Monday, 2 May 2016

I have been breaking the law

for years - and I have been encouraged to do so by the police. I have sometimes had to explain to others that I have their permission to break the law. Well, that was true until recently. I no longer need to break the law because the law has changed.
Until recently it was not legal to ride on the footpath in this state -unless you were under the age of twelve. I stopped being under twelve a very long time ago. 
We also had very few bike paths or bike lanes. Bikes had to mix with traffic - all too often with disastrous consequences in a state where there are too many people intent on going too fast in their cars. 
I had come back from Canberra, the nation's capital, where there were 186km of dedicated bicycle track. It was legal to ride on the footpath - but not within ten metres of an open shop. I pedalled happily there. I had lived in another state too and the area I lived in had similar arrangements. I was, as they say, "a happy camper" or cyclist.
It was different here. I set out in trepidation having been told that,  unlike the years before I left the state, the police were now much tougher on footpath cyclists. They had once happily ignored me and any other tricycle rider. But, I had been warned, "Don't go on the footpath Cat. They don't like it now."
I went on the road, a busy main road. I had no choice. It was terrifying. There were  huge vehicles thundering past me, close enough to touch - or so it seemed. 
And then, inevitably it seemed, a cop car pulled alongside me and a worried looking  policeman looked out at me and said, "Get on the footpath!"
I got on the footpath wondering if I had done something wrong. The car pulled in just ahead of me. Two of them got out and came up to me.
     "Don't you think you should be riding on the footpath?"
     "I'd be breaking the law," I told them.
     "Then break the law. We aren't going to pull you over for it."
They investigated my tricycle (all in order) and asked some questions about it. We parted in a friendly fashion.
I have since had police pull their mobile radar equipment out of the way to let me through.
And, at the end of last  year, it became legal for cyclists to travel on the footpaths. This has not been well received  by many people. It is taking time for people to get used to the idea. Many cyclists still use the roads (legally) but I have noticed older people and women using the footpaths. I have noticed more parents teaching their children to ride. 
I hope they are being careful. I have had years of riding my tricycle on the footpath. It takes an even greater degree of care than riding on the roads. There are cars coming from driveways and all sorts of overhanging vegetation to avoid. Things get dropped and dumped on footpaths. They have to be avoided - especially the advertising stands. There are pedestrians - and pedestrians with dogs. There are also pedestrians with mobiles. 
It is these last who complain most bitterly about cyclists on the footpath. Why should that all important text conversation be interrupted by the need to look at the cyclist coming towards you?


Miriam Drori said...

I'm sure you're careful, Cat, and don't drive too fast. Here in Israel, bicycles on pavements are a scourge and can make walking a frightening activity. When a bicycle whizzes past me, I can't hear it or see it from behind and I think, what if I'd moved my arm just then? There have been many accidents caused by bicycle riders to pedestrians, especially those riding on electric bicycles.

catdownunder said...

People are supposed to use their bells here but I just stay behind people unless they notice ma and stand aside.

cathyc said...

As a person who walks everywhere possible, I hate the idea of cycles on footpaths. Somehow tricycles sound okay, they sound slow and steady. Even special cycle lanes are scary for pedestrians crossing roads and having to negotiate the extra difficulty of those lanes just when you've escaped the cars. I find it very disappointing that I will now have to spend all my walking life hoping not to get run over, even when I've made it back onto the footpath.

It's a massive issue for Australian cities and Adelaide more than most because it is so completely car dominated. The obvious solution is to slow down the speed of cars and have cyclists able to feel consequently comfortable about being on the roads. If roads like Unley and Goodwood were 40km an hour, they would be safer for cyclists, safer for pedestrians and the roads would become ambient places where it would be possible to live pleasantly.

Note that Adelaide is trying to develop medium density living, but you can't do that on roads where the car is the dominant species.