As Auckland's population surges past 1.5 million, it seems pedestrian space is getting crowded - especially at those times of day when bikes and other personal transportation machines mix it up with walkers on footpaths.

Taking wheels on to the pavement used to be reserved for children, baby buggies, wheelchairs, mobility scooters and the like. Today, able-bodied cyclists seem to use the footpath as a safe haven, but is this allowed?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

NZ Transport media manager Andy Knackstedt says the law classifies a small bike (wheel diameter up to 355mm) as a "wheeled recreational device".

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Scooters, skateboards and rollerblades have the same classification. Pedestrians and drivers of mobility devices, or these "devices", may all use the footpath.

But some bikes are banned from using the footpath. Road user rules prohibit riding a larger cycle on the footpath "except for delivery of newspapers or mail".

Perhaps authorities should simplify these rules; limiting riding bikes on footpaths to children, whatever the size of their wheels. Cyclists on footpaths are an emerging hazard, particularly with an ageing population. ACC and Auckland Council also have concerns about the potential for trouble on shared pathways, built for cyclists and pedestrians. Last year ACC handled 1870 claims costing $1,620,860 in the Auckland region where "footpath" or "sidewalk" were in the accident descriptions.