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Sydney councils are calling for a crackdown on bicycle riders using shared paths, amid concerns pedestrians are at risk from speeding cyclists and e-scooters.
Northern Beaches and Woollahra councils want a safety campaign about risks to pedestrians on shared paths, as well as a review of road rules to improve public safety and protect pedestrians, riders and motorists from e-bike accidents.
Northern Beaches Council deputy mayor David Walton has raised concerns about risks faced by pedestrians on shared paths.Credit: James Brickwood
Shared paths are used by cyclists and pedestrians across Sydney, and often have 10 km/h advisory speed markings. But the speed limit for bike riders is the same as the adjoining road, which may be 50 km/h – unless the shared path has a lower speed limit.
Northern Beaches deputy mayor David Walton said he had received complaints from residents about near misses between pedestrians and bike riders on busy shared paths along the Manly beachfront.
“The main complaints are around speeding e-bikes and them not giving way to pedestrians,” he said.
The council conducted a safety audit of shared paths after Walton and fellow councillor Stuart Sprott raised concerns about risks faced by pedestrians on shared paths.
Woollahra councillor Harriet Price by the shared pedestrian bike path on New South Head Road in Rose Bay.Credit: Dominic Lorrimer
The audit found bike riders travelling at 42 km/h on the shared path along the Manly beachfront, which is higher than the speed limit on the adjoining road.
It found that 10 km/h advisory speed markings were not effective, with few cyclists noticing the markings or indicating that it caused them to ride more slowly. The audit also found a lack of helmet usage, limited knowledge of road rules among young riders and the use of e-scooters which riders mistakenly believed were legal.
The council will raise the issue of safety on shared paths at this year’s local government conference and write to Transport Minister Jo Haylen asking for a review of road rules. The council also wants the state government to provide money for safety improvements to shared paths.
Manly resident Wayne Robinson said he was forced to dodge bikes whenever he walked along the Manly beachfront with his dog.
“Every weekend I’ve had a couple where they slam on the brakes and then start abusing you,” he said.
Robinson said he would prefer bike riders were registered and used the road: “If a cyclist can ride a bike, why can’t they ride on the side of the road?”
A Transport for NSW spokeswoman said the speed limit on a shared path will be the same as an adjacent road – potentially 50 km/h in an urban area – unless a lower speed limit is signposted.
However, she pointed to research showing travel speeds on shared paths were lower than on adjacent roads, with average cycling speeds estimated to be 18 km/h to 30 km/h.
Cyclists are also obliged to obey road rules including a requirement not to ride a bicycle “negligently, or furiously, or recklessly”.
Walton wants an enforceable speed limit – 10 km/h on busy shared footpaths – and council staff given powers to confiscate illegally modified e-bikes that have had speed-limiting devices tampered with.
“I would like to see greater regulatory powers given to council rangers to enforce road rules on council shared paths and footpaths,” he said.
Concerns about the use of bikes and e-bikes on shared paths have also been raised by Woollahra Council, particularly around speeding and how police enforce road rules for legal, but unregistered, vehicles.
Woollahra councillor Harriet Price said shared pathways can be hazardous, but the vast majority of cyclists are not speed demons.
Woollahra councillor Harriet Price said shared paths – such as the one in Rose Bay – can be hazardous, but the vast majority of cyclists are not speed demons.Credit: Dominic Lorrimer
“A separated cycleway is obviously ideal – however, it’s not always feasible, economically or from a planning perspective to implement,” she said.
WalkSydney president Marc Lane said lowering speed limits on local streets to 30 km/h would have a greater impact on reducing pedestrian injuries, as they would be more comfortable for most cyclists to use rather than the footpath.
Bicycle NSW chief executive Peter McLean said shared paths posed safety risks to pedestrians and cyclists, but “we’re all at a much, much higher risk on our roads and the heightening road toll is a perfect example of this.
“We really need to focus on where the risk is and that is undeniably on our roads, but we all seem to accept this risk and multiple people dying every week as a social norm,” he said.
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