Bicycle NSW – working with Government to achieve positive outcomes

At Bicycle NSW we seek to work collaboratively with the NSW Government to achieve better outcomes for all NSW bicycle riders. A great example of this was the recent March BicycleNSW Board Meeting when the three top executives of Transport for NSW attended – including Mr Tim Reardon, Secretary for TfNSW. A range of matters were discussed in an open two way conversation.Bicycle NSW presented five major recommendations to TfNSW: 

1. Provide a stronger public awareness campaign on the new Minimum Passing Distance Rules.

Bicycle NSW have long supported the introduction of Minimum Passing Distance Rules, and commend the Government for the recent introduction of a two year trial. However, the present campaign is not cutting through, and will not achieve the objective of improving safety on our roads. We offered to work with Government on this improved campaign.We reiterated our reasoning behind our opposition to the fine equivalence and mandatory photo ID.  

2. Plan and build comprehensive networks for cycling and walking – Sydney CBD.

The comprehensive “Active Transport Access to Sydney CBD” has been placed on theInfrastructure Australia Priority List. This plan for a co-ordinated network of cycleways across the 15 Councils close to the CBD addresses urban congestion. It has a very high benefit-cost ratio of 3.88:1 on a construction cost of $175 million.Bicycle NSW recommend that the Government fund and lead the Business Case Development in partnership with the Councils, and then co-fund the delivery within the next four years. 

3. Plan and build comprehensive networks for cycling and walking – Newcastle CycleSafe Network.

The CycleSafe Network is a system of safe, easy to follow walking and cycling routes across Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. It has strong community and business support including from Newcastle Cycleways Movement, Heart Foundation, and University of Newcastle. It is estimated the project will cost around $100 million.Bicycle NSW recommend that the Government fund and lead the planning of this project in partnership with the CycleSafe Network supporters, and then co-fund the delivery within the next four years. 

4. Ensure NSW has the mechanisms to deliver its policies for cycling and walking.

While the NSW Government has many individual plans and policies that recommend that active transport be considered when infrastructure is planned and constructed, the reality is that there has been an ad hoc approach to actual delivery.Bicycle NSW recommended that an overarching policy mechanism be developed and approved that requires cycling to be incorporated into the planning and delivery of all major transport projects.Over the coming year we will continue to lobby the NSW Government on these matters and other matters so as to build a better environment for cycling. 

5. Tripartite Liaison with the Police Minister.

It was recognised and agreed by both Bicycle NSW and TfNSW that cyclists need to obey all road rules. It was also recognised by all parties that the more that people are positively encouraged to cycle – the better the outcome for all road users in NSW, particularly in Sydney. The positive outcomes being better journey times for all and the underlying health and environmental benefits from an active cycling transport initiative. Therefore it was agreed to arrange a tripartite meeting between BNSW,TfNSW and NSW Police to actively work with the Police to achieve this outcome, with our objective to move away from specific campaigns that may potentially scare off cyclists.


“Go Together” Under the Microscope

The Government’s “Go Together” campaign has now been in place for one month. While it is technically only early days, there are already fundamental and underlying issues that need to be addressed. Firstly, while the Minimum Passing Distance rules are welcomed by Bicycle NSW, we maintain that the limited public education campaign is not “cutting through”. For example, online education campaign statistics presented to Bicycle NSW by Transport for NSW indicate only a very, very small percentage of the State’s five million Drivers Licence holders have viewed the explanatory animations for the passing distance on the “Go Together” website. Fundamentally, with websites and social media forming the foundation of the Government’s education campaign – it comes as no real surprise that many drivers are confused about the details or even unaware of the minimum passing requirements. Bicycle NSW has called on the NSW Government to step up the public education campaign on the Minimum Passing Distance rules.  For instance, there are numerous interstate examples where TV, cinema and online advertising were used to successfully educate the masses. Even the new NSW “Hey Tosser” anti-littering campaign is receiving mainstream TV coverage.  The safety of NSW bicycle riders warrants a better campaign, and one that genuinely promotes acknowledgement and inclusion as opposed to just deepening the ‘us and them’ divide.

Secondly, the ‘grey’ areas that have been highlighted by the increases in existing bicycle fines need to be addressed and clarified. Especially where the application is purely subjective – eg ‘dangerous’ riding.  There is the real and publicised example of this whereby a cyclist was fined for ‘track-standing’ at a red light in Sydney, having been deemed as ‘dangerous’ by the Police. We have asked the various arms of Government to supply details of the criteria, and to date have received a range of replies. So we will continue to push for clarity on these subjective and hefty bicycle fines and also for the Government to define and publicise the respective criteria applied.

And finally, to clarify what has been yet another area of initial confusion, there is currently neither regulation nor legislation in place that requires bicycle riders to carry Mandatory Photo ID. We are told this will now effectively be introduced in March 2017.  In the interim, Bicycle NSW will maintain our position of opposing this proposal, while continuing to educate and lobby Government to shift their focus toward more tangible measures to increase cycling safety – like safe, separated cycleways and improved cycling infrastructure.


Disallowance motion in the NSW Upper House

Dr Mehreen Faruqi of The Greens will this week move a disallowance motion in the NSW Upper House to block the recent increases in fines for cyclists.

Labor’s transport spokeswoman, Jodi McKay, said the party would support the disallowance motion. The motion will also need the support of the Shooters and Fishers Party and the Christian Democrats to successfully block the fines. Bicycle NSW has written to both parties to ask for their support.

You can read the letter to the Christian Democrat MLCs here [PDF]. A similar letter went to the Shooters & Fishers MLCs.

You can write in support of the disallowance motion. Follow the links below to find contact information for the Christian Democrats and the Shooters and Fishers party.

Christian Democrat Party:
Reverend the Hon Fred Nile MLC
The Hon Paul Green MLC

Shooters and Fishers Party:
The Hon Robert Borsak MLC
The Hon Robert Brown MLC


NSW Nanny State Bike Laws – A Cost Too High For Cyclist Safety

Controversial changes to laws and their enforcement targeting bicycle riders will come into effect across NSW on the 1st of March 2016. A community run petition “A Cost Too High For Cyclist Safety” with 10,000 signatures, is part of a campaign by Bicycle NSW demanding the NSW Government immediately rescind the proposed fine increases and mandatory photo ID for bicycle riders.

CEO of Bicycle NSW Ray Rice said, “The community has come out in their thousands to say these new bike laws are heavy handed and unjustified. Regulation should be a last resort, not a first one. These new fines, a 500% increase over current ones, have no evidence basis.”

“Fines of this level for bicycle riders are unprecedented in Australia, as is the requirement to carry photo ID. NSW is fast becoming Australia’s nanny state.”

 “Bicycle NSW is demanding the NSW Premier Mike Baird halt the introduction of these punitive measures against cyclists, and insist the Government conduct an independent, transparent review. The priority is for evidence based strategies and education that create safety and mutual respect on our roads, in addition to safe infrastructure for riders.” said Ray Rice.

“With high levels of congestion on NSW roads, and high levels of obesity in the population, the NSW Government should be looking at how to encourage bike riding as a form of transport, rather than blatantly discouraging it”, said CEO of Bicycle NSW.

24 community groups are supporting the petition and campaign across NSW and state based organisations around Australia. It is not just the cycling community who are alarmed by the proposed changes. Business leaders recognise the regressive nature of these proposed changes.

“Property investors are investing millions of dollars to increase the quality and size of 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. 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,” says CEO Daryl Browning, ISPT Super Property.

The penalties will allegedly ‘equalise’ bicycle riders with motor vehicles drivers. But this ignores the hugely different risk exposures and consequences of an impact. Most fully loaded bicycles weigh less than 150kg, a tenth the weight of a small car, and a hundredth the weight of a loaded truck. A motor vehicle causes far more damage to other people and property than a bicycle.

“Only the new rule requiring drivers to leave a minimum 1 to 1.5 metre distance when passing bicycle riders is evidence based and demonstrable in improving safety on our roads. The minimum passing distance will bring NSW in line with the majority of States and Territories in Australia, and we commend the Government on catching up with this progressive legislation. However introducing laws making it compulsory for an adult rider to carry photo identification and increasing cycling fines by up to 500%, is regressive and a distraction from the real safety priorities”, says Ray Rice.

What the NSW Government is proposing contravenes its own target to double the number of people riding bicycles through improving infrastructure and encouraging broader community participation. Instead these punitive measures will put people off riding now and in future. A family out for a casual bike ride could face $850 in fines simply because their bicycles don’t trigger the traffic signal on a quiet road; and a further $106 each if they’re not carrying the required type of photo ID.

The direct impact on individuals is profound. Stephe Wilks has written to the Premier and NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian to express his personal experiences. “I am a parent, a lawyer, a driver and car owner, and a bicycle rider. I cycle for health and fitness, riding to my city office. I don’t need to carry ID to walk to my office. Why do I need it on a bike? Why should I be treated differently to the rest of society?”

“The Government should be doing all it can to maximise healthy activities, minimise congestion and danger. The Premier must champion an agenda that prioritises the safety of all road users and encourages active travel including cycling. Laws which encourage sharing of the road and recognition that cyclists are a fragile road user (compared to cars, an order of magnitude heavier), is surely a better use of the legislature than creating some sort of false equivalence with fines.”

“As a State, I believe we are charting a course that will have long term negative effects on our society, our culture and our freedoms. Instead, we should be seeking to build closer relationships between road users.” Says Stephe Wilks, Bicycle NSW Member.

Bicycle NSW demands the NSW Government drop the proposal to introduce mandatory ID and increased fines for riders because they risk severely hampering the growth and safety of cycling in NSW.

Please sign the petition to support the future of riding in NSW.


Letter from Jodi McKay (Labor Shadow Minister for Roads, Maritime & Freight)

Following our meeting with Jodi McKay (Labor Shadow Minister for Roads, Maritime & Freight), we have received some great support.

“NSW Labor believes that cycling is good not just for cyclists but for the environment, public health, and for dealing with congestion in our cities. That’s why we have always taken a positive approach to encourage cycling in our state”

“In summary, we believe Go Together targets cyclists with little concern for justifying evidence”

The full text of the letter can be read here [PDF]


Government Response to Your Letters – Inaccurate

Dear members and Friends,

Recently many of you have written to the Premier and your local MP to express your concern at the proposal for bicycle riders to compulsorily carry Photo ID and the large increases in fines for bicycle offences.  We thank you for this, and the many emails of support we have received.

Some of you have received detailed replies which seek to justify the changes.  However, some of the included information about the 2015 Round Table on Cycling Safety and Compliance is inaccurate.  Bicycle NSW is writing to you so that this information can be corrected quickly.

The quotes below are from various Government replies to our members.

“There was unanimous support for some of the initiatives, including:

  • A trial of the new minimum passing distance rule
  • The bicycle crashes compensation working group
  • A public education campaign to support the introduction of the packages
  • A review of penalty levels.”

Please note that any “support” for a review of the penalty levels was highly qualified.  Our policy remains that any such review should be contingent on taking into the account the consequence of the offence – much like the existing differential in some speeding fines between cars and heavy vehicle.  Automatic equivalence of fines does not exist now, and it is illogical to use it now for bicycles.  The increases are ad hoc, and create many anomalies, eg:

  • Not having a bell on a bike: $106
  • A pedestrian using a level crossing when a train is coming: $71

Which is more unsafe?  And:

  • Car drive in bicycle lane: $177
  • Car drive in bus lane: $319

Who is the vulnerable road user here?

“Most stakeholders supported harmonising penalties for high risk offences such as running a red light and riding dangerously.  In response, we are increasing these penalties from $71 to $425”.

Bicycle NSW, representing the largest group of riders in NSW, did not support this, and specifically asked for this to be noted.  The use of the word “harmonising” conveniently hides the extent of the increases, up to 500%!

“All stakeholders supported the idea that adult riders, 18 years and over, should carry photo ID, particularly in situations where bicycle riders require emergency assistance.”

This is inaccurate.  This implies a sense of compulsion.  We encourage riders to carry a form of ID for emergency purposes.  This could be a smart phone app, medi-alert bracelet, student card, etc.

“This matches the requirement for motor vehicle drivers to carry their licence.”

This seems to equate the Photo ID with a Licence to drive.  This is inaccurate.  A Drivers Licence requires training, testing and monitoring due to the inherent risks involved with motor vehicles.  No such requirement applies to bicycle riders.   Similarly, on the water, boat drivers require a licence – but sailors, canoeists, paddle boarders, etc do not.

“I understand an electronic photograph of ID on a smart phone will suffice.”

This aspect was not discussed at the Round Table.   Not everyone has a smart phone, or wants to take it to the beach (for example).  Not everyone has or needs a Drivers Licence or NSW Photo Card.  Bicycle riders will become the only group to require an identification document while carrying out a legal activity in a public place.  Who’s next?  Pedestrians? (who unfortunately have over seven times the number of fatalities as bicycle riders).  Surfers?

Our position on the Photo ID issue is that no firm evidence was provided that mandatory Photo ID is really required.  What exactly was the problem?   It is creating a problem where none existed.  It will be a disincentive to some people to ride.

Likewise with the fine increases.  No firm evidence has been put forward that these massive increases will be any more effective than a good education campaign.  Behavioural change is best driven with education and not a big stick.

What could have been an incentive for people to ride bikes has now been turned into a disincentive.  The State Government has an aim of doubling the mode share of cycling for transport.   Apart from the minimum passing distance trial, we doubt that any of these measures will help.

If you have not done so already, we suggest that concerned riders should write to their Local MP, and to the Premier seeking a reconsideration of these measures.

Ray Rice
Chief Executive Officer
Bicycle NSW

Bicycle Fines – More Education, less Big Stick.

Dear Members and Friends,

Recently we discussed the mandatory Photo ID issue, and this elicited a great range of responses. Thank you for this.

This week we wanted to present the Bicycle NSW position on the large increases in fines for bicycle offences:

  • Not wearing a helmet: from $71 to $319. Equivalent to the motor cycle fine, even though a motor cycle has much higher power and can reach much higher speeds.
  • Running a red light: from $71 to $425. Equivalent to cars, even though at many intersections bicycles are unable to trigger the traffic signal. This is a 500% increase.
  • Riding dangerously: from $71 to $425. This is a 500% increase.
  • Not stopping at children’s/pedestrian crossing: from $71 to $425. Equivalent to cars.
  • All other general bicycle fines: from $71 to $106.

10867-NMSMVMOur position remains that we oppose the automatic equivalence of bicycle and motor vehicle fines. The fines should be based on the potential negative consequence of the offence. For example at present, some speeding fines for heavy vehicles are much greater than for cars because the potential consequences are considered.

At Bicycle NSW we believe any policy or regulatory changes should make riders safer and encourage riding, so as to benefit health, transport, community and the environment. We do not believe that these fine increases will help achieve these aims. As NSW roads face more and more congestion, the Government should be looking at ways to encourage bike riding as a form of transport, rather than discouraging riding.

We encourage all road users to follow the rules and share the road. We know that a good education campaign is the key to behavioural change. During the Government’s committee process there was no hard evidence that higher fines would produce greater compliance than an effective education campaign. The recent Queensland “Stay Wider of the Rider”, and the NSW motor cycle safety “Ride to Live” campaigns are good examples.

The proposed new fine levels seem ad hoc, draconian, and particularly to target bicycle riders. In fact, the new bicycle fines lead to some interesting anomalies, eg:

  • Ride bicycle without working warning device (eg bell, horn): $106
  • Pedestrian crossing a level crossing when an approaching tram/train can be seen/heard: $71

Which of these is far more dangerous? And look at:

  • Car driving in a bicycle lane: $177
  • Car driving in a bus lane: $319

Who is the vulnerable road user here?

At Bicycle NSW we will continue to work with the Government to achieve a better solution.  To aid this, and support our voice, we suggest that concerned riders should write to their Local MP, and to the Premier seeking a reconsideration of these measures.

Ray Rice
CEO Bicycle NSW – Creating a Better Environment for Cycling

Photo ID – creating a problem where none exists.

Dear Members and Friends,

The recent proposal that NSW bicycle riders should compulsorily carry Photo ID is a classic example of trying to use legislation to solve a problem where none exists. It is bad public policy. The NSW Government has a stated policy objective to encourage a mode shift to cycling for short trips (Sydney’s Cycling Future, 2013). This new policy proposal not only does not encourage cycling, it creates a barrier to cycling.

At Bicycle NSW we exist to create a better environment for cycling. We do this because we believe that cycling has high societal benefits for recreation, transport, health and the environment. This is why we have consistently opposed the proposal of Photo ID – it just does not help fulfil these outcomes.

Firstly, let’s look at the “issue” of identifying riders. During the Government’s committee process there was no hard evidence presented that Police have issues identifying riders who may have committed an offence. Police already have the power to request a name and address, and are pretty savvy in recognising false information. Besides, a large number of riders already carry some form of ID, be that a Drivers Licence, credit card, work ID, student card, etc.

In the case of a collision involving a bicycle, nothing will change. A rider or driver is only obligated to provide their name and address (and the vehicle owner’s name and address) to the opposite party. Only Police or Authorised Officers can demand that a Drivers Licence be produced.

So what exactly was the problem that demanded such a heavy response from Government? How does it increase rider safety? How does it promote a healthy lifestyle?

Now let’s look at some of the many problems that compulsory Photo ID will cause:

  • For some people it will be a disincentive to ride. It does nothing to promote bicycle riding. It does nothing to promote safety for bicycle riders.
  • Not everyone has a Drivers Licence or NSW Photo Card. The cost of the Photo Card is $51 which will hit disadvantaged people hard.
  • How will Interstate and Overseas visitors be catered for? Bicycle riders in NSW will become the only group required to carry Photo ID while carrying out a perfectly legal activity in a public space.
  • You have to ask the question of who’s next? Pedestrian fatalities are at least seven times greater than bike fatalities in NSW. So why are bicycle riders being singled out?
  • How will a mature looking 17 year old “prove” they are under 18? They are not required to carry ID. Mistakes with unfortunate consequences will occur.
  • Don’t forget your Photo ID while riding on fire trails in NSW National Parks! They are classified as roads.

At Bicycle NSW we will continue to work with the Government to achieve a better solution. To aid this, we suggest that concerned riders should:

Ray Rice
CEO Bicycle NSW – Creating a Better Environment for Cycling

(PS: Next week we will look at the cycling fine increase issue.)

NSW Minimum Passing Distance Announced

Dear Members and Friends,

We are delighted that the NSW Government announced yesterday that a two year trial of Minimum Passing Distance Legislation (MPDL) would commence in NSW in March 2016.  Bicycle NSW has campaigned hard for this for many years.  We believe this will produce a marked benefit to rider safety in NSW.   It will bring NSW into line with Queensland, ACT and South Australia.

An adjunct to this legislation which was not mentioned in the Minister’s Press Release, is that car drivers will be able to cross double lines to overtake riders when safe to do so.  This helps allay the concerns of some drivers.

Bicycle NSW believes that MPDL is not a silver bullet for rider safety.  We will advocate for an effective education campaign from the NSW Government, combined with further measures including cycling infrastructure.

However, the MPDL has been coupled with two items of major concern:

1/  A massive increase in some cycling fines, to bring them to equivalence with vehicle fines.   Let us be very frank on this matter – Bicycle NSW have consistently, both in committee and publicly, voiced our opposition to this measure, and will continue to do so.

We have always said that any review of fines should be balanced and take into account the relative consequence of the offence.  We have also encouraged riders and road users to obey the rules at all times.

There has been no cost-benefit analysis on the increase in fines, and no evidence to justify the level of fines or that they will be effective.   Big fines are not the best way of producing compliance with rules – education is the best answer.

While MPDL is a significant step, we will continue to advocate to the Government on how we can increase active transport in an already congested city, and the safety of all road users.

Bicycle NSW will be further presenting these views to the NSW Government and calling for an evidence based approach.

2/  Bicycle riders must compulsorily carry photo ID.  At Bicycle NSW we recognise that many riders already carry ID.  We encourage this.

However, we see that making it mandatory for those over 18 years old to carry photo ID (Drivers Licence or NSW Photo Card) as unnecessary and a possible disincentive for some people to ride.

This measure has little to do with increasing rider safety.   There has been no hard evidence put forward that Police have issues in identifying riders.  We believe that there are far more important bicycle safety issues that the NSW Government should be looking at.

Fortunately, this ID proposal will not be enforced until March 2017, ie there will be a 12 month “grace” period.  This period will be required to sort out the practical issues – which even now are appearing, eg will a photo of your Drivers Licence suffice as Premier Baird has suggested?   How will Police determine the age of a rider?  Why should riders without a Drivers Licence be forced to buy an NSW Photo Card for $51?  What about interstate and overseas visitors?

During this period, Bicycle NSW will be working to have this measure reversed.

At Bicycle NSW we will continue to help build a better environment for cycling and fairer treatment of bike riders.  One of our top priorities must now be to have active transport “friendly” traffic signals.  For too long these signals have prioritised vehicles at the expense of pedestrians and bicycle riders.

I will keep you posted on our efforts and priorities into 2016.  We wish everyone safe riding over the Christmas period knowing that Minimum Passing Distance Legislation will be introduced in the New Year.

Ray Rice
CEO   Bicycle NSW – Creating a Better Environment or Cycling