Have your say on allowing Footpath Cycling

You might recall earlier this year that Lower Hutt mother Jo Clendon was petitioning Government to make it legal for kids to ride their bikes on the footpath. As mentioned previously, currently it is illegal for anyone to ride on an ordinary footpath, unless they have a small child’s bike or are delivering material. Jo’s petition certainly attracted lots (and lots and lots) of media attention, and Parliament’s Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee has decided to ask for public submissions on the matter.

Footpath cycling - common but technically illegal (c/ Simon Edwards)

Footpath cycling – common but technically illegal (c/ Simon Edwards)

Jo exact petition is:

That the House recommend a change to the New Zealand Road Rules to

    • allow cycling on the footpath by children under 14 years of age (and accompanying adults), seniors over the age of 65, and vulnerable users (such as those with mental or physical disabilities);
    • make bells mandatory for any bicycle used on footpaths or shared use paths;
    • and allow local authorities to exclude, on a reasonable basis, certain areas of footpath from being used for cycling.

So you can see that this isn’t a call for allowing blanket use of footpaths by everyone, just certain groups (particularly children) and with the possibility of excluding locations that aren’t practical (e.g. busy pedestrian areas). We also need to be careful not to get confused with separated cycleways and shared pathways (where cycling is already allowed) – this petition is just about allowing cycling on ordinary standard footpaths.

I have some sympathy for the reasoning behind this petition, although I can also see some problems with it. Briefly here are some things to think about regarding the pros and cons:

FOR:

    • Legitimises a practice that is already very common (particularly for young children)
    • May encourage more people to cycle in places where the on-road environment is currently not very cycle-friendly
    • It encourages more use of cycling by young children (whose parents are often concerned about the on-road environment), who lack the cognitive skills to handle road traffic situations
    • It provide an immediate legal option for many would-be cyclists without having to wait until specific cycling facilities are built
    • It allows some children’s bikes currently considered technically too big for footpath riding (>14 inches) to be legally used there
    • One less barrier to encouraging more cycling, with all the environmental and health benefits that brings
    • The proposed rules still allow Councils to identify places where footpath cycling is not appropriate or safe

AGAINST:

    • At least two-thirds of all cycle crashes occur at intersections and driveways, neither of which would be improved with a shift to cycling on the footpath (and may be worse due to reduced sight distances and reaction times)
    • More cycling on footpaths increases the potential for conflicts and injuries with pedestrians and others already legitimately using the footpaths
    • Councils may feel less pressured to provide proper cycling provision (e.g. cycleways, traffic calmed streets) if many less-confident riders already have the footpath as an option
    • No evidence from Australia (where footpath cycling is allowed in many states) that there has been any increase in the amount of cycling happening
    • Higher rates of cycling on footpaths may discourage many more vulnerable pedestrians (elderly, blind, etc) from travelling as much by foot
    • Police are already able to use their discretion to turn a blind eye to footpath cycling that is not causing any concern to others
    • Practically it may be difficult to clearly identify someone who is legally allowed to ride on a footpath (e.g. 13-year old vs 14-year old)
    • Councils can already designate certain footpaths as shared pathways where it is warranted and appropriate

Jo’s Cycling with Kids website has a lot more detailed information to consider as well.

Even some of currently designated shared paths aren't that safe for cycling...

Even some of currently designated shared paths aren’t that safe for cycling…

As it happens, the NZ Transport Agency already has some research underway to look into the whole question of footpath cycling. I think the final results are due in by about the end of the year, so hopefully Parliament will be inclined to wait and see what that concludes and recommends.

You have until Wed 12th Oct to make a submission to Parliament. At a time when the Government is already spending a greatly increased amount on cycling facilities around the country (much of which is also likely to benefit people walking), this current debate is a tricky one.

Do you think we should allow footpath cycling for more vulnerable groups?

7 comments

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

7 Comments

  • Sue Pate
    2 October 2016, 2:14 pm

    Yes, footpath cycling should be allowed for those who cannot safely cycle on the road!

    REPLY
  • Cyclomaniac
    2 October 2016, 7:28 pm

    From my perspective, all kids in NZ deserve safe cycling facilities. Cycling on foothpaths is not safe for adults let alone for kids. I do not understand this campaign to be honest, why not advocate for safe cycling facilities? The issue is that many cycle paths are not safe for young kids and that needs to change. The Victoria St redesign proposal is a recent example of not catering for younger kids. Allowing kids to cycle on foothpaths signals that it is a safe practice and kids could get hurt or worse as a result of it.

    REPLY
  • Chris
    3 October 2016, 8:57 am

    Is there much research/discussion around what sort of cutoff should be used? Or will this be looked at in the NZTA report?

    For example, where did the 14 years old come from, rather than younger or older? I think you would get more widespread support for the idea if you dropped it to kids under 10 or 8. Or what about cutoffs other than age? Could you keep the current wheel diameter limit, but increase it so that more childrens’ bikes qualify? Or base it on behaviour instead – anyone can ride on the footpath as long as they only cycle slowly (say 10km/h).

    REPLY
    • Criggie@Chris
      3 October 2016, 3:15 pm

      Hard to enforce – bicycles don’t require speedos, so it comes down to "an officer’s opinion" which may or may not be accurate. 10 km/h is really slow – about double walking pace, and most school kids could easily exceed 10 km/h for a burst.

      REPLY
  • Jo Clendon
    3 October 2016, 3:58 pm

    My thanks for presenting both sides of the argument in such a well reasoned manner. Some further food for thought for those concerned about whether this is a good direction to head in: https://cyclingwithkids.co.nz/make-it-ok/safe-suitable-strategic-sensible/

    REPLY
    • Jean McLachlan@Jo Clendon
      14 October 2016, 2:19 pm

      I am opposed to cycling on footpaths. What about pedestrians with disabilities who may not see or hear the cyclist coming at them or be unable to get out of the way in time. Some cyclists wobbled about and race at top speed which is why I am opposed. If cycling was allowed it would leave pedestrians in danger.

      REPLY
  • Rich
    4 October 2016, 8:04 am

    I can see why it is wanted, but it is simply too dangerous, will potentially bring cyclists into conflict with pedestrians and also potentially delay proper cycling infrastructure – if indeed it makes any difference at all. I think the current blind-eye approach strikes the right balance.

    REPLY

WE’RE LOOKING FOR CONTRIBUTORS! DO YOU RIDE BIKES IN CHCH?

Featured Post

Latest Comments

Coming Events/Activities

Newsletter Signup