Cyclists on footpaths

Cyclists on footpaths

Policy Status: 
Final Policy
Policy Statement: 

Cycling on footpaths should be legal for people 12 years of age and younger and their accompanying guardians.


Policy Priority: 
B - Medium
Release Date: 
Wed, 03/15/2017


The carriageway can be hazardous for cyclists and consequently some cyclists (mainly children and young adults) use the footpath as an alternative. This can cause alarm and annoyance to pedestrians. At the same time, the various stances espoused by cyclists or would-be cyclists also need to be considered. Two quite different viewpoints often heard for example are from regular experienced cyclists (who generally prefer to stay on the road) and non-cyclists or would-be cyclists (or parent of a young cyclist), who express a preference for off-road treatments (Koorey 2005).

As per the UK Dept for Transport's 5-step hierarchy of cycle design, CAN recommends that cyclists are kept on the road by treating any conditions that make it unsafe or unpleasant (e.g. traffic speed, volume or specific hazards).  Where a safe and pleasant cycling environment can not be achieved on the road (e.g. because the road has a function as a major arterial), then properly designed and constructed shared paths should be provided.  However, for cyclists 12 years of age and younger and accompanying (adult or older) guardians, CAN recommends they be given the same status as postal delivery people, who are provided for access to the footpath in legislation (NZ Government 2004, Part 11, Rule 11, Subclause 2).

CAN notes NZTA’s 2017 research report, Footpath Cycling Rule Options Research, and concurs with its conclusions.  
CAN supports children 12 years old and under and their guardians cycling on footpaths primarily because:
  • it permits cycling instructors to teach children safe and courteous footpath cycling use, making footpaths safer for all, and
  • it aligns the law with a widespread common practice (so that children and their parents are not criminals).

We recommend that for footpath cycling:

  • cyclists give way to pedestrians,
  • cyclists adjust their speed to be courteous of other footpath users and to manage the risks of riding on footpaths (e.g. of cars crossing them), and
  • NZTA should run a safety campaign to educate motorists accessing/departing driveways that they "must give way to a road user on a footpath" as per existing legislation (NZ Government 2004, Part 4, Rule 4).

The age of 12 years is somewhat discretionary but aligns with NZTA's recommendation that children should not ride on-road without adult supervision until 10 years old.

We do not recommend (or want) a blanket change in legal status to allow all cyclists to cycle on all footpaths for the following reasons:

  • This would lead to the situation of adult cyclists cycling too fast, elevating the risk of a collision with a vehicle coming out of a driveway.
  • Cycling on the footpath means having to give way to all traffic from all directions at each road intersection.
  • Cycling too fast on the footpath (e.g. by adult cyclists) may increase the risk of collisions with pedestrians.
  • Such a provision could support the contention held by some that ‘cyclists shouldn't be on the road'.

Separate pathways for all cyclists should continue to be constructed along roads with high traffic volumes and/or high speed limits, as allowed for under the Local Government Act (NZ Government 1974, Part 21, Section 332).

CAN believes that:

  • Cycling on footpaths should be legal for people 12 years of age and younger and their accompanying guardians.
  • This would allow safe footpath cycling to be proactively taught to younger cyclists, with clear expectations of pedestrian priority reinforced, and from a safety perspective it would likely benefit both child cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Motorists would need to be educated as to their existing obligations with regards to having to give way to footpath users.
  • Protected cycleways should continue to be built and are not affected by this policy.


  • Koorey, G. (2005). The "On-again/Off-again" Debate about Cycle Facilities. (attached below)
  • NZ Government (1974). Local Government Act 1974. Wellington.
  • NZ Government (2004). Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004. Wellington.

CAN's Vision and Mission

Cycling is an everyday activity in Aotearoa/New Zealand.