The legal definition of the controversial footpath along Tauranga's Harbour Drive is to be changed to allow it to be used by cyclists.

Built as a pedestrian-only footpath on the harbour side of the road, it quickly became popular with cyclists because it looked like both a walkway and cycleway.

However, the council ran into a storm of protest when it responded to complaints from pedestrians about near misses by putting up signs saying cyclists were not allowed on the footpath.

Harbour Drive resident and cyclist Phil Simpson launched a petition opposing the ban, gathering 118 signatures.

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He put his case to the council yesterday, saying he was left gasping at the democracy of putting up signs based on two emails and a couple of phonecalls.

Mr Simpson said it was unnecessary to spend $45,000 widening the footpath so it could take cyclists when all people had to do was step or steer onto the grass verges on either side. "It is not a big issue."

He said many cyclists did not like biking along Tauranga roads because it was dangerous.

Claims by council staff that the footpath was too narrow to be shared with cyclists were refuted by Ngatai Rd resident Arch McTainsh, who said it was wider than many other paths around the city shared by cyclists and walkers.

"It is a kneejerk reaction to someone's idea that they do not want cyclists there."

Mayor Stuart Crosby urged that the footpath be redesignated as a shared pathway and "share with care" signs erected. The rest of the council supported this course of action.