“I thought it was a footpath”

I feel like crap today, but still managed to go out and buy some milk before making the journey home to flake out.

I don’t own a car and the shops aren’t far so I went on my bike.

I was cycling to cross a road. It was a quiet road so I took my time. A family of 3 (mum, dad, son) were blocking the footpath at the slopey curb bit while they figured out where they were going to walk next, so I stopped in the middle of the road and kindly and politely, with a smile, said ‘Excuse Me’. They didn’t move so I moseyed really slowly around them. As I was cycling off, just within ear shot, the matronly, middle-aged, pretentious looking woman said ‘I thought it was a footpath’.

I found this so hurtful, cruel and ignorant that I stopped and tried to yell out an explanation, but they were out of ear-shot and back to ignoring their surroundings.

I’m hoping they were tourists, but we’re talking about Beaudesert Rd Moorooka here, so it’s unlikely. However, people – residents and tourists alike – need to know that cyclists are allowed on footpaths in Brisbane. Cyclists are simply required to give way to pedestrians.

I am so courteous of this rule. I follow it strictly. Even though I’m allowed to, I never ding my bell on a footpath (only on a bikeway or shared foot/bikeway). I always slow down. Just last night I slowed right down to a halt to avoid the cutest little African toddler whose mother was madly trying to tell him to get out of my way. I didn’t mind them being in my way. We shared a laugh. And even then I didn’t just take off (for fear of an unco toddler tumble), I pottered really slowly around the little tike with my feet on the ground the whole time.

I draw the line at getting off the bike completely. Having an electric bicycle means I have much more control to stop and start as I have the throttle that’s essentially a Stop/Go switch.

What concerns me most about this woman today who said this bitchy comment was that her son or grandson aged around 8-10 must not be a kid who rides his bike around the streets.

I vividly remember learning how to ride a bike (taking off the training wheels). It was on Amarina Avenue, Ashgrove. The little bike was maroon. I fell off no doubt. I don’t remember falling off. I remember it being hard. I remember never giving up. Then it was easy. I remember growing a little bit older (8-9) and my friends and I would cycle around the neighbourhood from place to place – sans adults. We’d go down and play in the creek just off Wardell St near the park. We were free.

Cycling as an adult gives me the same sense of freedom. It’s great for body and mind plus you get to enjoy the open air. You are also closer to community. You see people going about their business. You encounter and speak to many pedestrians and cyclists. Just a few words exchanged here and there, but it’s community connection. Much more joyful than honking a horn within the confines of your car. As a cyclist, I get smiles and apologies and I say ‘thank you’ or ‘cheers, thank you’ when someone walks on the grass so I can cycle on the footpath. They don’t have to. They just do it because they’re nice people and they know what it’s like to be on a bike and wrangle grass, mud, gravel, broken footpaths and potholes.

Every able bodied person should know what it’s like to be on a bike and wrangle such things.

But if you’re not interested in cycling, as a pedestrian, do try to be polite and courteous to cyclists, particularly to cyclists who are polite and courteous to you.

But now, for some rules. Just so you know. Share them with your friends and family. Everyone should know.

FOR BICYCLES

In Queensland you may ride on either the road or the footpath. When riding in a pedestrian area (the footpath, or most cycleways), you are required to keep left and give way to pedestrians. Bicycle Queensland Bicycle Laws & Guidelines

FOR PEDESTRIANS

When using paths (footpaths, shared paths, separated paths):

– Stay alert and be aware of other people using the path.
– Don’t block the path if you are part of a group. Check behind you if you are about to pass someone or change direction.
– Wearing headphones and using a mobile phone will reduce your awareness of the people around you.
– Share the path. Keep left to allow faster path users to pass you safely.
– Move out of the way, to the left if possible, when a cyclist sounds their bell. Walk on the section designated for pedestrians on separated paths.
– Teach children to be aware of other people using the path and keep your dog on a leash.
Queensland Transport Road User Code of Behaviour

2 thoughts on ““I thought it was a footpath”

  1. Ive had a woman yell at me for riding on the footpath rather than uphill inbound on Bowen Bridge Rd after the bus lane was removed. It’s a very narrow footpath but there was enough space for her to let me pass.

    The ones to blame for pedestrian/cyclist conflicts are councils who underinvest in bike-appropriate infrastructure.

  2. Agreed Sam!

    And yes, it’s rather strange that some pedestrians (hopefully a minority!) would prefer you tackle a busy road than a quiet footpath.

    It’s like saying ‘Go risk your life!’

    Not sure why any compassionate person would wish for a cyclist to wrangle dangerous traffic unnecessarily, particularly when the footpaths in Brisbane aren’t exactly busy places.

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