Bicycle SA met with local government to discuss new cycling laws and their impact on pedestrians. 

While the new South Australian cycling laws mean we can all now legally cycle on footpaths, such changes have spurred both ongoing community debate and some confusion among local government authorities on how to best manage these changes.

Two weeks ago, Bike SA attended a Cycling Roundtable hosted by the Local Government Association. The twenty one invited stakeholders shared advice on the issues and opportunities around the new cycling laws that provide the right to ride on our footpaths.

Bike SA (represented by our Patron and former Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood), provided the following input into the discussion.

  • 35% of Bike SA Members responded that they are using the opportunity to ride on the footpath
  • The Queensland experience has been extremely well received with little pedestrian/cyclist conflict.This has lead to more people cycling, greater levels of physical activity and better public health outcomes
  • In the last 5 years, no fatalities have been recorded between a pedestrian and cyclist on a footpath
  • The new laws have been particularly effective at encouraging women to ride more often
  • The opportunity to pop onto the footpath reduces the need to navigate unsafe road environments, particularly around Adelaide’s ‘disappearing bike lane’ zones
  • An education campaign is vital to explain “rights and responsibilities” of both riders and pedestrians
  • Speed limits on footpaths would be unenforceable and represent a knee jerk reaction
  • Any variation to the current laws would act as yet another barrier to encouraging more people to ride

It was recognised that most of the issues associated with cycling on footpaths are “perceived” problems with 95% of complaints received by Adelaide City Council being in relation to linear pathways and not cycling on ‘street’ footpaths.


New cycling laws allowing bikes on footpaths have been credited with getting more women cycling

The Cycling Roundtable attendees agreed that the regulatory amendment enabling cycling on footpaths has not yet settled into South Australian culture as similar problems have not been experienced interstate with the introduction of cycling on footpaths.

It was noted that local government has the authority to ban cycling on particular footpaths.  However, Lord Mayor Martin Haese noted that this was not an approach that the Adelaide City Council, the council with the most pedestrian traffic, is looking to take.  The exception is Rundle Mall where cycling has been precluded for many years.

As a result, the attendees of the roundtable agreed that many of the issues experienced in relation to the new regulations are the result of a cultural shift that needs to occur to develop mutual understanding of vulnerability of all footpath users, including cyclists, and to get used to expecting cyclists while walking along both linear and street footpaths.

At the end of the day, if this is a community conversation about pedestrian safety, then the priority should be the conflict between motorists and pedestrians.  On average, 15 South Australians die each year as a result of a collision with a motorist (with there being no fatalities recorded in the past 5 years between cyclists and pedestrians on footpaths).


Further Reading

The LGA has created a nice FAQ sheet for anyone interested in the new cycling rules

The LGA has provided a summary of the group’s comments from the meeting the suitability of certain footpaths for the interaction of pedestrians and cyclists.