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Byron Shire
May 22, 2024

Footpath cyclists a danger to young and old

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Bronwyn Sindel, Mullumbimby. 

I wanted to thank Phil Holloway from Byron council for taking a stand on bicycle riding on footpaths, especially those in the heart of town where all the shops are, and all the people shopping, some very young and some elderly.

I was afraid for my mother’s wellbeing walking in Mullum once – she was into her late 80s. Not being shy with regard to what I regard as public responsibility, I’d let bike riders know it was a footpath, not a cycleway. Responses were varied.

I ride a bike into town sometimes – I park it somewhere on the edge of shopping central and have a little walk. Or I could walk my bike right through the middle of town, too easy.

So thanks Phil – in my opinion it’s irresponsible and careless of people of any age to ride their bikes on a busy footpath. Let’s hope the few can be more considerate of the many.

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  1. Over 60 years ago my father, Cr Ted Hatfield, complained about the same problem – bikes on the footpath in Jonson Street. It’s was and still is a reasonable complaint but it is a symptom of the lack of safe alternatives for cycling. In the late 19c cyclists lobbied for the modern road system so they could o cycle in safety to wherever they need or want to go. Governments responded by building all weather roads, which were then appropriated by cars and so made unsafe for cycling. There are more cycles in use in Australia today, and cyclists still need to be able to safely cycle wherever. As is done in Northern Europe, we need to create a network of off-road cycling paths, and traffic calmed streets and roads with on-road cycle lanes, suitable for any cyclist from 8 to 88. Footpaths can form part of that network – that is commonly done with well engineered footpaths in Japan and there are some good wide mixed use paths that help make parts of Ballina such a pleasant place to cycle in. In heavily trafficked areas in Japan separate lanes are provided for pedestrians and bikes. The rail trail will also help provide access to town in places like Byron Bay. Councils promoting sustainable transport and wishing to improve the economic, physical and psychological well being of their residents can do so no better than by facilitating cycling, and that should also make for a safer environment for walkers like Bronwyn too.

  2. As long as the footpaths are not adapted to bicycles, why not just paint “No cycling” signs on the floor? It would be cheap and could prevent accidents.

    • In some parts of Australia it is legal to ride on footpaths but not in NSW. People do it though as I explain above because it is safer. The answer is to properly provide for cyclists and including, as you allude to above, adapting the footpath so it is safe for mixed use.

  3. There are laws about cycling, but the police in Byron seem completely unaware of them. Unless you are supervising a child younger than 12 it’s illegal to ride on the footpath. I understand cyclists having safety concerns about riding on the road. The complete disregard for human lives seems to be spread equally between motorists and cyclists. I think it would be a good idea for there to be a cycling laws and safety certificate taught in schools. Children could learn the laws and sit a simple test. It would increase their safety awareness and give them a little prep for sitting a car licence test later on. More importantly, they could nag their parents from the back seat to drive more responsibly.

    • In the ACT – and I understand also in QLD – cycling is permitted on footpaths. This should be the standard across Australia, but it needs to be supported with education in safe footpath use, and better engineering of paths – as I note has occurred in Ballina – to accommodate walkers, bikes and mobility scooters. I can appreciate rogue cyclists are intimidating and their recklessness should not be tolerated but they have caused very few serious incidents; by contrast harm to pedestrians, cyclists and each other by motorists remains widespread and is a far more urgent problem for us to deal with.


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