Shared use of footpaths – cyclists and pedestrians

Letter to Hon Stephen Mulligan MP - 15th October 2015

The Hon Stephen Mulligan MP
Minister for Transport and Infrastructure
GPO Box 1533
Adelaide SA 5001

Dear Minister

RE - Shared use of footpaths - cyclists and pedestrians

We refer to your announcement this week of "new rules for safer cycling to start this month" and specifically to the rule change which will allow cyclists to legally ride on footpaths.

As the peak body representing the rights, needs and interests of older people in South Australia, COTA SA is receiving significant negative reaction to the announcement. There has been a strong view that the Government has sacrificed the safety of footpath users to respond to a vocal cyclist lobby. Of particular concern is the risk to footpath users who are vulnerable because of limited mobility and sensory acuity. Not all of these vulnerable users are older, but a significant proportion are and they (and we) are very concerned about the announcement.

Pedestrians of all ages need to be feel confident and safe when using footpaths and, in the absence of that, many frail, older and disabled people will be afraid to use the footpaths

Specifically our callers point out -

  • Cyclists should not be allowed to use the footpath at the same speed as the adjacent roadway.
  • Cyclists are unidentifiable if an accident occurs.
  • No additional protections or regulations for pedestrians were announced as part of the change.

Older people make up a sizeable proportion of the cycling population and efforts to improve the safety of those using bicycles for transport are welcome. However, COTA SA is calling for clarity around the rights of pedestrians under these new rules.

We would expect that such a fundamental change in the use of footpaths might also involve -

  • An ongoing education campaign for all users 
  • Consideration of regulations that might govern speed and behavior on footpaths
  • Consideration of how pedestrians might be insured if they were to be injured by a cyclist
  • Compulsory installation and use of warning devices on all bikes
  • Accelerated work to build more bikeways
  • A future review to consider whether this continues to be the best option.

In the absence of more work to manage the considerable risks of this changed use of footpaths, COTA SA is very concerned for the safety of older pedestrians. We understand that there is a need for increased safety for bike riders but do not want to shift this problem from the roads to the footpaths.

We would encourage you to delay implementation of the new rules subject to consideration of ways to manage the risks to pedestrians. COTA SA would be happy to be part of any discussions. We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Jane Mussared
Chief Executive

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