Auckland Transport is developing a campaign to improve safe and courteous behaviour on paths shared by cyclists and pedestrains.
Auckland Transport media relations manager Mark Hannan says pedestrians and cyclists have a responsibility to be considerate to one another and to share these spaces safely.
"One of the elements of the campaign will be to promote the use of bells on bikes.
Overseas using the bell is common practice, whereas in New Zealand this culture needs to be further developed," says Mr Hannan.
"There is currently a lack of awareness about bike bell use. Many cyclists do not have a bell on their bike, or don't use them. Some cyclists are apprehensive to use a bike bell as they don't wish to be deemed 'rude' by a pedestrian.
"Many pedestrians don't know how to react when they hear a bike bell, sometimes moving to the wrong side of the path. The campaign will explain to pedestrians how to react when they hear a bell, and also assure them that the bell is a friendly gesture.
"Cyclists will be encouraged to use a bell, and the appropriate way to use one. Other elements of sharing the path with care will also be included in the campaign which is due to launch in spring this year."
Cycle track etiquette
* Use a bike bell or call out to warn pedestrians they are approaching
* Ride slowly, courteously and safely
* Be prepared to stop and give way when needed
* Ride on the left of the path (unless on a path where there is a separate cycle and pedestrian lane).
* Walk on the left of the path
* Move aside (to the left) when they hear a cyclist approaching
* If stopping, move off the path
* Keep dogs on a short lead
Last year ACC handled 1870 claims costing $1,620,860 in the Auckland region where the words "footpath" or "sidewalk" were mentioned in the accident descriptions.
Descriptions included: "tripped and injured myself on the footpath"; "ran into a branch across the footpath and cut my head" and "girl on bike rode into me on footpath".
ACC spokesperson Stephanie Melville says there's a growing risk of injury from distraction.
"Wearing headphones while navigating a city is ever more common but can be dangerous. If pedestrian areas are busy, leave the headphones off so you're not blocking out other sounds, and be aware of your surroundings.
"A little common sense can prevent injury to both yourself and fellow users of the footpath and that's sweet music to anyone's ears," says Ms Melville.
Bike use up
Anecdotal evidence suggests bike use is on the up, with Auckland primary and intermediate schools reporting higher numbers of students cycling to school compared to a few years ago.
Another high-use group are "born again cyclists" in their 50 and 60s, says experienced cyclist and bike retailer Lance Maitland.
This followed the opening of popular scenic cycleways around the country, in particular the 150 km Otago Central Rail Trail in 2012.
"More people are riding but I'd be cautious about traying to make bells compulsory," says Lance.
"Serious riders seldom use footpaths because they're a bit slow and dangerous for bikes. There's always a danger of cars backing out of driveways and into their pathway."
No cycle with wheels larger than 350mm (a small child's bike) is supposed to be ridden on the footpath. But the rule is little known among children riding to school, or among adults who use the footpath because they don't feel confident to cycle on roads.
"The police have much better things to do than enforce this and for the most part kids who ride footpaths on the way to school cause few problems. Police do pull-up cyclists riding at night without lights, and occasionally nab people riding without helmets.
"Serious road bike riders aren't going to flock to put bells on their bikes, because they'll consider it unfashionable. But this group - who stick to the roads - are little threat to pedestrians.
"On shared pathways bells would be a great idea for all kids to have, but sadly many walkers and runners are 'wired-up for sound' and don't seem to hear them.
"I agree with Auckland Transport - you can't beat the good old values of common sense, courtesy and respect for others.
"By and large most cyclists and pedestrains still demonstrate these values and while the cycle/pedestrian thing isn't a hundred per cent safe, it's not at crisis point either.
"But to the extent we move away from respect for others, we're going to have more problems."
* If you have ideas on how to improve the safety of cyclists or pedestrains email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Some comments we've received have been:
Bells on bikes are useless when other cyclists and pedestrians wear headphones or ear buds and listen to music, etc. I ring my bell, and don't think it's unusual (to do so).
A 'Bells on Bikes' discussion is timely. I walk every morning from St Heliers in Auckland to Mission Bay and back between 7 and 8 a.m. During this period about 30-to-40 bikers whiz past on their side of the footpath with no warning at all.
I have over the years spent time cycling around a small town in North Germany, where there is a developed cycling culture. Bikes are allowed on the footpaths, but everyone has a bell. When approaching from behind, you sound your bell, and the pedestrian steps to the inside of the path.
This type of cycling is local and commuter with some tourists. In many cases cycle paths are well away from roads, well formed asphalt or concrete about 1.5m wide.
This is quite different to the lycra-clad lads and lasses, determined to exercise their rights two-and-three-abreast in the busy morning traffic, shouting and screaming at pedestrians and motorists who might impede their progress.
They are giving cycling a bad name as the public don't differentiate. A cyclist is a cyclist.
Pseudo training in a race to the nearest coffee bar doesn't cut it.
An education program is certainly needed.
Years ago bells were mandatory, and I can recall the police visiting schools to inspect bikes. This was back when we went to school alone on our bikes and didn't hesitate to use our bells.
Aussies do it better
Recently visiting Victoria, South Australia and also the Gold Coast, I was impressed at the amount of signage on shared and dedicated cycleways.
On the wider ones in SA they had centre lines and directional arrows on the correct side. On the Gold Coast one very sharp corner had a sign of that danger and a sign indicating a bell should be used.
In my local Howick, Pakuranga area there are several shared cycle ways both passing Through Lloyd Elsmore Park and the Rotary Walkway around the foreshore that would benefit from "the bell sign" or some form of "danger" signage. The reality is that many commuter cyclists or fitness freaks are winding their commuter and mountain bikes up to 30 kp/h and it is not always safe to leave the seal / concrete path as the edges are severe wheel buckling ledges. Directional arrows tended also to have both cyclists and ped's on a side of the path - not stretched across the path - and not knowing which way to go.
Tourists at peril
Reading the herald article this morning re footpath safety and cyclists. I am a regular cyclist on the waterfront, the single biggest issue I see is the dramatic lack of signage telling pedestrians that the footpath is shared. In that area the other issue is the large numbers of Asian tourists who visit the waterfront in coach tours and who off-load at Okahu Bay. The tour drivers obviously do not instruct their visitors about these shared footpaths, they totally ignore and bells or warnings; you have to actually shout at them to get them to be aware of you.
There is a definite need to discuss this topic but I was staggered to find your news article buried on the inside back page of today's Sports pages of the NZ Herald. Whoever decided on that placement should be made aware of the need for much better publicity which can best be obtained by insertion in the main pages of the paper. I wish the campaign well.