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Minister Duncan Gay reacts to recent spate of serious injuries and deaths of cyclists in Australian state

The roads minister of the Australian state of New South Wales has said that he is “increasingly persuaded” that cyclists need to be licensed and also says he is considering banning bikes from some of Sydney’s roads – both measures that he claims will improve the safety of riders.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Duncan Gay made his remarks in response to a series of incidents in recent weeks in which cyclists have been seriously injured, as well as two fatalities in the past fortnight, the latest coming yesterday when a man was killed following a collision with a bus at Neutral Bay.

Speaking to 2UE Breakfast, Mr Gay said: “The thing I really need to look at is, if we’re going to put rules in place, and I need to be tougher on car drivers, but I am increasingly persuaded that we need to look at a licence for cyclists.

“It’s not going to worry the ones that are doing the right thing, but the bad ones that are running lights, crossing over, being aggressive, they’re a large part of the statistic,” he went on.

During March, six cyclists out on a club run on Southern Cross Drive suffered serious injuries when the group they were riding with was hit by a car.

According to Mr Gay it is possible that cyclists might be banned from such roads for their own protection, the minister saying, “We will look at it on a safety basis.”

He continued: “The hard thing is, if I put a carte blanche ban in, there are some really good rides that cyclists do, and part of it involves Southern Cross Drive and then on down to Wollongong. I understand how important this is for cyclists, but there have been a couple of accidents there.

He acknowledged that there had been a fall in the number of cyclist fatalities, “but that’s no huge solace because last year was a record year,” with 14 riders killed on the roads of New South Wales.

“We need to get people to be more careful, but the key is to get the people in bigger vehicles to understand that they need to be more observant, but the other part is we need cyclists to actually obey the rules and be helpful as well,” he added.

“Before the phones run off the hook, as I know they will, it is a very small section of cyclists that don’t do the right thing. It would be probably under one per cent,” he concluded.

Phil Ayres, the chief executive of Cycling New South Wales, told Guardian Australia that most of its 10,000 members would be “fundamentally against” attempts to require cyclists to be licensed.

“But we are an organisation that’s grown up to understand there are arguments in favour of it and we’d certainly want to be at the table with government to discuss cyclist safety,” he said.

“It’s important to realise though that licensing bike riders won’t stop them from being hit, as has happened so horrifically in recent weeks and months. Licensing isn’t a safety issue – if you magically licensed all bikes overnight, it won’t stop the accidents.”

He acknowledged that cyclists need to follow the laws of the road, but denied that law-breaking riders were a significant issue.

“There is a rogue element in any group of people in the community,” he explained. “We don’t condone any riders not obeying the road rules – everyone has to adhere to them. It’s not OK to roll through a red light.

“But the thing with cyclists is that they aren’t surrounded by tonnes of metal. What would be a fender scrape for a car is the maiming of an individual or a loss of life for a cyclist.”

In November 2009, one of Mr Gay’s predecessors as New South Wales transport minister, Carl Scully, who served in that capacity from 1996 to 2005, said that cyclists should be banned from the roads.

In the United States, only the state of Hawaii requires compulsory bike licensing, although some states, such as California, leave it to councils or cities to enforce it at local level if the so choose, as happens in Ventura County, part of the Greater Los Angeles area.

Last October, an attempt to introduce such legislation in the state of Georgia was withdrawn in the face of opposition from cyclists.

In November last year, Labour former minister Kate Hoey said that cyclists in the UK should be registered and required to pay “road tax.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

35 comments

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sfichele [141 posts] 2 years ago
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"cyclists might be banned from such roads for their own protection"

1) utterly ridiculous, given that 79%* of incidents are the fault of the driver in AUS,
2) Happy to blame the cyclists but cant be bothered to actually fix the problem which is to add quality infrastructure on those roads or as an alternative to those roads

* http://www.smh.com.au/executive-style/fitness/blogs/on-your-bike/duncan-...

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jmm [2 posts] 2 years ago
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sorry, I couldn't finish reading. I was too disgusted.

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Wolfshade [187 posts] 2 years ago
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“But the thing with cyclists is that they aren’t surrounded by tonnes of metal. What would be a fender scrape for a car is the maiming of an individual or a loss of life for a cyclist.”

So, it is worse to break a law if you are more vulnerable?
The whole licencing issue is a bit of a red herring. If being licencened were to magically make one safer then how come the majority of road collisions occur between licenced drivers. Moreover, look ath the % of collisions involving "professional" drivers, like LGVs etc, when compared with their total proportion of traffic flow.

If you are concerned about specific accident locations, study the location and understand why it happens, maybe jsut maybe the route cause is isn't jsut the road users (by any means of locomotion) it is the layout of the road itself.

Banning vehicle types is a simple step that artificially solves the problem.

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IHphoto [116 posts] 2 years ago
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Licencing is a political ploy pure and simple. Its attraction to politicians is that it counters the argument by ignorant petrol heads that cyclists can do what they like with impunity forgetting that's exactly what a load of bad drivers - even banned ones do - every day with little chance of prosecution or tough sentencing.

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hood [117 posts] 2 years ago
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AS LONG AS IT AINT A MOTORWAY I'LL RIDE IT! lol
ban cyclists! whatever next, blame them when a car runs 'em over and kills them on the spot?! lol  24

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Al__S [1018 posts] 2 years ago
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There's quite a few routes in this country I'd happily see upgraded to full Motorway status if it was accompanied by the construction of a high quality cycle route (designed for 30mph+ velomobiles ideally!) in roughly the same alignment. Other than that, jog on.

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OldRidgeback [2616 posts] 2 years ago
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What a prat. He hasn't bothered to read the crash analysis of course. But there are a lot of dolts like him who believe victim blaming is the answer to road safety, and I've come across a lot who think that way in Australia in particular.

Of course in the UK, maybe we should support the Aussies doing this? It'll certainly restrict Australian cycling and that'll help keep TeamGB in its prominent position. Just joking - but maybe if someone pointed out to him his move will help ensure British cyclists will keep on beating Aussies he'd take a different tack.

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Huw Watkins [95 posts] 2 years ago
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Isn't Australia largely irrelevant?

It's geographic disconnection has caused it to take some very different evolutionary paths to those travelled elsewhere in the world.

Witness the marsupials, Aussie rules, their attitude to the environment, Holden cars, and Shane Warne.

Similarly, their politicians have developed in a similarly unique and bizarre manner.

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surly_by_name [356 posts] 2 years ago
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".... part of it involves Southern Cross Drive and then on down to Wollongong. I understand how important this is for cyclists, but there have been a couple of accidents there"

Strikes me (having grown up and ridden there; and now being an occasional visitor with a bicycle) that the problem is that when they built the Sthn Cross Drive/M1/M5 interface, particularly the bit at the western end of the runway tunnel, they simply ignored bicycles. As an aside, the runway tunnel itself if (I find) terrifying on a bike. If I am riding south I will skirt around the northern edge of the airport through Tempe to avoid it.

Australian cars are generally bigger (and older) than your average UK car and because there's usually less traffic they are frequently travelling faster than vehicles in the UK. To compound matters, your average Australian driver tries to make up for their lack of skill (hard to believe, but the average quality of driving in Australia is considerably below that in the UK) with aggression. I find riding my bike in and around London considerably less stressful than Sydney.

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Paul_C [443 posts] 2 years ago
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he's doing a Boris... throwing a dead cat onto the table to detract from the dangerous state of his roads and the deadly driving of his motorists...

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marche [87 posts] 2 years ago
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On the other hand, if every school boy and girl was to pass a bike driving test, they would be more aware about bike safety in traffic, also later as a car driver.

Over here in Switzerland I had a cop at primary school teaching us the rules, taking us practicing several times and testing our skills driving busy roads (I got a gold medal, the only ever though…).

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antigee [330 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

During March, six cyclists out on a club run on Southern Cross Drive suffered serious injuries when the group they were riding with was hit by a car.

and no charges yet against the driver  17

(and that should read very serious injuries)

Aussie driver like it simple - that's my lane and the speed limit is my speed

oh and I've already got a license  1 - not checked what the biggest I can drive in Aus is but I've got 2tonne SUV as well as my 7kg bike

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pz1800 [24 posts] 2 years ago
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I do believe everyone making a public statement about cycling should first be required to commute to work for a month.

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portec [116 posts] 2 years ago
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Nearly all cyclists already have licenses. Adult cyclists anyway. They're the same driving licenses that neanderthals like Duncan Gay have.

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dgcorp [15 posts] 2 years ago
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Just substitute the word Pedestrian for Cyclist in the above article. Now I wonder how the pontificating idiot above would feel.

If all Pedestrians were licensed they would behave better and increase their safety! Surely that's what is required!  7

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userfriendly [553 posts] 2 years ago
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pz1800 wrote:

I do believe everyone making a public statement about cycling should first be required to commute to work for a month.

^ This!

Too many ignorant muppets out there that would do better shutting their pie holes about things they don't have the first clue about.

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nuclear coffee [208 posts] 2 years ago
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Country with mandatory helmet laws hates cyclists shocker.

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Initialised [304 posts] 2 years ago
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In most countries it's totally impractical to license bikes, but when you've reduced cycling to a fraction of a percent with so many other stupid laws that fly in the face of scientific evidence you might just be able to pull it off.

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rainman onwheels [11 posts] 2 years ago
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License plates on bikes? Pull the other one Duncan - it's got a tax disc on it  21

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Andrew73 [1 post] 2 years ago
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As a car driver I have a car license and as a racing cyclist I have a cycling license (which costs more than the car license)

Just having a license doesn't help the rate of accidents. Just look at how many bingles there are between cars on a daily basis.

We need to look at driver awareness and teach drivers to actually drive rather than just how to pass the driving test

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burtthebike [247 posts] 2 years ago
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Irrelevant Minister "Some bastards are still riding their bikes, even with the helmet law. We've got to stop them, it's for their own good."

Completely Irrelevant Minister, Duncan Gay "No worries, we'll licence the stupid f*****ts and if that doesn't work we'll tax them as well. Obesity, who cares? Exercise is for idiots, and as you can see, I make very sure that my brain doesn't get any."

Surely even the average Aussie has worked out what's going on by now? Government ministers have fingers in many pies, like manufacturing cars and building roads for cars, but I bet there are precious few who have shares in bike shops.

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chadders [85 posts] 2 years ago
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I sense a money making scheme coming to NSW, the coffers must be on the empty side.

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jazzdude [71 posts] 2 years ago
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Why don't they ban pedestrians too. Then they could ban the aboriginals!!! How about banning homosexuals? And old people and disabled people. That'd solve all the problems.

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surly_by_name [356 posts] 2 years ago
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burtthebike wrote:

Government ministers have fingers in many pies, like manufacturing cars and building roads for cars, but I bet there are precious few who have shares in bike shops.

I think this is a bit of a long bow to draw. Holden moved production offshore at the end of last year, after which I don't think Australia has a domestic car manufacturing industry. And the days of Russ Hinze and the 4 lane highway past his bottleshop in Oxenford are (I believe) now long gone. I think Gay's comments are ill thought out but I don't think they indicate he is corrupt.

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J90 [325 posts] 2 years ago
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His name is GAY, GAY! Hahahaha

....in other news, nobody gives two shits about Australia.

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jestriding [23 posts] 2 years ago
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I read the Queensland report on cycling which resulted in the 1 and 1.5 metre passing law being trialled in Queensland. Of the ~ 80 recommendations, I don't remember seeing one about licensing.

This just makes me think that Duncan Gay is pandering to the lies promulgated by motorists for political gain i.e. cyclists don't pay road tax, cyclists get hit because they don't wear a helmet or hi vis, they run red lights, they hold up traffic, they're inconsiderate etc, etc.

It's all easier than doing what they know works. Their own studies show that Sydney's cycle lanes reduce accidents by 50% and yet when the liberal party came into power they stopped building Sydney's cycle lanes. Never mind that cycling is far and away the cheapest way to move people around the city (Aucklands new rail link tunnel is costing $350,000 a metre as a comparison).

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jim sheedy [2 posts] 2 years ago
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Go easy on poor Duncan. He must've copped a hell of a time at high school

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vbvb [588 posts] 2 years ago
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They should be incensed, not licensed.

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antigee [330 posts] 2 years ago
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Gourmet Shot [68 posts] 2 years ago
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pz1800 wrote:

I do believe everyone making a public statement about cycling should first be required to commute to work for a month.

Exactly......in fact lets extend it to all new car drivers as well. Once you realise what getting overtaken by a vehicle traveling at 70mph, 9 inches from your elbow feels like, you might have a tad more empathy.

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