Does your mother not let you ride on the road?

Share Nicely. CC-BY Anton Angelo

Recently a Christchurch cyclist told me this story. A workmate of hers approached her, soon after he had started. “Do you remember”, he asked, “shouting ‘Does your mother not let you ride on the road?’ at someone riding on the footpath on Antigua Street about three or four months ago?” My friend thought, and replied, “No, but that does sound like something I’d say”. “Well, that was me”, the new workmate said.

Other than the fact we all say things we may regret in the cold light of day, or even five minutes later, since the earthquake it seems very normal to ride on the footpath in Christchurch. Officially sanctioned, even. In Dunedin, I’ve known friends get ticketed for it. Here, some parts of the official cycle routes encourage you to zip up a driveway, and negotiate a pavement corner or two to get to the pedestrian/cycle crossing. Multi-lane through ways with heavy traffic flows, pavements empty of pedestrians beg to be ridden on. Combined with many legitimate shared paths and a general sense of ‘whatever it takes to get you moving’ laissez faire post-quake, the footpaths are well utilised.

My question is, will that last? A few public cyclist/pedestrian crashes (or run-ins between a bike and labradoodle) will raise the issue of pedestrian – cyclist safety.

So, should we eschew pavement riding, or have we come to realise that footpaths, shared sensibly, are the pragmatic place to ride on occasion?

6 thoughts on “Does your mother not let you ride on the road?”

  1. I enjoyed the read thanks , and am happy to contribute to a pedestrian vs cyclist debate which in my opinion has always been an issue and even more so now .

    Put simply it seems that many motorists are fed up with those that bike on the roads, and pedestrians quite rightly are concerned when there is biking on the footpaths that aren’t designated shared pathways. That is why cycle-ways are so important , people who bike are not going to go away and nor should they. It is a central and local government responsibility to see that infrastructure is appropriate for all transport choices .

    In the mean time, I think a lot of footpath riding is due to a combination of convenience and “survival ‘ in a hostile roading system that has been developed by vehicle drivers , for vehicle drivers . Being marginalised throws away the incentive for law-abiding activity .

    Providing those biking on the footpath extend the same courtesy to pedestrians as they expect when on the roads in amongst vehicular traffic things can amble along nicely

    The reality is different as we know . So the only solution will be to develop roading and pedestrian areas with all transport options getting equal consideration. Until that can happen, the issue will remain an issue . Curletts Road would be a useful place to start .

    To tell a related story , recently I rode my bike ( with cargo trailer ) into a hardware yard to purchase some timber. I did what any vehicle would do and parked alongside the timber required . There were a number of other vehicles parked and people walking around . A concerned employee told me to take “extreme” care whilst in this area . I did not see any of the pedestrians wearing high-viz gear unlike myself, so wondered why a vehicle/truck would run me over instead of them . It was nice to be warned of dangers ( I suspect the company were trying to cover their liabilities , bless them ) but the irony is once back onto the road I was putting myself at extreme risk ( my perception) from the seemingly deliberate actions from the very same trades vehicles ( possibly ) who seem to have no comprehension of what a 0.5 metre space between vehicles and those on bikes is , let alone what 1.5 metre means . Funny old world I thought .

  2. I’m torn. On the one hand, I believe that cyclists shouldn’t ride on the footpath, except perhaps at pedestrian walking speed, and with diligent use of a bell. Riding on the footpath in the suburbs greatly increases your chances of getting cleaned up by a car coming out of a driveway.

    On the other hand, there are plenty of places where it’s the only tenable option.

    Adding to the confusion is the way that many streets around the CBD have markings suggesting that they can be used by bikes, but it’s not clear where these start and stop.

  3. The quick answer is that “footpaths, shared sensibly, are the pragmatic place to ride on occasion”. However, given the current legal situation, I think maybe “shared sensibly” might be overstepping the mark slightly. My stand would be that, on footpaths cyclists should always ride slowly (<~10km/h), absolutely always give way to pedestrians and have a generally humble and grovelling attitude, so as not to offend legitimate users and avoid the attentions of the constabulary.

  4. I don’t ride on the footpath. If I need to go on the footpath I dismount and walk. If they wanted you to bike on the footpath, they would call it a bike path.

    The one that irks me most is cyclists going onto the path to turn left to beat the red at a set of lights. I have no problem with people getting off their bike, walking on the path to go round the corner, but to ride the path or go through the red light on the road, just to save themselves 20 seconds.

    Basically, if we want respect from motorists, then obey the rules.

  5. I agree with Peter about footpaths being for feet and I abhor cyclists who cut corners to bypass red lights. However, I do use the shared portion outside CPIT on Madras Street daily to access CPIT where I work. I am not sure why the shared it there but I always feel much relieved when I get on to it for the last 100 m of my trip to work. Other than that I agree totally with Stephen – footpaths are really dangerous for cyclists or anyone who can not hear a car coming down a driveway and stop in time. I can’t believe parents allow their children to bike to school on the footpaths because “it is safer”. It was common when I WALKED my son to school to have at least one near miss a week and I was always aware.

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