Cyclists of any age would be able to ride on the footpath without getting a fine under a proposal from Wollongong council, designed to improve safety and increase the number of people riding bikes across NSW.
At a conference of councils from around the state being held in Sydney, Wollongong City Council will ask the council's lobby Local Government NSW to push for the government to change the rules for cyclists, allowing all age groups to ride on footpaths unless signposted otherwise.
It is also asking for support to allow bikes to be carried on buses, where possible, to allow cycling and public transport to be used together.
Greens councillor Cath Blakey, who asked for both motions to be put up at the conference, said the changes would help get more people using bikes and were supported by the city's adopted cycling strategy.
Community feedback when the council was developing the strategy showed "people on bikes, particularly female riders, would ride more if they were able to ride on footpaths", the council said.
However, under NSW law, only people under 16 and those accompanying them are allowed to ride on the footpath, and the city must abide by these rules.
Cr Blakey said she was in favour of all ages being able to ride on footpaths as it would especially allow more young people and women to feel safe while riding in busy areas without shared paths or cycling infrastructure.
She said cyclists were allowed on footpaths in most states and territories, with NSW and Victoria the only two to outlaw riding on footpaths as a rule.
"I recognise some people are concerned about risks to pedestrians, and it is really important to give way to pedestrians, but this is mostly about formalising what already happens when people feel unsafe riding on the road anyway," she said.
"The problem with the rules now, is that police can apply them with discretion, which leads to some people being targeted and fined, while others are left alone."
She said allowing cyclists to ride of the footpath was just one of the improvements needed to encourage cycling, and needed to be combined with investment in dedicated cycling infrastructure.
"Personally, I don't actually like riding on the footpath - because you have to contend with driveways and other infrastructure - but there are some places you just don't feel safe riding on the road," she said.
"This is not a perfect situation, and if we could retrofit cycleways on every single street I'd love to do that, but there's budget constraints and we can't change it overnight - so if we want people riding bikes now we need to change the rule."
Cr Blakey said allowing bikes to be carried on buses would make public transport more viable for many people in Wollongong.
"I've ridden to work and then in the afternoon it's raining and you then have to leave your bike at work - so being able to have those mixed modes where you can put a bike on a train or on a bus would be really helpful," she said.
"In Wollongong, we've got lots of suburbs that are really hilly, so we can cycle down them but not necessarily back up - so having bike racks on buses would be great.
"It would open up the catchment of people that are likely to catch the bus, because you can go so much further on a bike than you can walking, so there would be more people being able to get to the bus stop."
She said bike racks could be installed as the bus fleet was upgraded, and would be able to be used on a first come, first served basis.
A council spokesperson said enabling bikes to be carried on racks on buses would increase 'last-mile' journeys.
"This means, for example, a person can cycle a short journey to a bus stop, put the bike on the front of the bus, ride for 10km on the bus, and at the bus stop near their destination retrieve bike and ride the bike to their final stop," the council said.
"The use of bike racks on buses is seen as a positive in many aspects as a person uses far less carbon, gets exercise, doesn't need to drive or park a car, and reduces traffic congestion on many of our busy roads."
A note from the council provided in the LGNSW conference business paper highlights that bike racks on buses have been in operation in Canberra since 2005, and are also used in many places overseas.
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said he was not necessarily in favour of a "free-for-all" for cyclists on footpaths, but said councils needed to push boundaries and come up with new ways of making transport work.
"I think this measure has to come with a corresponding investment in cycling infrastructure," he said.
Likewise, he said allowing bikes on buses would need to be well coordinated, but believed it was important to have a discussion to encourage more people to use active and public transport.
Councils from around the state will vote on the Wollongong motions, along with hundreds of others, at the Local Government NSW conference which beings on November 12.
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