11 Oct 2016

Elderly pay when cyclists use footpaths - advocate

From Nights, 7:10 pm on 11 October 2016
Kid on bike

Kid on bike Photo: ( pixabay / Richo.Fan CC BY 2.0)

In New Zealand, it's illegal for anyone to ride on the footpath unless they are delivering mail or newspapers, or riding a bike with wheels less than 355mm diameter (typically a child's tricycle or small bike).

But an advocate for pedestrians says walkers and cyclists just don’t mix.

Still, there is a push to allow some cyclists to legally share the footpath with pedestrians.

Jo Clendon from Wellington wants children under 12 and the over 65s to be able to cycle on the footpath and has successfully petitioned Parliament's transport select committee to look into the matter

In Australia, most states allow children to cycle legally on the footpath, but age limits vary by state.

Dr Ben Rossiter from Victoria Walks tells Nights that when two forms of transport share the same path the dominant one always wins. 

What’s more, it is seniors who come off worst when the footpath is used by cyclists, For the elderly a shared footpath is distracting and unsafe, he says.

Dr Ben Rossiter

Dr Ben Rossiter Photo: Supplied

“We know from research that on shared paths seniors are discouraged from walking because of the fear of falling.”

And a fall for an older person can be catastrophic.

“If you fall and do your hip, you’ve got an up to 40 percent chance you’ll be dead in 12 months. It completely alters your life, mobility and independence.

“Things that take attention away from their feet is really critical, it just doesn’t mix.”

Dr Rossiter says the data indicates cyclists are no safer on the footpath, anyway.

“Research suggests it’s particularly hazardous for cyclists – a 1.8 to 16 times greater risk than cycling on the road because of cars going in and out of driveways and turning corners.”  

Allowing cyclists onto footpaths is the thin end of the wedge, he says, and the answer is for roads to be made safer for cycling.

“Footpaths are for walking, talking, loving, living, playing... They’re the basis of our community and public space and have to be looked after.”