Leading Law Firm Confirms Councils and RTA Can Be Liable for Deaths and Injuries on Shared Bicycle Paths

No Speed Limits – No Risk Analysis or Duty of Care – No Insurance Cover –
No Identification Required for Cyclists – No Means of Enforcement
“Councils Must Build Dedicated Bicycle Paths – Footpaths Are For Pedestrians”

Leading law firm Slater and Gordon has been retained by the Pedestrian Council of Australia to provide advice as to the legal rights and protections afforded to pedestrians on Shared Bicycle Paths.  A copy of their advice is attached.

The Chairman of the PCA, Harold Scruby, said today:  “Councils are creating these Shared Paths all over NSW (and Australia) and as a result, all pedestrians, especially children and the elderly are at great risk.

“It is an offence for anyone over the age of 12 to ride a bicycle on the footpath.  However, the Australian Road Rules allow the authorities to create a Shared Bicycle Path (SBP) and invite all cyclists to ride upon them.

“Currently, the following outrageous conditions generally prevail:


  • Few if any Councils have undertaken detailed (independent) risk analyses or pedestrian safety audits
  • There are no speed limits
  • There is no offence for speeding on a bicycle in NSW (and most other jurisdictions)
  • The only offences the authorities can prosecute are “ride, negligently, recklessly, or furiously”. Penalty $54.  These offences are very difficult to prove and enforce, especially as there are no speed limits.
  • There is no insurance.  Pedestrians hit by a cyclist on a SBP have no claim against the Motor Accidents Authority as they would if they had been hit by a motor-vehicle.
  • Cyclists are not required to display number-plates or be licensed and are almost impossible to recognise especially when most are wearing helmets and sunglasses.

“In 2002, Maria Guliano (see S&G advice), was struck by a cyclist on a SBP, resulting in a severe traumatic head and brain injury.  She was forced to sue Leichhardt Council and the RTA.  The matter was settled out of court.  An expert witness (engineer) was of the opinion that the speed travelled by the bicyclist of 20km per hour was unsafe for a SBP.


Cyclists are required to give way to pedestrians at all times on a SBP.  Yet many Councils erect signs advising cyclists to ring their bells.  This frequently frightens pedestrians and creates a most threatening and unfriendly environment.


Mr Scruby added:  “This is utter lunacy.  Under the current system, a cyclist can hit an elderly person on the footpath, cycle away and disappear.  Such injured persons can then be required to pay up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in health care costs from their own pockets, unless they sue the authorities.


“For all the above and many other compelling reasons, we demand that the RTA and all Councils immediately cease the approval and creation of any future Shared Bicycle Paths and remove all existing SBPs unless and until all the above issues have been fully addressed.


“We have an extremely vulnerable ageing population.  We are rapidly becoming the fattest nation in the world and regular walking is one of the best ways to stay fit.  But without a safe and welcoming pedestrian environment, people won’t walk.  Bicycle sales are at record levels.  While cycling is also a great form of exercise and transport, councils must be required to build Dedicated Cycle Paths.  Footpaths are for pedestrians.”  Mr Scruby said.

Contact:  Harold Scruby – (0418) 110-011 – All details and attachments at:  www.walk.com.au


see our other article about cycling in Manningham.

8 yrs, 3 costly Pedestrian/Cycling plans, and not a single reference to unsafe gradients !

One Response to “Leading Law Firm Confirms Councils and RTA Can Be Liable for Deaths and Injuries on Shared Bicycle Paths”

  1. Trent says:

    There continues to be an improvement in protection systems for car drivers but similar innovations relating to cyclists are rare. “Cycling without a helmet is dangerous, but cycling with one is safe”. This is the line that transport authorities would like us to believe (and one which many cyclists in Australia do believe), but unfortunately it is not consistent with the evidence to hand. For a dangerous activity to be rendered safe by the use of protective equipment, the safety device would need to be able to reduce or eliminate all or virtually all of the danger – which helmets certainly do not do. Meanwhile cyclists are invited to ride in bus lanes, on busy roads with no physical separation or share footpaths with pedestrians.

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