Update July 2018
NSW Government announced that the footpath riding age would increase to 15. This is fantastic news for children. This will encourage them to continue to cycle. However it now means NSW differs from most other states in Australia who have legalised footpath riding for all ages.
Bike riding in NSW is in crisis. Currently only 12.5% of the NSW population ride a bike once per week – the lowest in Australia. With the National average sitting at 15.5% and the ACT with the highest at 46.5%, NSW is falling behind.
Disturbingly in the past few weeks, there has been a number of bicycle rider deaths and serious injuries on NSW roads. Not to mention, the high number of Bicycle NSW Members who have reported their near passes on the road. What else can Bicycle NSW do to make bike riding safer and more appealing?
“There needs to be a change in the current cycling environment in NSW. Children are being forced to ride on the road at the age of 12. Adults who are re-discovering bike riding are being left with no option but to battle the roads. This is not an environment that encourages bike riding. Bicycle NSW has and always will advocate to create a better environment for cycling.”
“Today, I proudly announce that we are supporting footpath riding for all ages in NSW.” Stated Craig Meagher, Bicycle NSW CEO, “We are thankful to local, state and federal governments for the work they have already achieved for bike riding in NSW but now we are calling for more action.”
We strongly encourage everybody to enjoy life on a bike. However, the current laws do not make this easy. Not everybody is comfortable riding on roads and children aged 12 should not be forced to ride there either. Presently in NSW, footpath riding is illegal for the majority of riders. Only children under 12, and those supervising them are legally able to ride on footpaths. This however doesn’t encourage children to continue being physically active when their safe riding path has been removed. It does not encourage older riders who are new, or those less confident to feel safe when they are riding.
As a form of active transport, bike riding will increase a bicycle rider’s overall physical and mental health. With an increasingly obsese and unhealthy country, why are we not supporting more ways to increase the health of Australians? Bike riding is a great form of exercise and also enables riders to explore their local area or commute to work. Getting more people riding, can ease the strain on roads and public transport. A benefit for riders and the environment.
When a child turns 12 in NSW they are forced to make the transition from riding on the footpath to riding on a road. At this age children do not have the cognitive ability to ride on the road and mix with other vehicles safely. Unfortunately, making this transition often sees children turn away from bike riding as they no longer see it as a safe option for recreation, transport or fun. We want to encourage children to stay active for as long as possible to ensure their physical and mental wellbeing.
As an active form of transport that is getting more people out of cars and off public transport, bike riding should be encouraged for all ages. Unfortunately, the road can be an intimidating place for inexperienced riders, seniors and women. Providing a safe zone for these riders will encourage them to cycle more and to cycle further. Where segregated cycleways are not provided, having the footpath as a safe option is should be viable.
For other riders with less confidence, footpath riding will create a place away from danger. When in a difficult and dangerous position on the road, cyclists should have a space where they can be safe – footpaths are the answer. They will have the choice to ride slower in a safer place when they feel in danger.
For Bicycle NSW, we see footpath riding as a way for people to be more physically active and to keep cyclists safe.
We understand that some areas in the community will see issues with footpath riding. Education will be key to ensuring that bike riders understand the care and common courtesy required when riding on the footpaths around pedestrians. Education will also inform pedestrians, motor vehicle drivers and bike riders that footpath riding is ok.
Bicycle NSW further encourages the connectivity of the bicycle network across NSW, by advocating for cyclists to ride across pedestrian crossings.
Currently, bike riders need to hop off their bike and walk across intersections, unless at a signalised crossing where a bicycle lantern is provided. In many situations, a shared path or cycleway exists on either side of an intersection, but legally a rider must dismount and wheel their bike across the crossing.
This situation leads to a lack of continuity and connectivity in the bicycle network, and is therefore another disincentive to ride.
Bicycle NSW further proposes that when a rider comes to a pedestrian crossing:
At present drivers can be easily confused about when they need to give way to bicycle riders on crossings. Some crossings have bicycle lanterns, some special bicycle crossing are parallel to pedestrian crossings. Allowing bicycle riders to legally use crossings would be more consistent and remove any doubts. Providing a safer environment for both the bike rider and also the motor vehicle driver on the road.
Why Bicycle NSW supports riding on footpaths in NSW?
Bicycle NSW supports bike riding for the physical, mental and environmental benefits. Increasing bike riding numbers in NSW by enabling cyclists to ride on footpaths is one of the many ways we can encourage an active future.