Should path walkers keep to the right?

Lyn's common sense bikepath use suggestion needs your comments. More than 60 visitors have now blogged us with their views, most supporting her concept.

Lyn from Doncaster writes:
I am attempting a change in approach and create more simple and sensible shared bike/pedestrian pat
h rules.


When I was a youngster and we often walked along roads without footpaths, we were always taught to walk on the right hand side facing the traffic. In fact, Australian Road Rules still recommend this.

Why are shared paths different?

Surely it makes sense for pedestrians to be able to see approaching bicycles.
As an experiment, my partner and I recently went for a walk along a shared path that is fenced on both sides for short distances. This made it impossible to step aside to make room for bikes. By walking on the right hand side, we had clear warning of approaching bikes and could lean as close to the fence as possible to make way.
The cyclists were also aware that we could see them. In itself a good thing. I might add that we are both cyclists, too.
To have everyone travel on the left, so that a bike approaching is behind and out of sight, doesn't make sense. To have walkers to the right, with clear vision of bikes approaching does. Eye contact between cyclists and walkers would be a positive thing.
I would like to advocate a change of rules, which would also require signage to be changed, and an education program started immediately, to get bikes to the left and pedestrians to the right.
It just makes sense and I'm approaching anyone who may have influence.

BikePaths Guide would like to take this suggestion to VicRoads, Bicycle Victoria and Parks Victoria, but first we need your comments?

Do you support or oppose Lyn's suggestion? Tell us why?


Your comments

Cycling Charles


Lyn's suggestion is worth further debate (I agree with her).

Is there any where else in the world that has this walk to the right rule for their paths?

And I feel at night that walkers (and their dogs) should carry/wear a light for safety now that so many cyclists are using the paths in darkness.
Charles from Chadstone 

Monday, 20/07/09, at 10:38 AM    

Alex Hallatt

Yep, this makes sense to me - is that the path between Brighton and Elwood? (editors note: Yes it is)
I cycle along this a lot and hate surprising walkers. Sometimes a bell is seen as being aggressive.

As for the dark, you are never going to persuade walkers to carry lights. It actually removes a lot of the fun of walking in the dark and adjusting to the low light so you can see more. The best thing on shared paths is for cyclists to go slower in the dark.  

Monday, 20/07/09, at 12:42 PM    


In my view, this is a fantastic idea.  

As a daily bike commuter along the Yarra, the mix of pedestrians and bikes is something that is becoming an increasing problem, particularly as bike riding is on the up. Pedestrians are typically the least cyclist aware in my experience and as a cyclist it takes particular vigilance and anticipation of their next actions.

If pedestrians were to walk along the other side of the path, that would be a fantastic idea.

In the dark, I agree with Alex, however good bike lights are a must.  I run a pair of Ayup high output LED's that I can see approaching pedestrians and other things from a long way off, however most garden variety bike lighting systems are woefully inadequate in providing the cyclist with any vision of the terrain and obstacles approaching. 

Another benifit of a high output LED light system is that cars and pedestrians can spot you in the daytime much more effectively, and almost every commute I notice a car or a person halt after noticing my headlamp.





Monday, 20/07/09, at 15:01 PM    

Bronwyn Withers

I agree with Lyn and further serious debate is a must!!  Yes it will be hard to implement the 'new' rule but definitely no harder then when Melbourne changed their right hand turn rules on the roads! If we can do it with cars then surely we can change this one with bikes and pedestrians.  It makes much more sense.

As a pedestrian there is nothing worse then having a fast bike creep up behind you and many do not use bells or even own them. Being able to make eye contact with someone is a much easier way to predict which direction they are going to go in and makes everyone more aware of their surroundings...isn't this what we want???!!!


Monday, 20/07/09, at 17:50 PM    


I've found with my standard "bell" that the new ones don't sound like the classic "bell" and aren't typically noticable.  Also, with a large many walkers have their ipods foing,  and there is skinny chance of hearing the "bell".

I fitted one of these about 6 months ago, and I can say that it works.  One of the most fantastic pieces of urban cycling kit one could own.  


The Horn



Monday, 20/07/09, at 20:15 PM    


Sounds like a great idea to me - time to adapt the rules to the increasing number of cyclists and pedestrians using shared pathways. Nothing worse than pointing out something as you're walking only to have a cyclist take your arm off!


Tuesday, 21/07/09, at 16:07 PM    


We certainly need a rule and this sounds quite easy to implement.  It can be alarming when you are on your bike and a pedestrian suddenly does something unexpected in front of you as they don't see you, even though I try to warn them of my presence with my bell.  As a pedestrian, I also get alarmed at times when a bike whizzes past me from behind far too close for comfort and without a warning bell to let me know they're coming.  At these times, I'm really glad I didn't suddenly trip or step to the side for some reason as some cyclists seem to assume that a pedestrain is not going to change direction.  Seeing on-coming cycists would be a great help.


Wednesday, 22/07/09, at 18:33 PM    


Stick to the left.

It doesn't matter whether you walk to the left or right of a path, you'll never be able to see a cyclist approaching from behind you and you'll almost always see oncoming cyclists and walkers/joggers. If a cyclist wants to pass then they can overtake to the right, just as on the road. What you are suggesting is to have cyclists and walkers approaching head on!? That's just asking for trouble; there are alot of blind corners out there you know. It's quite simple - stick to the left unless overtaking and ring a bell when approaching. The trouble arises when people meander or walk 3 or 4 abreast accross the entire path or wear Ipods and are oblivious to everything around therm.  Enjoy your exercise.

Tuesday, 28/07/09, at 17:49 PM    


To Dale: The whole point of my walk on the right suggestion is to have cyclists and pedestrians approaching head on. The people involved do not change, the makeup on the path is the same, only the direction of the walkers is changed, and key benefit is everyone can see each other. Face on is good.

Thursday, 30/07/09, at 14:55 PM    


I could not agree more with this idea of "walkers keeping to the right". It's logical, easy to implement and will result in a safer experience for all parties invloved.

Regarding pedestrians carrying lights. I can't ever see this idea being welcomed by joe public, so as was said above, I think slowing down is the best solution to this problem.

Monday, 24/08/09, at 14:33 PM    


There's one big problem with having pedestrians walk on the right hand side: When cyclist is coming in the other direction.

 Consider being the cyclist with pedestrians walking towards you on the same side of the path.  You can't overtake because a cyclist is coming the other way and you can't even ride along slowly behind the pedestrians because they're coming towards you.  

For all the advantages of having pedestrians on the right hand side of the track this is a major pitfall of the idea.  You end up having to stop, as do the pedestrians, until the cyclist on the other side goes past.

Oh yeah, and when it's pedestrians on both sides of the track it's even worse! 

Saturday, 29/08/09, at 14:24 PM    


I've been reading down this column and cannot believe that it took so long to read comments such as those by Dale and Josh. I completely agree with their comments.

Currently on a bike path all users travelling in the same direction are (in theory) on the same side of the path. This proposal will have half the users that are travelling in one direction on one side of the path and half the users travelling in the same direction on the other side of the path, effectively making a single lane. On a busy bike path with traffic in both directions this will create total havoc. At best it will cause everyone to stop, at worst (especially on some of those blind corners that Dale mentioned) someone will be killed.

On the issue of pedestrians carrying lights. It's nice to see that some people that like to walk their dogs in the dark and not on a lead are considerate enough to put a bike tail light on the dog's collar.

Sunday, 30/08/09, at 21:28 PM    


Tim's comments support Lyn's walk on the right suggestion:

As a regular commuter using the bike trails, I come across walkers on the left and right.  At first it was difficult to get used to, but I must say that that walkers on the right, so head on to me, has been welcomed.  In the dark has been even better as the walkers see me much more easily.  Certainly the powerful headlights have helped me to see them, but frequently the walkers are wearing dark clothing and would think it difficult for everyone to carry a light.

In regards to Chris' comments, on blind corners, it makes little difference when the walker is travelling at such a low speed in relation to a bike.  At least the walker will see you more quickly if they are facing you but as with all blind corners, the rider needs to slow down regardless.

As everyone would have noticed, most walkers will move over / walk in single file /pull their dog closer and prepare for a bike coming past.  The earlier you are seen the better.

Thursday, 03/09/09, at 11:24 AM    


After what Chris said, I thought about this and it occured to me that this problem happens anyway. 

I agree with what Tim says, the earlier the peds spot the cyclists the better.  Also peds walking two abrest can also be a problem, particuarly with oncoming traffic peds and bikes.

At any rate us pushbikers need to be careful as in terms of law, the pushbiker has very little in their favor.




Thursday, 03/09/09, at 14:48 PM    

Nicholas Raftopoulos

I think "Walk on the right" is a great idea especially for people with young children so they can learn from a young age why. I was taught to walk on the opposite side of the road to see the traffic ahead of you and not worry about the traffic behind you as you are well away from it.

As far as pedestrians walking two abreast although it is a bit of a problem it is no different to cyclist riding two abreast and motor vehicles slowing down as the pass them.

I think common sense and safety for everyone should prevail and slowing down or being prepared to slow down or stop as we pass pedestrian is the best approach.

Monday, 07/09/09, at 10:31 AM    


The erratic behaviour of some peds (especially when they have headphones on, unleashed animals etc) on shared paths scares me, so I'd be in favour of's not rocket science & would probably be relatively inexpensive to implement.


Monday, 07/09/09, at 11:45 AM    


For walking on the right side to work safely, whether it is on a roadway or shared path, the walker needs to be able to move out of the traffic.  I cannot see how this can happen on a blind corner.  I heard of one such meeting that resulted in a broken leg for the walker plus a bent wheel and bruises for the cyclist.

Consider a typical walker travelling at 5 kph and a cyclist at 20 kph.  If they collide travelling in the same direction, the impact speed is 15 kph if travelling in the same direction, but 25 kph if travelling in opposite directions.  If they are on the same side of the path, the collision speed is 66% higher and the injuries to both parties will be much worse.

The degree of conflict is even worse it there are three or more users passing each other as the passing speeds are higher on both sides of the user in the centre of the path.

Walking on the right might appear to work in light traffic conditions, but is unworkable when you get more than two users meeting.  If you are not convinced, suggest you try cycling or driving on the right down a road.  Perhaps try a road where there is a good mixture of trucks.

And please don’t teach your child to walk on the right.  Soon after they obtain their driving licence they may be driving in a tired state, and when confronted with an obstacle after waking from a micro sleep, their unconscious reaction will be to keep to the right; into the path of oncoming traffic.

Shared path users PLEASE keep left, it is safer for all.

Thursday, 17/09/09, at 08:55 AM    


I agree absolutely. I experienced the concept in Bristol Rhode Island on shared footways. I found it to be safer for both pedestrians and cyclists.

Thursday, 17/09/09, at 11:03 AM    

Mark Adams

I have to disagree with 99% of the comments that were  sounded, This has nothing to do with bikes. 

The ( rule /law ) was brought in because of old laws (1960's) where there limited public lighting. So to avoid pedestrians being hit by traffic,they were advised to walk on the other side to see on coming trafffic. New bike tracks do not have the width ( 3-5 mtrs) that old roads (6-9). Also if a cyclist is travelling at the speeds of a car (60kph +-). They should either be looking at least 60mtrs ahead as with a car or using roads and obeying the road rules

Saturday, 10/10/09, at 00:08 AM    


Walk on the left. I use bikepaths everyday as a runner and a rider, but mostly for running and there's usually a group of 6 of us and I find the safest spot on the path is to the far left. Lyn's idea is good on straight wide open paths with very little users but in high trafficked areas it is alot easier for the bike rider to overtake on the right and giving way to a faster moving cyclist in the opposite direction than it is to give way to a pedestrian plus a bike rider coming in the same direction and if you have a 2nd pedestrian going the same way, then it's total chaos.

Let me put this to you. You have 4 commuters a cyclist travelling north on his left, a pedestrian travelling north on his, a cyclist travelling south on her left and a pedestrian travelling south on her right. 2 lanes, 4 commuters at the same spot. Who gives way to who? BTW both sides of the path is fenced! I have no answer using Lyn's way all I can see is 4 people coming to a complete stop or 2 head on colissions. But using stick to the left philosophy then the bike riders must slow down and wait for the 2 pedestrians to pass as they are approaching from behind.

Stick to the left and make the bike riders give way it works for bike riders on roads so it should be the same concept on shared paths. I will always run on the left and give way to pedestrians walking on the left by passing as far right as I can.

Wednesday, 21/10/09, at 16:12 PM    

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