in the last year or so and none of them were on a sidewalk or trail. –  Joe Oct 2 '13 at 3:56
    
Where trails cross roadways is a very dangerous area. It's generally much safer to ride on the road than cross it. And on residential sidewalks getting rammed by someone backing out of their driveway is a significant risk. Both scenarios have a high probability of serious injury or death. –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 2 '13 at 11:03
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I guess (I never ride on the sidewalk) that, if your tires aren't properly inflated then you may be more likely to get a "pinch flat": because you'll be hitting and climbing kerbs more often.

Also, when I got bored of getting flats during commuting, I changed my tires to (puncture resistant) 'Marathon Plus' touring tires.

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