By Beckie Wilson
Wairarapa Automobile Association representatives would like to see a law change allowing children and the elderly to cycle on footpaths.
A petition, presented by Lower Hutt woman Joanne Clendon, is currently before Parliament to decide if children under the age of 14-years old should cycle on footpaths, accompanied by adults, as a safer option.
The transport and industrial select committee has heard from various groups, for and against the change.
An AA national survey asked its members to comment on the proposed law change.
The results showed that 54 per cent of the 1040 responses supported the idea, and 28 per cent opposed.
It also showed that 67 per cent of the members have had to stop and stand aside for a person on a form of transport.
The existing law allows scooters, skateboards, mobility scooters and any delivery cyclists to use footpaths.
The AA Wairarapa district council is the representative for all AA members living in the region.
The group of 10 volunteers come together once a month to discuss how to make the regional roads safer.
Handley Thomson, an AA Wairarapa district councillor, said as a group they were aware of the issue and would be pleased to see the petition pass.
Ed Hodgkinson, past president of the regional primary principals’ association and principal of Lakeview school, said if the petition created the law change it would help children to feel safe cycling to and from school.
It would also encourage more of them to do so.
“Parents today worry about safety of their children more than past generations, as a child I cycled long distances and on roads,” he said
However, he said it needed to be clear what roads could be used in a law change.
“You wouldn’t allow it on Queen St say, but where footpaths are free of [foot] traffic would be safer.”
Getting children to feel safe on footpaths was necessary to ease them into cycling on the roads when they got older, Mr Hodgkinson said.
Bruce Pauling, Wairarapa Road Safety council manager, said simply saying children could cycle on footpaths wasn’t going to solve all road safety problems.
“I think we have to be careful we aren’t supporting a proposed law change of a perceived danger for a real danger,” he said.
All states in Australia allow children under the age of 12 years-old to cycle legally on the footpath.