The kids are all right… cycling on the footpath?

The kids are all right… cycling on the footpath?

Bike Auckland

With voting very much in the news at the moment, an article caught our eye over the weekend… not about Brexit – about those who aren’t old enough to vote yet, but who have strong opinions and equally important rights.

According to a new study by Erica Hinckson of  AUT, reported in the Sunday Star-Times, kids much prefer getting to school under their own steam: 96% of the kids Erica spoke to in focus groups were adamant on this point. Biking, walking, scootering – they really really want to be out in the fresh air, doing their thing independently, traveling actively with friends or with family.

Instead, 55% are delivered to school by car, a number that’s almost doubled in the last 25 years, while walking and biking have correspondingly plummeted.

Here’s what that looks like (data from this NZTA report):

bike-to-school-percentages

The graphic above comes from Jo Clendon, a Wellington mum and everyday cyclist who has started a petition to allow kids (and their accompanying adults, plus those 65+ and disabled cyclists) to use the footpaths where that feels safer to them. Check out her website on the subject. 

It’s a reasonable proposition: while we continue to work for more connected protected cycleways and quiet safe streets in every town and city across the country, can we also work with what we have?

And after all, plenty of small New Zealanders and their parents are already voting with their feet on this one. And, across the Tasman, footpath cycling is legal in all states (in Victoria and NSW, it’s limited to kids 12 and under and their accompanying grown-ups).

We do know that kids are at risk on the footpath from people backing out of driveways, which is why footpath cycling has mediocre safety stats. But we also know kids choose to cycle on the footpath (and parents with them), as they absolutely love cycling and their parents won’t let them ride on road. Parents need to really emphasise those sneaky driveways when they cycle on footpaths with their kids, just as drivers need to be alert to footpath traffic of all kinds – walkers, joggers, people with pushchairs, people in wheelchairs, dashing dogs, trotting cats, and all kinds of little folk on all kinds of wheels.

Of course, the overall goal is still for better separated, fully connected cycle routes that work for ages 8 (or less) to 80 (or more) – and give-way laws that allow kids to connect across intersections while riding on footpaths.

In the meantime, legalising footpath cycling for kids and slower/older riders as Jo suggests, strikes us as a fully pragmatic interim option.

You may have seen Jo on TVNZ news, or heard her making sense on RNZ. Here she is below, in her own words.

(The petition will be presented to parliament on Thursday 30 June, so if you feel moved to sign and share, hop to it!)

Do you cycle with kids? Do you sometimes let them ride on the footpath? Perhaps you’ve seen or heard in the news about my campaign to make cycling on the footpaths legal for children, their accompanying adults, seniors and the disabled. If not, you can watch or read about it here.

This is a topic that has sparked some great debate. For me, as a parent, it is about keeping our kids safe. I’ve included the seniors and disabled in there too, because I can see a need there also. I hope to engage them (or their advocates) to speak on their own behalf and represent their needs. I know people have some real concerns about whether the footpath is the right place for kids on bikes. I can understand that. I just feel it is a better place for kids than the road. I explain the reasons why and address some of the concerns and objections in this YouTube video presentation.

If this is a topic that interests you, you can follow our progress on Facebook. If you would like to understand more in detail, including the research I reference, then I’m happy to share links to that information with you. This is democracy in action – there will be people who support this, and those who don’t; that’s all good. If you do support it, please sign the petition at change.org.


PS The header photo comes from Jo’s website. Check out her A to Z of cycling with kids, too – ‘H is for Humour’, perfect!

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