Gersch: safety the first concern before changing footpath rules

BICYCLE Victoria has called on the State Government to raise the legal age to ride on the footpath from 12 to 16.

But Rural Councils Victoria chairman and Hindmarsh Shire Mayor Rob Gersch said safety should be the first concern when considering any change to traffic rules.

"If it was a footpath that didn't have heavy pedestrian traffic it would be all right," he said.

Cr Gersch said rural and regional areas might encounter increased safety issues if older children were allowed to ride on footpaths.

"In a country town it would allow all sorts of people to ride on a busy pedestrian path," he said.

"I would think there would be problems with that."

Bicycle Victoria chief executive Craig Richards said the plan would encourage more students to cycle to school.

"Riding to school means students are getting regular physical activity, which not only decreases the risk of developing diseases such as type two diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, it also improves concentration in class," he said.

Cr Gersch said he appreciated trying to get more children to ride to school, but an immediate rule change without considering wider safety implications could be dangerous.

"I certainly encourage more exercise, and more riding of bikes is imperative rather than getting mum and dad to drive children to school," he said.

"But we'd have to weigh up exercise against the safety factor. I can see the positive, but it would be safety that would be the big concern for both the pedestrians and the cyclists.

"It would need to be a good mix. I think if you had bikes and pedestrians on a narrow footpath it could be dangerous."

Mr Richards said training children to ride on the footpath would make them safer cyclists.

"It will teach them to be confident riders who can handle a bike on the road," he said.

"It's also a great way to keep encouraging students to stay active."

Today is National Ride2School Day.

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