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On the right path

5 June, 2011

When is it legal to ride on a footpath? Emma Clark unravels the complicated regulations.


As with many regulations, working out when you can and can’t ride on a footpath isn’t straightforward; it varies depending on your age, where you are, and who is with you.

Regulations differ between states and territories. In Tasmania, the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland, bike riders of all ages are permitted to ride on footpaths unless they are signed otherwise.

In all other states, adults are not allowed to ride on footpaths unless they are aged over 18 and are accompanying a child who is under 12. There is also a dispensation for those who have a disability and have appropriate documentation to state that they are unable to ride on the road, and riders delivering goods for Australia Post are also exempt.

Children under 12 can ride on footpaths, but they must be on their own bike.

The child must also be riding their own bike if an adult wishes to accompany them on a footpath. This means that an adult with a child in a tagalong, trailer or child seat is not permitted to ride on the footpath unless they also have another child under 12 with them riding their own bike. This restriction has caused much anger and frustration among riders with young children.

In areas where it is illegal for adults to ride on the footpath, there are some stretches of road where riding on the footpath is not heavily policed or the rules are not enforced. It is up to you to assess whether riding on the footpath is a better alternative to riding on the road, but always be aware that you could get fined.

In every state and territory, everyone riding on the footpath must keep to the left unless it is impracticable to do so. You cannot ride abreast of another rider unless you are overtaking, and you must always give way to all pedestrians.

Regulations distinguish between footpaths, shared paths, separated paths and bicycle paths. The latter three are signed as such. A footpath is simply described as “an area open to the public that is designated for, or has as one of its main uses, use by pedestrians”.

Riding on the footpath can require just as much hyper-awareness as riding on the road. Posts, trees, pedestrians, reversing cars, people stepping out of their front gates, cats and dogs can turn footpaths into challenging obstacle courses.

Ride much slower than you would on the road, to ensure that you can stop quickly if necessary. Use your bell liberally, especially in urban areas, and beware of the plugged-in pedestrian: since the invention of the iPod, pedestrians might not hear your bell, so call out to alert them that you are coming past.

Be extra cautious when riding on a footpath at night is; ensure you have excellent lights for seeing and for being seen.

State by state: the rules

QLD:

Cycling on footpaths is permitted in Queensland on paths without a ‘No Bicycles’ sign, but as on shared paths, you must give way to pedestrians, use your bell and pass on the right. Failure to give way to pedestrians can result in a nasty crash and a fine of $200.

NSW:

Adults can ride on the footpath if they are accompanying a child aged twelve and under. State laws may allow local councils to ban all cyclists from footpaths in some areas, so always abide by ‘No Bicycle’ signs. Fine: $57.

VIC:

Adults can ride on the footpath if they are accompanying a child aged twelve and under. Fine: $119.

SA:

Adults can ride on the footpath if they are accompanying a child aged twelve and under. Fine: $200.

WA:

Adults can ride on the footpath if they are accompanying a child aged twelve and under. Fine: $50.

Tasmania:

Anybody can ride on footpaths unless there is a ‘No Bicycles’ sign. You must keep left and give way to pedestrians.

ACT:

Anybody can ride on footpaths unless there is a ‘No Bicycles’ sign. You must keep left and give way to pedestrians.

NT:

Anybody can ride on footpaths unless there is a ‘No Bicycles’ sign. You must keep left and give way to pedestrians.

Do you ride on the footpath? Should it be legal?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. David Edwards permalink
    9 June, 2011 12:19 pm

    Where is Tasmania in the “State by State: The Rules” section?

  2. Kevin permalink
    15 August, 2011 7:03 pm

    ausbike expo lift out in the Sunday Age had an article “Children learn a balanced approach” (page 14) that says “Children are legally allowed to ride on the road once they turn 12”. Not exactly talking about riding on the footpath, but how accurate is that claim?

    • 16 August, 2011 8:46 am

      Hi Kevin,
      Well spotted! Technically, people of any age can ride on the road – there is no minimum age. However, it is obviously best for kids to ride on the footpath until they are more confident in traffic.

      The Victoria Road Rules state:
      ‘The rider of a bicycle who is 12 years old or older must not ride on a footpath except in the circumstances specified under subrule (1A).’ The subrule goes on to say that people over 12 can ride on the footpath if they have a relevant exemption (postal workers, disability etc) or are over 18 and accompanying children under 12. Therefore, this means that children over 12 must ride on the road.

      Hope that helps!

  3. David Littlewood permalink
    27 August, 2011 4:58 pm

    It is good to learn that some States and territories have a rational approach to riding on footpaths. In Victoria is the rule seems to be hardly enforced and if it was would deter many city riders, The article gave no indication of Bicycle Victoria’s position on this issue. Is it lobbying for a relaxation of the rules a la Tas, Qld etc.

  4. natalia permalink
    22 May, 2012 2:14 am

    I live in QLd. There is 12 years old kid ran across my car on footpath. I was slowly going up on my driveway and had obstructed view on right and left. Fence on both sides. Bike ran over on footpath and i got to cop up with 1 500 damages on left side front wheel and door. Kid was going downhill with really fast speed thats why damages substantial. Parents of child refuse to pay. There is no point for me go through insurance since my excess 1200.Shall i go to small claims tribunal or court?

  5. natalia permalink
    22 May, 2012 2:16 am

    Do i have chance to win ? Thank you

    • 22 May, 2012 2:33 pm

      Hi Natalia
      Sorry to hear about the collision. You’d need to speak to a lawyer for advice on this.

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