Path to disharmony

The State Government has confirmed plans to allow all cyclists, not just those aged 12 and under, to ride on footpaths.

While Perth sustainability guru and Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute director Peter Newman is in favour of the move, Murdoch University Centre for Responsible Citizenship and Sustainability lecturer Martin Brueckner slammed the idea.

Dr Bruecker said the plan was a convenient way for the State Government to avoid paying for proper, safe cycling infrastructure, and would increase the risk to pedestrians and bike riders.

�If the government is serious about cycling as a mode of transport, it needs to do it properly,� Dr Brueckner said.

But Professor Newman said the change was long overdue given that Perth was a relatively easy place to cycle with flat terrain and a good climate, though it suffered from difficult traffic and a lack of cycle ways.

Also coming out against the idea was Victoria Walks, which executive officer Ben Rossiter said was Australia�s leading walking organisation.

�A survey of 1128 seniors found 39 per cent rated bicycle riders on shared paths as a moderate or major constraint to their walking,� he said.

�And a survey of vision-impaired pedestrians found a quarter of collisions or near collisions were with bikes.

�International studies show footpath cycling results in a 1.8 to 16 times higher risk of injury to cyclists than riding on roads.�

Dr Bruekner questioned if electric bikes, which could reach speeds of up to 35km/h, would also be allowed on paths.

�There needs to be a better integrated planning approach to urban planning and how we integrate into that,� he said.

�The 20km radius from the CBD is screaming out for better cycling infrastructure.

Raised in cycle-friendly Berlin, he felt he was �taking his life into his own hands� when riding on Perth roads.

�Cyclists are not seen as legitimate road users,� he said.

�I take the Kwinana Freeway path to work and have a near miss with a pedestrian on a weekly basis. I travel at an average of 30km/h and if the lighting is bad I see pedestrians late and they may have dogs on leads, or be talking with friends or wearing headphones.�

Murdoch University sustainability manager Leah Knapp agreed the government was taking the easy way out instead of building proper on-road cycling facilities, increasing the potential for conflict between users.

�A proper dual use/shared path should be 2.5m wide, according to the Australian Standard, with appropriate line marking and symbols,� she said.

�If the government is intending to upgrade all footpaths to this standard I don�t see a problem with cyclists on footpaths, but I suspect this will not be the case.�