Proposed Rule Changed Welcomed
6 March 2019, Wellington - One step closer to making it legal for kids to do what they do anyway - bike on the footpath.
Today our government announced that they are inviting New Zealanders to have their say about a rule change to allow some people on bikes to use footpaths. This is among a range of changes designed to make our streets safer and more accessible for all users.
This follows the 2016 petition requesting this rule change, and the subsequent report from the Transport and Industrial Relations select committee which recommended a rule change be considered.
It makes sense
Petition organiser, Jo Clendon,says “Kids already bike on the footpath, because not every home and school are connected by cycleways. Their parents let them do it because they know their kids don’t have the skills, experience, or judgement required to safely bike on busy roads mixing with fast moving traffic. This is about making a common practice legal so parents don’t have to choose between breaking the law and the safety of their child”.
Footpaths are for people
Supporters of the rule change are seeking sensible levels of protection for people on footpaths, and this rule change will help with that. It will enable education and awareness raising for both people using footpaths and drivers. By highlighting the importance of footpaths to people, they will no longer just be seen as the gap between a driveway and the road, but rather vital spaces for all people to move, interact and enjoy.
Educate don’t eliminate
By making it legal for kids to bike on the footpath; we will be able to teach them to do it safely and responsibly. Under current rules, school bike training cannot include footpath safety, leaving it up to the kids to make up their own rules and norms. All footpath users will benefit from education around how to move safely past shops, driveways and being considerate of differently abled people of all kinds. And drivers also need education about their duty to give way to everyone on the footpath, walking, jogging, pushing strollers, on scooters or on bikes. A rule change means we can tackle risky behaviour proactively and make our footpaths safer for everyone using them.
Part of a bigger picture
People on bikes are using footpaths to “fill the gaps” between safe places to bike, and the ultimate goal is to have more of those safe places. New Zealanders want healthy, happy and active children who enjoy the freedom to get around by bike. Ultimately this means building more cycleways and adopting safe and appropriate speeds on suburban roads. In the meantime this rule change will help us improve safety by providing a framework for sensible enforcement and proactive education.
Kids learn by doing. Skill development requires lots of practice. This won’t happen if we have to load their bikes on the car and transport them to the local bike track or park.
Stopgap or step on the way?
In Australia, cycling on the footpath is legal and it hasn’t stopped the building of on and off road cycle facilities, especially Brisbane where footpath cycling is legal for all ages. Most adult cyclists don’t prefer the footpath, so demand for safe separated cycling facilities doesn’t go away.
In fact, it helps build the market for cycling infrastructure. Because today’s kids are tomorrow's adult riders.
A school travel planner stated: “I am hoping in the future that there will be more cycle ways which will enable cyclists to ride off the road. In the meantime if the parents and children feel it is safer cycling on the footpath to get to a cycle way, then it should be their decision.”
The consultation will be open from 6 March to 21 April 2020.
The ‘Accessible Streets’ rules package consultation document and further information on how to make a submission can be found on the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency website:
Press resources: https://cyclingwithkids.co.nz/make-it-ok/footpath-cycling-press-kit/
Jo Clendon: https://cyclingwithkids.co.nz/2016/04/13/my-cycling-story/
April 2016 Petition to Parliament Wording:
The petition of Joanne Clendon is being considered by Parliament’s Transport and Industrial Relations Committee. It asks that the House of Representatives recommend a change to the New Zealand Road Rules to:
• allow cycling on the footpath by children under 14 years of age (and accompanying adults), seniors over the age of 65, and vulnerable users
• make bells mandatory for any bicycle used on footpaths or shared use paths
• allow local authorities to exclude, on a reasonable basis, certain areas of footpath from being used for cycling.
Current NZ law prohibits cycling on the footpath or adjacent berm with two exceptions:
You are only allowed to cycle on the footpath if you are:
• delivering newspapers or mail, or
• you are riding a small wheeled recreational device that has a wheel diameter of less than 355 millimetres (typically tricycles or small children’s bicycles).