Do your bit for walkability: keep the footpath clear

It wasn’t planned this way, but this week’s posts seem to have been all about pedestrians/walking.

Along with rules about not parking over footpaths (and vehicles needing to give way to pedestrians when crossing footpaths), some people seem to be unaware that there are rules about keeping vegetation clear of footpaths.


Able-bodied people can duck or brush past overhanging trees, or detour onto a nature strip, but someone pushing a mobility aid or a pram may not be able to do that.

In my area, the City of Glen Eira says:

Property owners are responsible for keeping trees and shrubs under control and trimmed back to ensure pedestrian safety and clear sightlines for drivers.

Trees must be trimmed to a height of three metres above the ground and, at least, vertically in line with the property boundary. Shrubs must not protrude beyond the fence line or encroach onto the footpath.

The precise rules vary by council area, but the City of Monash describes it nicely in this diagram:
City of Monash: footpath overhanging vegetation rules

Why 2.5 to 3 metres? I suppose it allows for cases where rain weighs down tree branches, bringing them lower. You also need to account for an adult riding a bike (accompanying children doing the same, which is perfectly legal) — their height is likely to be higher than 2 metres.

What’s not clear to me is whether property owners or the councils have responsibility for trees on the nature strip.

City of Monash says: Council acknowledges its duty to ensure street trees and other public vegetation does not encroach onto footpaths.

…but other rules imply that property owners are meant to keep nature strips under control. Personally, I’m happy to take this responsibility.

Some people in my street seem to take no such interest. Should I flag such issues with council? It might be quicker to sneak out with pruning shears and do it myself! Hmm, vigilante footpath clearers…

It’s worth checking the precise rules in your area.

Do your bit to help walkability: for the sake of pedestrians in your street, keep overhanging trees and other vegetation off the footpath.

(Try Googling your local council name and: footpath overhang, or similar terms)

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

6 replies on “Do your bit for walkability: keep the footpath clear”

I once spent 30 minutes or so carefully pruning my neighbours branches that were overhanging the footpath – the next day they hacked the entire tree down to just above fence level!

It’s sad that some people who only seem to walk when it’s to/from their car have no concept that the world doesn’t revolve solely around them, that people actually use the footpath to walk on, and that they can inconvenience many people just because they haven’t parked properly.

I have thought about carrying “do not block the footpath” notes and sticking them on offending windshields, but then I wonder where it would end once I began.

I Snap Send Solve it if it’s severe and a one-off.
A while back I sent a list of really offensive/dangerous overhanging (overhanging prickly cacti, roses or just hedges completely overwhelming the footpath) to the Council and they sorted every one.
So (most?) Councils care, and most of those properties haven’t recurred, I suspect often it’s people don’t know, or at least don’t think they’ll be held accountable. Once they realise they are – they comply.

Aside from those people who overhanging growth might affect, what about blind people walking along, tap tap on the ground but no tap tap in the air, and then get slapped in the face. I’ve seen it happen.

What about bushy shrubs/trees planted by the council itself on footpaths? Moreland have been busy planting callistemons (Brunswick bottle-brush) on both feeder and side streets but when they grow outwards low and bushy the only option for the pedestrian is to step out into the road to get around them.

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