By JAZ SINGH-BRAR & CHRISTOPHER HARRIS
Cycling groups have slammed the NSW Government’s idea of a licensing scheme for riders, saying there is no evidence of a need for identification.
One group said the idea of a licensing scheme is the government’s mechanism to cause division in an otherwise unified interest group.
Bob Moore of Bike Leichhardt said that carrying photo identification was a “distraction”, would not improve safety and was a “a typical tactic to divide cyclists”.
Last Monday, Roads Minister Duncan Gay held a roundtable discussion with cyclist, motorist, pedestrian, and community groups.
Also discussed at the meeting was a proposed trial of a distance of 1.5 metres from cyclists while overtaking, and wide support for an increase in fines for “reckless riding” to be increased above the current $69 fine.
Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi said that the proposal to carry ID served no real purpose and was merely a roadblock to active transport such as cycling.
“Instituting punitive measures such as carrying identification may make the government feel like it’s doing something, but it doesn’t help anyone else, as cyclists remain with little separated infrastructure, making life harder, more stressful, and more dangerous for cyclists and motorists alike” she said.
Bicycle NSW CEO Ray Rice, who attended the roundtable, said that there was nothing to suggest carrying identification would improve safety.
“I think the real question is what does this add to bicycle riders safety? Carrying photo identification doesn’t give you some magic force field to protect you from danger and from cars,” he said.
“We don’t see this as achieving anything for bike riders safety, we haven’t seen any evidence that identifying riders has been an issue, a couple of weeks back they held a major blitz on cycling behaviours in the city and they booked over 400 riders and we have seen no issue of identifying riders from that blitz.”
But Harold Scrubby of the Australian Pedestrian Council told City Hub that figures from a freedom of information request three years ago showed the lack of identification meant riders never paid fines issued to them.
“50 per cent of penalties issues to cyclists are never paid and about 90 per cent of the penalties are to cyclists who aren’t wearing helmets,” he said.
“Young people under 18 aren’t the problem, it is the ones who get in Tour De France mode and are doing 50 km an hour, and they’ve been clocked doing that on the Pyrmont pedestrian bridge where there are a lot of pedestrians.”
He said there was an urgent need to increase the penalty of $69 as it currently stands for cyclists found to be riding recklessly.
“There has been a majority support for some sort of ID, there is majority support for increase in certain penalties, everyone agrees reckless riding should be a lot more than not having a bell.”
Mr Scrubby said the government should introduce license plates for bikes, citing a 2002 incident where pedestrian Maria Giuliano was unable to identify the rider who left her with a brain injury on the Iron Cove Bridge.
“Pedestrians who are seriously injured have no way of knowing who it was if the cyclists rides off from an accident,” Mr Scrubby said.
Dr Faruqi said the notion of licensing was “ludicrous” and that bike paths such as the College St cycleway should be expanded and not removed because they are beneficial to safety.
“Tearing up the multi-million dollar College street cycleway makes no sense at all, especially one that thousands of people coming into the city use. With the whole city’s transport in upheaval, retaining the College street cycleway is even more essential as this will provide an alternative transport option,” she said.
“It’s time the government understood active transport like cycling to be an integral part of transport planning and infrastructure, and invest in expanding safe and separated cycleways that provides New South Wales cyclists with the appropriate level of security on the road.”
Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich wrote on July 6 this year to Auditor General Tony Whitfield expressing his concerns.
He said NSW Government’s plans to remove the cycleway with no alternative infrastructure contravened its own long term traffic plan as well as the City of Sydney’s.
“A government contract with the City of Sydney requires construction of a safe, separated cycleway on Castlereagh Street between Hay and King streets before the College Street cycleway can be removed. However the government has only determined to proceed with part of this route at this time leaving cyclists with no full alternative route.”
A spokesperson for Mr Greenwich’s office said they had not yet received a response from the Auditor General.