Cars versus bikes versus pedestrians
Geoff and Lyn Turnbull of Redfern are regular walkers around Redfern Station and Lawson Square and are concerned about a Council plan to allow bicycles to share footpaths in some areas. A street sign showing a pedestrian and a cyclist with “the path is there to share” slogan in between is currently being advertised in City newspapers. Mr Turnbull said his wife is an uncontrolled epileptic and in danger of hurting both herself and those nearby if she is startled and unable to control her body actions. “We were under the impression that adults were not allowed to ride on footpaths unless accompanying a child,” he said.
Bicycle NSW Chief Operating Officer, Elizabeth Hole, said there has been no alteration to that rule in NSW but Council has made changes to the designation of some infrastructure from footpath to shared path, upon which bicycle riding is permitted.
Shared paths, on-road bike lanes and new two-way, on-road separated cycleways are all part of Sydney Council’s Cycle Strategy and Action Plan which aims to increase bike use as a form of transport by 500 per cent over the next 10 years.
When the Strategy is fully implemented there will be 200 kms of safe cycling infrastructure throughout the city. The 75-page Plan draws on extensive social research and expects a surge in the bike riding population to bring benefits, including reduced road costs and congestion, lower air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and less overcrowding on public transport. Increased physical fitness and emotional wellbeing are also likely outcomes.
The Australian Pedestrian Council, however, is not convinced. It forecasts serious injury or worse for pedestrians, particularly young children, the disabled and the elderly. Council chair, Harold Scruby, said their legal advice is that Councils could be faced with huge damage claims if people are injured while using shared paths.
The Cycle Strategy document says “high difficulty” roads require existing footpaths to become shared paths to enable safe cycling and encourage new cyclists onto the bicycle network. “Low-speed cycling is not a threat to pedestrians when managed appropriately,” the Strategy states. “Cyclists who obey the law and ride sensibly on a shared footpath are no less threat to pedestrians than a car that runs a red light or does not give way to pedestrians.”
Lyn Turnbull said the 10km speed limit recommended for cyclists on shared paths is not enforceable. “A Council Ranger would have to see the bike rider speeding or be called if a collision occurred, for fines or penalties to be of any use,” she said.
Donna [surname withheld] and her partner use Little Eveleigh Street frequently to walk to work. They are both blind. They say it is a quiet, friendly street and the few cars that use the road travel slowly because of speed bumps. Donna said this is not the case with many cyclists. “I’ve been abused on a number of occasions just for momentarily being in their way. My partner has had his cane mangled in the wheels of a passing bike. They have plenty of room to go around us lowly pedestrians,” she said.
Ms Hole, for Bicycle NSW, said her organisation supports the leadership and initiatives taken by the City. “The key benefit here is the safety gains from separating bicycles from motor traffic,” she said. “We also support the Shared Path [education] Campaign designed to increase the safety and amenity for riders and pedestrians on the new shared paths,” she added.
Ms Hole did acknowledge, however, that the shared paths will have different speed limits depending on the local council area they are in and that “it would be up to the individual [council] insurance companies to ascertain who is liable in a collision.”
City of Sydney Independent Councillor, John McInerney, is a committed cyclist.
“We are in a trial period now where we are moving into the modern world of transport. What we are proposing for cycling in Sydney is the ‘norm’ overseas,” he said. “Half the population of Stockholm comes into work on bicycles, in Germany all roads and paths are paved in different colours to accommodate cyclists, and even in Victoria every pathway is a shared path.”
Cr McInerney emphasised the concept that pedestrians have right of way at all times and that Council will work hard to provide appropriate safety structures such as signage, coloured paths, dividing lines and raised separating studs, etc. “Education is the key and will include community presentations, bike days and school workshops as well as newspaper advertising,” he said. “The motor car has dominated public spending for too long in this State, to the detriment of the wider community. We can’t just keep building roads as we have in the past. Finally the RTA has come on board with us about this.”
A link to the Cycle Strategy and Action Plan 2007-2017 can be found at www.cityofsydney,nsw.gov.au
Source: South Sydney Herald May 2009 www.southsydneyherald.com.au