Should some footpaths become shared paths?

As I was cycling along the footpath this morning in an area that is partly a shared path I had a comment from the one pedestrian I saw,  he said “You shouldn’t be there”. He wasn’t angry or abusive, I did not do anything which could have aggravated him and there was plenty of space on the path for both of us. A short distance along the path there was this yellow sign as bikes are common in this area … 

When I ride along the footpath I ride very slowly and I am extremely mindful of pedestrians, I go around them onto the grassy area if necessary and if they make way for me in any way I thank them. Most are fine with this. However, his comment got me thinking whether some footpaths should become shared paths. Not many pedestrians use footpaths around here anymore. Many of them are wide enough now to be used as shared paths, though some should be widened to achieve this.

I recently researched a possible trip in Sydney, where I intend to travel from Central station to the southern suburbs. Sydney has some excellent maps of its bicycle network, and I looked at them and found that the Princes Highway, once it gets beyond the Inner West, has the footpath on one side as a designated shared path. Not quite believing this, I searched Google Streetview to see how it looked and found that the footpath was quite empty of pedestrians, (although there was one cyclist on the path), for the majority of the trip I have planned, the exception being an area where there is a shopping centre which extends for several blocks and through which I could easily wheel my bike.

There are also parts of Newcastle where footpaths have become shared paths, though it can be unclear where the bikes should go once the shared area ends and this can be confusing for both pedestrians and cyclists. Two such areas are Union St near The Junction and Glebe Rd near the Adamstown  gates.

Is this to be the future of footpaths, that some of them will become shared paths? In some places I think this would be a great solution to the problem of providing safe areas for cyclists.

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8 Responses to Should some footpaths become shared paths?

  1. Wayne Martin says:

    Hi Vicki,
    As you have said, some paths are already shared, another being the overhead bridge at Broadmeadow. I am also aware of the dangers of shared footpaths and when aproaching pedestrians especially when they cannot see me, I slow down until they realise I am there and they usually move aside to allow me to pass, for which I thank them. BUT there are many places that should not be shared even though they are wide for example where there are shop fronts and customers exiting.There are too many cyclists who abuse their rights and ride without care on footpaths. There are too many cyclists crying out that they should have certain rights and that they are not treated fairly by drivers yet they are the ones who abuse the road rules and the rights of pedestrians. In order to be treated as an equal road user, you must treat the other road users the same, best wishes, Wayne.

    • Vicki says:

      I agree that the areas outside shops need to be free from riders too, Wayne. Some pedestrians I find very difficult to manoeuvre around as they move unpredictably or step backwards or are texting on their phone etc, and even when I am a pedestrian I am very wary of these people, they would have to be much more careful if paths were shared.

  2. Jules says:

    Hey there Vicky,

    I wholeheartedly agree, although it would be helpful if it was somehow regulated.
    But I mean, I see plenty of bike riding being done on the footpath.
    I rarely see those cyclists speeding about and weaving through pedestrians. But the good will always come with the bad.

    As long as the riders are as courteous as you are, I think all footpaths should become shared paths.

    • Vicki says:

      I think it needs to be regulated too Jules, that way pedestrians would know where the shared paths are, and maybe that SHOULD be all footpaths …

  3. Jess says:

    I was told that in NSW if you are cycling with a child under the age of 12, either with them on their own bike or an seat added to your bike, you are permitted on the footpaths regardless of whether they are shared or not. I do this, with my toddler as my partner and I decided it was safest and best not to take unnecessary risks when riding with children, but I still sometimes get angry pedestrians telling me to get off the path, even yelling from across the other side of the road sometimes. I think again, as with many cycling issues, it’s about visibility and education.

    • Vicki says:

      You are right in that you can ride on the footpath with a child 12 yers old or under Jess and those who abuse you for it are not aware of the law. Some pedestrians are very aggro to cyclists and in the cases I have encountered this it is when they are not being threatened at all, very odd!

  4. Wayne Martin says:

    If you mean riding with your child who is on their own bike in a residential area whether it is in the suburbs or in town, then of course the best place is on the footpath. The biggest problem is when the child gets too far ahead of their parents and it happens a lot, they are out of easy supervision, then the problem is not sharing with pedestrians but with cars reversing from driveways, I know everyone will cry out that the driver must be careful but no matter how careful and how slow you reverse out an accident could happen, some houses have large hedges and a lot of cars have massive blind spots, it only takes a split second, I don’t know if I would be able to live with myself if it ever happened to me. A child just doesn’t realise the dangers and thinks it is totally safe to ride on the footpath and needs to be close to their parents at all times. Sharing a footpath is not only with pedestrians, best wishes, Wayne.

    • Vicki says:

      Very true, I ride very slowly when approaching blind driveways. The other drawback with the footpaths is crossing roads, there can be cars approaching from many directions and they do not often look out for cyclists on the footpath.

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