Shared path etiquette

There are signs at the start  of shared paths outlining the rules: keep to the left, keep your dog on a leash, pick up your doggy’s do, keep children safe, no motorbikes allowed, wear a helmet, etc. These signs are usually graphic rather than verbal in nature and do not adquately reflect the multitude of hazards on the path. They may even say something about respecting other users of the path at the bottom of the sign to cover the unnamed multitude of hazards you may encounter (so please don’t lose your cool about them).

It has been the experience around here with shared paths that if you build it, they will come. In droves. Then write numerous letters to the editor of the local paper about each other and how cyclists/pedestrians do not respect the rights of pedestrians/cyclists on x shared path. The main themes of these complaints is that riders go too fast or too close or both and that pedestrians wander or don’t control their dogs/kids or walk/talk in large bunches, taking over the path.

One of the most flagrant breaches of bike path etiquette I have seen was in Sydney on Bourke Street where a pedestrian was talking on his mobile phone while wandering around on the bike path. There was a perfectly good, and empty, footpath about a metre away from him, yet he wandered aimlessly all over the bike path as he talked on his phone, oblivious to cyclists approaching him. They had to slow down and ride around him… Maybe a warning about the use of phones on paths is needed.

Using a bell is a great way to warn pedestrians/other slower cyclists that you are approaching them. It can feel as if you are issuing a harsh warning when doing this but it is undoubtedly the most effective way to signal your approach if you are unseen on a bike, and mostly others are not offended.

When talking to cyclists at the Smart Energy Expo yesterday I was surprised to hear from two people that they will no longer ride Fernleigh Track due to the fast cyclists on there. They found that the fast ones went too fast and too close when passing them. This is a real pity as the path is mostly not that heavily used and the courteous use of bells, and speed, would alleviate this problem. And remember, none of us is perfect …

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