Is It Legal To Ride A Bike On The Footpath?

Car drivers often complain about push bike riders on roads as they are slow and can hold up traffic. For bike riders, it’s usually quite dangerous to share the road with cars. One wrong move and riders could be flattened by two tons of moving metal. That is why many people opt to ride their bikes on footpaths, but is this common practice legal? We find out.

Urban biker image from Shutterstock

While pedestrians may get annoyed with sharing the pavement with bicycles, it is a safer option for riders than risking it on the roads. Unfortunately, several states in Australia have laws against riding bikes on footpaths and if you are caught doing so you could be fined on the spot. Fines range from $50 to $200.

In New South Wales and Victoria, children aged 12 and under and adults who supervise them can ride on a footpath provided that it’s not in an area where bicycle riding is expressly prohibited. So watch out for any signs in parks and other areas.

Western Australia has a similar arrangement. The state allows children under the age of 12 to ride on footpaths but there’s no exception for adults.

Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and Tasmania are more lenient when it comes to this. They do allow cyclists of all ages to share footpaths with pedestrians so long as it’s not in an area where there’s a sign saying you can’t ride a bike there.

In South Australia, from October 25, cyclists of all ages will be allowed to ride on footpaths unless its in an area with a sign that prohibits it.

For bike riders from all states, it is important to keep in mind that when you share the footpath with people, you need to obey some basic rules. These include keeping left unless overtaking, giving way to pedestrians at all times (including people on skateboards and rollerskates), and traveling in single file when riding in groups. Having an animal tied to a moving bike is against the rules too.

Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.


Comments

    From October 25, SA bicycles riders are able to ride on footpaths. More info here: https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/transport-travel-and-motoring/cycling/cyclist-road-rules-and-safety

      Thank you for that! I have amended the article :)

    SA's laws are changing this weekend to allow cyclists to ride on the footpath, as well as defining the distance that cars need to leave when passing cyclists: http://mylicence.sa.gov.au/road-rules/newcyclinglaws

      Used your link in the amended article :) Thank you!

    As a Victorian and bicycle commuter there are certain areas where I ride the footpath. I don't give a toss about the law where the road is too dangerous.

    I've been pulled over by police in WA for not wearing a helmet but they never say anything about being on the foot path. I think it's one of those laws that's taken very lightly. I also think the helmet law is pretty stupid too.. If you make cyclists wear them, pedestrians should have to wear them too. Right?

      Not really, the risk of serious head injury from falling while walking is a lot less than falling while riding, not to mention how unenforceable it would be given that most people are pedestrians for at least some part of their day.

        Actually, per kilometer travelled cycling and walking are equally dangerous/safe. There are certainly some form of cycling where it is advisable to wear a helmet, but not all cycling is the same (e.g. downhill mountain biking, and riding to the shops to get some milk are very different activities). A recent study by Teschke et al at the University of British Columbia found no connection between mandatory helmet laws and reduced rates of head injury (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bike-helmet-laws-have-little-effect-reducing-head-injuries-says-ubc-study-1.3308238).

        In other words, there may be good reasons to use a helmet voluntarily in some cases, but there's no good reason for it to be a legal requirement in all cases.

      Helmet laws are there for the safety of the rider, Much like motorcycle rider are required to wear helmets.

      Helmets can mean the different between a scrape and a coma.

      If a helmet is that annoying to wear, Dont ride a bike

      Last edited 20/10/15 12:19 am

        If you fall off your bike and end up in a coma.. I put that down to natural selection. If you say "a car could hit you" then I reiterate my point; why aren't pedestrians made to wear helmets.

          Pedestrians don't usually exceed 20km per hour, let alone 50km per hour. Pedestrians also have little trouble stopping when a car pulls out in front of them, a bicycle on the other hand will hit that car head (hopefully helmet) first.

          If you think that does not make sense to you then take a hammer and knock some sense into your unprotected skull.

      Actually it's motorists who should have to wear helmets, apparently they get more head injuries than anyone but no one wants to make them wear them so there it is.

    For bike riders, it’s usually quite dangerous to share the road with cars.

    No it's not. If you're riding on the road in a consistent and predictable fashion, i.e. not wobbling about all over the place, then cycling on the road is pretty safe. You may not feel safe, in part because of the false sense of danger created by statements like the above, but you're not very likely to get knocked off.

    I've ridden on roads for nearly 40 years and only been knocked off once - when I rode for a short stretch on the pavement and got taken out by a car crossing into their driveway.

      And I've got some cycling-enthusiast co-workers with go-pros who only have the go-pros to prove the exact opposite and collect plate numbers for their regular police reports on dangerous drivers.

      Being on a bike for a long period of time exposes you to some truly amazing asshole motorists, no matter how experienced a rider you are, or how well you observe the road rules.

      It has become some kind of covert act of subconscious (or maybe even conscious) aggression, these days... you only have to read any mainstream news site article about cycling in the city to see the flame wars begin between frustrated cyclists put in danger, daily, and the motorists who resent sharing the road with them.

      Having the alertness and reaction times to avoid spills does not mean that the danger was not there. It is absolutely dangerous to share the road with cars.

        You may have a point, the majority of my on-road cycling has been outside Australia and my experiences in Australia do tend to point to drivers here being more aggressive/anti-cyclist. That said, it only ever seems to be numpties leaning out of car windows shouting incoherent abuse that I experience rather than an actual threat to my safety. I'm glad that I've not experienced the crap that others have.

          Yeah, the crap those guys collect in a week of morning and evening rides is pretty terrifying. Even the simple stuff like getting cut off, being 'nudged' into the footpath/gutter because the car wants to overtake but can't actually move into the next lane, people parking in bike lanes or opening doors into traffic... that's the merely careless stuff rather than the outright naked aggression.

      What did you do? Did you get in trouble? I got hit last night while I was riding on the footpath for about 200m until it was safe to move on the other side at an intersection and now I'm scared the driver will try to get money of me....

    How about the reverse? Are pedestrians legally allowed on bike paths with signs that specifically say "bicycles only"? There is a place like this on my commute to work - it's a cycle path that runs alongside the freeway and there are "bicycles only" signs placed at every entry point. I live in QLD.

    Having pedestrians walking on the wrong side (i.e. right hand side) while cyclists are zipping by at speed is super dangerous and often wondered if there ever is an accident, is the pedestrian legally at fault?

    what if you can't get a licence? are you then still legally allowed to ride on the road?

      Yes you do not need a license to ride a bicycle on the road.

    I am also concerned about your comment of riding single file I a group. It is safer and legal to ride two abreast on the road.

      But we're not talking about riding on the road here...

      But you can lose your car license for riding a bicycle over the legal alcohol limit of .05

    The general rule in Victoria is that once you are over 16,
    If there is a bike lane/path you have to use that if you must travel on the road or at a slow speed on the footpath giving way to all pedestrians.

    couple of months ago i was riding on the footpath in lonsdale st, melb (no cycle lane on this road and buses are busy with stops) So was pulled over by the police and was fined $285. sold my bike and now taking free tram in CBD. well if victoria wants me to crowd trams and ride less then i shall.

    Last edited 20/10/15 12:46 pm

    I got pulled over in Darwin when I was about 18. I was wearing a helmet and had a light on my bike.
    The police were so astonished that they wanted to congratulate me.
    True story.

    There is a simple solution to most of this - ride one or two blocks away from a main road - that run in parallel with it - and you will frequently find yourself on quiet back water suburban streets, with little to no traffic.

    quite a few ride so damn fast on footpath they almost get hit while reversing out my driveway,one idiot rides a motorised pushbike so f***k**g faast and if they cause damage they won't pay, same as I think they ALL should pay insurance like us drivers have to do.

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