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A favourite catch-cry of the anti-bike lobby is that bicycle riders don’t deserve to be safe on the road because they don’t pay bike registration or have to be licensed.

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This argument was soundly refuted in 2011 by the RTA (predecessor of the RMS and Transport for NSW). They have made a range of sensible safety, economic, and practical arguments, as follows.

Safety

The purpose of vehicle registration is to ensure that all motor vehicles driven in NSW have at least third party insurance to protect others, if that vehicle is involved in a crash.  In comparison with motor vehicles, there is much lower risk from poorly controlled bicycles. 

The RTA cites one fatality arising from a rider hitting a person in 2005, and since then Bicycle NSW has only recorded 2 further fatalities from bike riders hitting pedestrians in Australia.  The relative risk posed by bicycle riding to pedestrians is very low.

Economic

The fees payable for motor vehicle registration increase with the weight of the vehicle, reflecting the greater damage done to road surfaces.  Even high intensity road use by bike riders results in virtually no damage to road surfaces. 

General taxes pay for roads, which bike riders also pay.  Cycling specific infrastructure funding does not come from registration fees, but instead from general and council taxes.

Practical

Drivers are not readily recognised from the external observation of a motor vehicle, whereas bike riders can be seen as they ride, without having to stop or dismount.  Registration enables Police to identify vehicles and their owners from the outside.

A large proportion of bicycle riders are under 18, most under 11. If a child under 15 was found to have committed an offence, Police could not deal with this under ordinary legal processes applicable to adults. 

Bicycle registration would need to be introduced across Australia, and this is unlikely to happen.  Bicycles are also far easier to disassemble and parts are more transferrable, making it far more difficult to associate a specific bicycle with its owner. Finally, the administrative costs of registration, licensing and their enforcement for bicycle riders, would greatly exceed any fees paid.

“These are all sensible reasons why the NSW Government does not require bicycles to be registered or bike riders to be licensed,” said Bicycle NSW General Manager of Public Affairs, Bastien Wallace.

“Since 2011 we have also seen a range of government plans and strategies produced that depend on more of us riding bikes for short trips to reduce pollution, congestion and ill-health as our population grows,” said Bastien.

Bicycle NSW encourages riders and members to share this article whenever the ‘rego argument’ comes up, to help educate all road users.

Safety On Spokes

This article is a part of our 2 month Safety on Spokes Campaign where we cover a range of topics to make a better environment for bike riders in NSW.

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