Kiwi kids are a step closer to being able to cycle on footpaths legally after a Parliamentary committee recommended a change to the road rules.
A Petition in the name of Lower Hutt woman Joanne Clendon asked Parliament to allow under-14-year-olds, their guardians, over-65-year-olds and disabled people to be able to cycle on footpaths without falling foul of the law.
The Transport and Industrial Relations Committee has now agreed the petition should be considered, though it recommended a lower age limit of 12 years old to Government.
The committee also said bells should be mandatory for any bicycle used on footpaths or shared use paths, and that councils should be able to exclude some footpaths from being used for cycling.
Under the existing New Zealand Road Rules, it is illegal to ride on the footpath unless you are a delivering mail, or unless your wheels have a diameter of less than 355mm - a rule which effectively excludes nearly all bicycles.
This has contributed to a fall in the number of primary school students using bicycles in New Zealand, from about 12 per cent in the 1980s to 2 per cent in 2014.
There was some debate among MPs on the committee about an appropriate age limit for young people to be able to cycle on the footpath. They settled on a under-13 age limit because after that age children's motor skills were more developed and because they tended to cycle faster.
The committee said any rule change needed to consider the safety of elderly and disabled people "who rely on footpaths as a safe medium for movement".
The main opposition to the petition had come from organisations representing senior citizens or blind people, who said allowing children to ride on the footpath would transfer the safety issue from vulnerable group to another.
In Australia, all states allow children under 12 and an accompanying adult to cycle on the footpath. Research in that country had found that footpath cycling had not led to any serious injuries for pedestrians, and that collisions were minimal.
The petition was backed by the NZ Transport agency (NZTA), which said there was merit in allowing children to ride on the footpath. The agency said children cycled at a lower speed than teenagers and adults, and were typically more obedient of the rules.
The NZTA cited statistics which showed cycling crashes on footpaths accounted for about 10 per cent of all reported cycle crashes in New Zealand in the past 10 years. The number of footpath cycling crashes involving a pedestrian was less than 2 per cent of all footpath crashes.