@Franko Yeah I'd thought of how to incorporate a bell of some kind and have been stuck for ideas. I'll go by the local shoppe to see if there are ones that could be hung from the belt in that way.
Some numbers on my commute that are relevant to my route and speed (which are the ultimate determinate of road v. sidewalk).
My commute is 2 miles. If I'm pushing my board hard for the full ride in a way that requires roads (15mph) I get to work 4 minutes earlier. Not a big difference to take it slower (10mph) and less white knuckled on the same route.
If I take a longer but more chill route (2.5 mi), it only adds 3 min from the original route. Yes it is a big percentage difference from 15mph/2mi and 10mph/2.5 mi, but in total elapsed time only 7 min. And if I really need to get to work that much sooner I should be taking my bike.
All that to say there is a strong case to be made for taking it slower on more out the way but empty streets than trying to run&gun on the most direct route. Added benefit of less sidewalk riding.