Shared use paths are often implemented as a way of improving a connection for people on bikes, however the needs of all people that are expected to use the facility should be considered.

Because I cannot see who is coming, it can be scary using shared paths. I feel the occasional fast cyclist whizz past, and if the path is narrow, it makes me very anxious, so I tend to avoid narrow shared paths.


Just as separating vehicle traffic and bicycle traffic on the roadway can improve safety, comfort, and attractiveness, whilst reducing risk, this approach can also be applied to separating out those travelling by bicycle and pedestrians using a pathway.

Some pedestrians will avoid using shared paths because of anxiety about interactions with cyclists, so their installation should be limited. Some people (for example people who are blind or have low vision) can find it difficult to use shared paths as markings do not provide suitable guidance as to where they should walk. In all cases, options to provide a fully separated path should be considered first.

There are four ways that users can be accommodated on paths:

  • Fully separated facilities – this includes a footpath for pedestrians and a separate path for users travelling at a higher speed (eg cyclists and scooters)
  • Segregation of modes – by non-physical methods, eg a painted centreline and pedestrian/cycle symbols which allow for occasional ‘digressions’ where people use the other path.
  • Directional separation – generally by non-physical methods, eg a painted centreline, arrows, and behavioural messages (eg keep left)
  • No formal separation or segregation of modes – users ‘sort themselves out’. This may include suggested behavioural messages (eg ‘warn when approaching’)

Examples of different shared path types are shown in the Cycling Network Guidance.

Cycling Network Guidance: Design of shared paths

Depending on the location context, building a new shared path may prove popular among many users. Conversely, retrofitting an existing footpath for shared use may reduce the level of service and safety for pedestrians.

Shared paths may be appropriate in one or more of the following situations:

  • where there is a pedestrian-only alternative nearby
  • where there is sparse bicycle and pedestrian traffic
  • alongside main roads connecting towns where demands are low, space is available and there are limited side roads and driveways
  • in rural or peri-urban areas where a shared route away from the road may allow for a new connection when there is no provision alongside the road
  • short sections through greenspace in residential areas as a short-cut for recreational use and for children to access school and local facilities
  • railway corridors or river paths where there isn’t sufficient space for separate facilities
  • short sections at intersections (eg peripheral paths at large multi-lane roundabouts on the state highway network)
  • underpasses and bridges, where it is not cost-effective/feasible to separate users.

There are circumstances where even with a low level of pedestrian use shared paths are not appropriate and alternative approaches need to be considered.

It may not be appropriate to consider a shared path in these circumstances:

  • where the available width is too narrow or too close to the property boundary or roadway and cannot be widened
  • when a walking route is expected to be well used by people with a visual or physical impairment or older pedestrians eg close to retirement or aged residential care facilities
  • if high cycling speeds are anticipated, even relatively rarely (85th percentile speeds over 25km/h) – which may be a factor of the geometry provided and / or the types of cyclists expected
  • people on bikes would be passing close to front doors, windows or driveways (particularly if visibility is limited).

Should a shared path be pursued, the Cycling Network Guidance (CNG) gives further guidance on the design of shared paths, including appropriate widths.

Cycling Network Guidance: Design of shared paths

Collisions between pedestrians and cyclists on paths are comparatively rare. Nevertheless, some pedestrians perceive a danger from cyclists due to their speed and quietness, and may feel intimidated by them.

Conflict can be avoided through best practice path design (eg appropriate widths) and design that makes appropriate user behaviour more intuitive.

In some situations, a specific marking (or sign) may help remind people of a particular behaviour required to make the path safe and enjoyable for all people using it. However, some people feel intimidated by warnings. Even when all measures have been taken to make shared paths more comfortable for all people separate paths for pedestrians and faster moving users such as people cycling are preferable.

Cycling Network Guidance: Path behaviour markings [PDF, 1.7 MB]

slow zone marking

Slow zone marking where a shared path transitions to a shared zone, Christchurch. (Photo: Glen Koorey)

Care should be taken where shared paths follow routes where historic and cultural heritage exists. The Considering historic heritage in walking and cycling projects information sheet provides guidance on heritage considerations in walking and cycling projects.

Considering historic heritage in walking and cycling projects