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Community organisations opposing cyclists on footpaths

Community organisations unite to oppose cyclists on footpaths

Many of New Zealand's leading community organisations*, including Grey Power, the Blind Foundation and CCS Disability Action, are opposing plans to let cyclists share pavements with pedestrians.

Dr Lynley Hood, spokesperson for the Visual Impairment Charitable Trust Aotearoa says:

“Cyclists and pedestrians are being pushed into conflict, which is sad, because both groups are vulnerable road users.”

“Cycling is healthy and fun; we all support it. However, cycling and pedestrians have different priorities, and it’s important that those priorities don’t clash.”

“In order to stay upright, a bicycle has to be driven at a speed that is far faster than many pedestrians. The very old, the very young and the visually impaired are particularly at risk, because they may not see a cyclist approaching until it’s too late.”

Dr Hood, adds:

“Cyclists themselves are often innocent victims of unaware motorists, but moving cycles off roads and onto footpaths doesn’t remove the risk to cyclists, but greatly increases the risk to pedestrians.”

In addition to the risks facing pedestrians, cyclists themselves are at high risk from cars suddenly emerging from driveways, says Dr Hood.

Clive Matthew-Wilson, editor of the car review website dogandlemon.com, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, believes that cyclists need to be separated from both cars and pedestrians.

“Cyclists are among the most vulnerable road users. Every single one of my friends who cycle regularly has had a potentially-fatal clash with a motor vehicle.”

“The only real way to protect cyclists from these clashes is to separate them from motorists. Cycle lanes are a good start, but ultimately, there needs to be a physical barrier between cyclists and motor vehicles, so the two can’t collide. Just as important, cyclists need to be separated from pedestrians, because walkers and cyclists often can’t safely share the same space.”

The grim facts:

• Between 2006 and 2015, almost four times as many pedestrians (348) as cyclists (90) were killed on New Zealand roads. Pedestrian deaths among people over 65 (104) also outnumbered total cyclist deaths (90) over that period.

• Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary in its own data, the Ministry of Transport claims that walking is one of the safest modes of travel available”*

• Elderly pedestrians are particularly at risk: between 2006 and 2015, 30% of pedestrian deaths and 23% of cyclist deaths involved people aged 65 and over.

• The Ministry’s Crash Facts 2015 often blames pedestrians for their own deaths, even when it’s clear that many pedestrians, especially elderly pedestrians, were actually innocent victims.

Release ends. For more information call Dr Lynley Hood, 027 222 9279, or Clive Matthew-Wilson, 021 051 6670

* NZ Grey Power Federation, Road Controlling Authorities Forum (NZ) Inc, Blind Citizens NZ, Blind Foundation, CCS Disability Action, Visual Impairment Charitable Trust Aotearoa, Palmerston North City Council, Mid Central Public Health Service, Waiheke and Gulf Islands Grey Power, Grey Power Paeroa, Upper Brook Neighbourhood Support Group, Waikato Regional Council, Morrinsville Grey Power Association, Living Streets Otautahi Christchurch, Spokes Canterbury.

Dr Hood's submission to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, Parliament, Thursday November 3, 2016

In summary: VICTA’s submission is that cycling on footpaths won’t work. Mainly because it’ll make cyclists and pedestrians even more unsafe, but also because the age and speed limits proposed by the petitioner will be impossible to enforce, or even to monitor.

However VICTA endorses the petitioner’s case for active transport, and propose that the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee address the issue by supporting the far safer and far more popular form of active transport: walking.


To expand on these points -

The proposed changes won’t work because most road accidents involving cyclists don’t involve motor vehicles. Whether they’re on the road or on the footpath, hospital statistics show that cyclists injure themselves most often by falling off their bikes and hitting things, and there are far more things to hit on footpaths.

There are trees and shrubs and tree roots on footpaths. There are lampposts and rubbish bins and dogs on leads. There are pushchairs and wheelchairs and mobility scooters and skateboards and small children rushing about unpredictably. There are joggers jogging. There are cars exiting and entering driveways. There are elderly and disabled people shuffling along with walking sticks and walking frames.

Furthermore, the developmental factors that make child cyclists unsafe on roads (immature motor skills, immature vision and balance, difficulty judging speed and distance, and so on) also make them unsafe on footpaths.

And then there’s the reality that, whether they’re on the road or on the footpath, cyclists still have to cross intersections, and that’s where most collisions between cyclists and motor vehicles occur. That’s why parents drive their kids to school, and that’s why they’ll go on driving their kids to school, regardless of what the law says about cycling.


Another point is that the immaturity that puts child cyclists at risk of injuring themselves, also puts them at risk of injuring other people, and especially of injuring pedestrians. And the petitioner’s extraordinary suggestion that people with mental and physical disabilities also ride bikes on footpaths will make all of us even more unsafe.

At the risk of stating the obvious, elderly and disabled people also have poor motor skills, poor vision, poor hearing and poor balance. They too have difficulty judging speed and distance. They too will be a menace to themselves and to others if they’re let loose to cycle on footpaths.

The speed of cyclists will further exacerbate the risk. This is a great concern to elderly and disabled people whose impairments prevent them from cycling or driving. They have no choice but to walk, but they’re not going to leave the house if they’re not safe, or if they don’t feel safe, when they go for a walk along on the footpath.

The NZTA tells mobility scooter users “don’t travel faster than surrounding pedestrians.” But cyclists can’t travel at walking speed. And it doesn’t seem to have occurred to them that this could be a problem. Cycling advocates propose a minimum speed around pedestrians of 8 kph! That’s four times faster than most elderly and disabled people can walk! The notion that 8 kph is a reasonable speed around our most vulnerable pedestrians gives me no confidence at all in the ability of cyclists to understand, or to respect, the needs of pedestrians.


As mentioned, a further consideration is the impossibility of enforcing, or even of monitoring, the age and speed of cyclists on footpaths.


So what’s to be done?

Jo Clendon extols the benefits of physical activity, especially in the form of active transport. And though her submission equates active transport with cycling, there’s another form of active transport that is far more popular, and far safer, than cycling, and that’s walking.

To paraphrase Jo Clendon’s submission: Walking will help children attain skills and independence. It will help them develop their motor skills. Walking to school will reduce traffic congestion.

And as Jo Clendon helpfully points out, active transport benefits communities. Active transport

- reduces social isolation

- improves access to services

- increases positive emotions, and

- increases connections with the environment

And if you achieve those outcomes by walking you’ll be at no risk of falling off your bike in the process.

Thank you

© Scoop Media

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