Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Nanny NSW increases cycling penalties

One of my first impressions on visiting Copenhagen were the bikes. They were everywhere. I suggested that part of the reason for this was flat terrain, part better infrastructure, part integration of cycling into the road rules. However, I also suggested that a significant contributor was a less legalistic more cyclist friendly approach than that applied in Australia, citing bike helmets as an example.

Now the NSW Government has announced new rules:and penalties:
  • Adult cyclists will be required to carry photo identification. From March 2017, failure to do so will attract a penalty of $106, the same as drivers caught without a licence.
  • Drivers will be required to leave a one-metre buffer when overtaking cyclists, and at least 1.5 metres when travelling faster than 60km/h. Penalty two demerit points and a $319 fine
  •  Penalties for cyclists breaking road rules will be greatly increased. While most offences currently attract a $71 fine, cyclists caught riding without a helmet will now be fined $319, running a red light will incur a $425 fine, riding dangerously a $425 fine, holding onto a moving vehicle a fine of $319 and not stopping at a pedestrian crossing a fine of $425.
Fairfax journalist Michael O'Reilly correctly described the new laws as a mixture of good (the one metre buffer),  bad (increased penalties for not wearing a helmet) to downright bewildering (the ID requirement).

According to the New South Wales Director of the Centre for Road Safety Transport Bernard Carlton, the requirement to carry ID was considered an important safety measure. "There's been a big change in cycling and we've got a lot more cyclists on the road who are commuting and cycling for recreation and health," he said. "In New South Wales we have on average around 11 cyclist fatalities every year and 1,500 cyclists are admitted to hospital every year with serious injuries.".

Its all very NSW. I can't see how those casualty figures will be affected by the ID requirement, nor indeed by the increased fines for not wearing a helmet. The increased distance requirement has been welcomed by cycling bodies, although as a driver who is already careful about cyclists my main concern is the risk of breaching it inadvertently if, for example, a cyclist comes within a metre of me or I am trying to pass a cycling pack. The one thing I am reasonably certain of is that the changes are going to further discourage cycling as an activity while adding to police loads.


kvd wondered: "But of more importance, why are there no fines for "lycra'd whilst pudgy" and "cycling with hubris"?" The phrases made me laugh! I especially liked cycling with hubris!


Anonymous said...

Hi Jim, the requirement to carry id for adult cyclists does seem bewildering. As do the increased penalties threatened against cyclists breaking the law. I am one of your described careful drivers and I see cyclists doing crazy stuff all the time - not only breaking the law but risking their own safety together with that of other road users. It won't sit well with your nanny state assertion but there seems little point in having these penalties when they cannot be enforced unless either a police officer witnesses the infringement or there is some system of identifying infringing riders. Thoughts?

2 tanners said...

GL, I think that is the point in a nutshell. If the cyclist must carry ID, then a traffic notice can be issued and they are on their way (motorists must already carry their licence, a full form of ID). The only other option for an infringing cyclist is to arrest them on the spot, which seems worse.

Not supporting this either, just pointing out that there is a logic once you accept the initial propositions implicit in the NSW action.

Anonymous said...

Agree with GL and tanners re id requirement; can't see how anyone would find it puzzling, let alone "bewildering". But of more importance, why are there no fines for "lycra'd whilst pudgy" and "cycling with hubris"?


Jim Belshaw said...

Welcome, GL. Had to laugh at the phrases, kvd.

More broadly, once you have rules you have to try to enforce them, giving the police more to do. However, you can also rely on other sanctions that come into force when things go wrong. For example, insurance companies amend their rules so that they don't have to pay you because you weren't complying with the official rules. Additional employment is created, too, including more police, inspectors and lawyers. The nanny state becomes self re-enforcing!

I think that I will come back to this one after Xmas.