Government wants feedback about whether cycling on footpaths should be allowed

Hamish Cardwell writing for RNZ

The government wants feedback on whether to change the rules to allow people to ride bikes on the footpath.

Options in the Transport Agency's (NZTA) Accessible Streets consultation package released on Monday include allowing everyone to ride on the footpath, or only people under 16, or to continue to ban it.

It's part of a raft of possible changes including imposing a 15 km/h hour speed limit and a 75cm width limit on all wheeled transport using the footpath - including e-scooters.

Riders would have to give way to pedestrians and people in wheelchairs.

Other possible changes include imposing a minimum distance for vehicles when they overtake bikes, horses, e-scooters and other wheeled transport. Cars would have to allow a 1m gap when the speed limit is 60km/h or less, and 1.5m when going faster than that.

E-scooters, skateboards and other transport devices would be allowed to use bike lanes, but scooters would need front and rear lights and reflectors.

Vehicles would have to give way to buses pulling out of bus stops.

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said many of the ideas were about bringing the law into line with how people actually used the roads.

There would be changes to the rules to let cyclists and other wheeled transport pass slow-moving vehicles on the left-hand side - allowing them to the front of queues of cars stopped at intersections.

They would also be allowed to ride straight ahead out of a left-turning lane.

"This package looks at how we can make our streets safer for those going from A to B, particularly young children when they are learning to ride bikes, and ensuring our road rules reflect real life," Genter said.

Julie Anne Genter.
Julie Anne Genter. Photo credit: Newshub.

Cycles on footpaths a good start, but bike lanes crucial

Jo Clendon, who organised a petition in 2016 calling for cyclists to be allowed on footpaths, said the current rules forced parents to tell their children to break the law and ride on the footpath in order to keep safe.

"As parents we want to bring up our kids so they think that the law is the law.

"When they get behind the wheel at 16 we want them to think the speed limit is the speed limit, the blood alcohol limits are the blood alcohol limits. We don't want them to think 'oh those don't apply to me'.

"I just hated that contradiction."

She said the change would allow parents and schools to show young people how to safely navigate footpaths.

But she said ultimately, allowing bikes on the footpath was a stop-gap measure - and more cycle paths were desperately needed.

Patrick Morgan from Cycling Action Network said it has been campaigning on safe passing laws for years.

"Unsafe overtaking is scary and dangerous. It has to stop. A safe passing law will clarify what safe passing looks like, so all drivers know what is expected. It will provide the Police a new tool to enforce safe road use."

He said he welcomed the idea of allowing e-scooters into bike lanes.

"E-scooters are popular and here to stay. I welcome this review of rules, which brings traffic laws into line with common sense."

'Who's going to come off worse?': Pedestrian advocate slams idea

Chris Teo-Sherrell from the Footpaths for Feet coalition said the proposed speed limit was not far off the pace of a good marathon runner - which was far too fast for the footpath.

He said allowing young, inexperienced cyclists to hurtle past vulnerable pedestrians would inevitably have catastrophic results.

"People who are frail ... [say] a 50kg older person who has difficulty walking but still gets out because it is good for their health.

"You imagine somebody coming along even at 15km/h and let's say they're a 100kg person ... what's that impact is going to [like]?

"Who's going to come off worse?"

Mr Teo-Sherrell said the proposal would leave some people too scared to walk the streets - the opposite of the Government's aim from the proposal which was to encourage active transportation and improve pedestrian safety.

"And this will apply especially for people with disabilities, people who are frail, people who have cognitive impairments that make them confused when this fast moving objects around them - all sorts of people.

"And also just people that don't want to have somebody whizzing by them at 15km/h.

The consultation runs until 21 April with any rules to take effect in the 2020-2021 financial year.

RNZ

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