I’m concerned about the reaction to the new cycling regulations that came into force in NSW earlier this month.
The new laws include drastically increased fines for dangerous cycling and not wearing a helmet, as well as higher penalties for drivers who fail to leave an adequate buffer zone.
One notable headline declared that these new laws will make NSW the ‘laughing stock of the world’, because of the requirement for cyclists to carry ID.
But I’m not laughing, and neither are the thousands of people injured or killed on country roads every year.
Sharing the roads with cyclists is often painted as a city issue, but the popularity of cycling seems to be growing in rural and semi-rural areas. The difference is that most country roads weren’t designed with cycling in mind.
A quick look at the latest NSW crash data shows one cyclist is injured on country roads for every three in metropolitan areas. That ratio almost doubles for fatalities, with two regional cycling deaths for every three in the city.
I deal with road accident victims every day and the reality is that life changing crashes take place on otherwise completely ordinary days, in familiar locations, often with little warning.
These new laws may be controversial but ultimately they are about safety and the problem they are addressing is a real one.
Fiona Ley, Senior Associate, Slater and Gordon Lawyers
Fiona, perhaps you might explain how carrying ID will somehow put cyclists out of the way of the trucks and cars that speed recklessly on our roads? Perhaps you would assure us that carrying ID is not about you and your fancy law firm being better able to shift accident responsibility on to cyclists and away from your bountifully financed motor insurance companies. Is this not a case of a government and industry (Law) which suffers from a severe case of control neurosis?
I agree that cycling crashes and injuries are a real problem however the new NSW laws which are supposedly aimed at safety do very little to address safety. The majority of cycling crashes and fatalities occur due to collisions with motor vehicles which are at fault around 80% of the time – http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/cycling-safety-the-statistics-20140818-105erb.html
These new laws do nothing to address this issue. The exception of course is potentially the 1/1.5m passing law but if there is no enforcement of this law and more importantly no substantial education campaign around this law, it is basically meaningless.
Cycling is only dangerous because motorists often have little respect for cyclists who are forced onto the roads in this country due to poorly designed, inadequate and mostly non existent cycling infrastructure. If you look at countries such as Sweden (lowest percentage of participation fatalities internationally), Denmark, Holland and even some states in the US that have good infrastructure, appropriate liability laws and a culture of road user respect you will find that the injury and fatality rates are much lower and most cyclists don’t even wear helmets in these places.
Our NSW Roads Minister has stated he wants cyclists off the roads on a number of occasions – this is what these new laws are aimed at. Australia and NSW are the laughing stock of the world when it comes to encouraging a healthy mode of transport.
How many people die of heart disease each year? Maybe we could save a few hundred deaths each year if more people cycled…
Fiona, if you honestly believe that these new laws are anything other than an extension of the nanny state and a revenue raising exercise, then I can only assume that your legal speciality is ‘risk and compliance’. You need to take off your blinkers.