The recent announcement by the WA Government that cyclists of all ages will legally be allowed to ride on footpaths is a welcome recognition of how dangerous Perth’s roads have become for recreational riders.
Nineteen cyclists died on WA roads in the last three years to 2015, with two adult cyclists killed in 2016 already. And these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg, with the number of cyclists hospitalised for serious injury a much larger figure.
Recognising that unlike many European cities, Perth’s streets are designed for cars not bicycles, and that drivers seem to be becoming much less tolerant of cyclists who they perceive as ‘in the way’, I applaud the state government’s timely and practical decision to provide recreational and leisure cyclists over twelve years of age with an alternative to braving the traffic.
Unfortunately as a nation we are walking less, and as such footpaths are increasingly underutilised, making it difficult to make the case for them to be reserved solely for this purpose. If allowing all low speed riders to use footpaths will encourage people to get out and about more with their kids, getting exercise in a relatively safe outdoor environment, then I support the change wholeheartedly.
Of course that endorsement comes with a proviso: no-one wants to see footpaths become cycling racetracks. I would hope that the government invests in an education campaign to ensure cyclists realise pedestrians still have right of way, and that cyclists don’t adopt a more relaxed attitude on footpaths that sees a reduction in helmet use as a result. Both of these possible outcomes could lead to an increase in pedestrian-cyclist crash injuries and fatalities, the very problem that this change has been designed to address.
With the Constable Care Safety School on-track for opening at the beginning of 2017, it will be great for our next generation of adult cyclists to learn that they can now continue cycling for enjoyment as a lifelong activity without fear of road rage or worse…
By David Gribble, Chief Executive Officer, Constable Care Child Safety Foundation