BY ANDREW BARCLAY
New laws for cyclists have had little effect on dangerous behaviour and have increased hostility between riders and drivers, according to a cyclists group.
Stephen Wilks, a recreational cyclist from NSW, said the new laws have further flared tensions and reversed recent improvements to “drive a divide” between drivers and riders.
He said the new laws perpetuated the perception that cyclists don’t belong on the road.
“The direct impact on individuals is profound,” he told City Hub.
“I’ve definitely seen a small yet noticeable increase in cars feeling like they don’t want cyclists on the road.”
Under the rules, riding a bicycle without working “warning device” like a bell will see the fine rise to $106, and they have already started nabbing their first victims.
Mr. Wilks said he has been told of riders in Central Park being targeted by police and being pulled over for not possessing the appropriate device.
He said it seemed to be a peculiar use of police resources.
“I know that bell won’t do anything if I’m in danger – all I can do is yell loudly,” he said.
Social media has continued to provide evidence of targeting of cyclists, including a Sydneysider posting a photo of police pulling over cyclists for “speeding in the park”.
Facebook user Liam Kelly said the photo showed police fining cyclists for speeding in the park’s 30km/h zone and described it “completely and utterly unbelievable”.
NSW Police didn’t specifically confirm the above accounts but told City Hub that as part of Operation Pedro more than 64 cyclists were issued warnings. This occurred in late February before the laws came in to effect.
Mr. Wilks said the laws “appear to be part of an ideologically driven agenda” and have led to an “us and them” mentality on the road.
The Baird government’s new measures, which came into force on March 1, include raising the fine for riding without a helmet 350 per cent, from $71 to $319.
Meanwhile, the penalty for running a red light will increase 500 per cent to $425.
The requirement for cyclists to carry valid ID or pay a $106 fine has had its introduction extended until March 2017.
Under the new laws, drivers must now leave a one-meter gap when passing a cyclist.
Other campaigners who spoke to City Hub said the laws are unjustified and have made cycling less appealing.
The CEO of Bicycle NSW Ray Rice said the new fines will have a profound impact on cycling within NSW, and especially Sydney.
“The NSW Government should be looking at how to encourage bike riding as a form of transport, rather than blatantly discouraging it,” he told City Hub.
Minister for Road Duncan Gay has remained resolute in response to concerns it may dampen people’s appetite for cycling, and continued to argue the purpose o the laws is to improve road safety for drivers and riders alike.
“”The key to what we are doing is saving lives. We are putting deterrents there to make people wear helmets, not run red lights and be careful where they are interfacing with other traffic,” he recently said.
Yet even property developers, long considered fans of often on the Baird government, appear to be at odds with them on the new laws.
CEO of ISPT Super Property Daryl Browning said property investors have put millions of dollars into increasing the quality and size of cycling amenities at office blocks, knows as “end of trip” cycling facilities, as demand has skyrocketed in recent years.
“Employers know the efficiencies and productivity gains of active travel in the workplace,” he said in a statement.
“Rather than disincentives the Government should focus on all road users, including cyclists, motorists and pedestrians doing the right thing with the focus on individual safety first and foremost.”
Ongoing unease from different sections of the community appears to run counter to the NSW Government’s own Sydney’s Cycling Future blueprint, which seeks to double the number of cyclists in NSW.
Mr Rice said the new laws would contravene the government’s own target and it should instead encourage broader community participation.
“Instead these punitive measures will put people off riding now and in future,” he said.
“NSW as fast becoming Australia’s nanny state.”
More and more Sydneysiders are taking to bikes for transport, with a 100% increase over the past 3 years and close to 32,000 Sydneysiders riding each week, according to City of Sydney figures.