New anti-cycling laws in NSW
There's been a lot of news coverage about new anti-cycling laws in NSW lately. So what are the new laws all about?
- From March 1 2016, the fines for many existing riding offences increase by up to 500%, including not wearing a helmet or stopping at red lights.
- Enforcement of trivial offences for bicycle riders has increased, hopefully only temporarily!
- Most controversially, it has also been legislated that citizens compulsorily carry ID while riding a bicycle. Fortunately, you cannot be fined for this offence until March 1 2017, by which time it may possibly be repealed.
- On the positive side one metre passing rule for motorists has also been introduced in NSW. Drivers must give bicycles 1 metre of distance when overtaking.
Who is introducing these laws and why?
The NSW State Government is introducing these laws as their own initiative. No other governments, state, federal or local council is involved. The State government explanation is that it is for the safety of cyclists. However, based on the NSW State government's track record of actively discouraging bicycle use, it's reasonable to conclude that these laws are designed to making bicycle use less attractive.
Are these reasonable laws and measures?
No. To compare, the ACT government is currently looking at making helmets optional in low speed areas, reducing the car speed limit in many places and increasing enforcement to stop car drivers texting and using mobile phones. They already introduced the 1 metre rule without any need for anti-cycling laws. In addition, the ACT Government was clear that there is no need for bicycle rider identification - police in Australia already have powers to hold anyone for identification if suspected of breaking laws.
Who is supporting or opposing these laws?
Almost every bicycle advocacy group, both community and local-council has opposed these laws. Over 10,000 signatures were delivered by a diverse bicycle groups to the State Government opposing the new laws. The exception would be the Amy Gillett foundation, perhaps excited enough about the 'a metre matters' passing law (their own campaign), so it's a big win for their organisation, even if the overall effect to bicycle riders is definitely negative.
What will be the effect of these laws?
For many existing bicycle users, nothing really changes. Motorists are unlikely to give 1 metre of passing space on Sydney roads, most people already carry ID and most people don't often get booked for not having a bell or going through a stop sign. The biggest effect is on people of lower socio-economic background, who are less likely to carry ID and much more likely to be routinely stopped by Police. As far as bicycle use in NSW is concerned, the negative stories and increased fines will not help adoption of bicycle use amongst new potential riders.