The local government in Sydney, Australia has found a lucrative new revenue stream - charging fines from cyclists who break laws including cycling without a bell or failing to have lights on after dark.
The state has raised $2.2m AUS (£1.3m) since March 2016 through police targeting cyclists and imposing some of the heaviest fines in the world on transgressors.
The top-five offences saw a 38 per cent increase in fines from the year prior, with a total of 9760 infringements handed out to cyclists.
6162 fines were given to cyclists not wearing a helmet - 1377 more fines than the same period from the previous year.
But the newly quadrupled $319 fines increased revenue from $337,000 to $1.99 million for the same offence.
Riding a bicycle on a footpath was the second biggest offence, collecting $127,730 from 1205 fines — 518 more than year earlier.
The fine for running a red light rose from $71 to $425, to earn a total$360,825 in revenue.
Fines for riding without a bell increased from 166 to 463 to collect $49,770, while riding in the dark without a front or real light earned $81,148 from 756 offences.
At the same times, only 17 fines were handed out to motorists failing to pass riders at a safe distance, earning just $5610.
The increase in fines at a time when the burden of them was made so much higher suggests that simply penalising cyclists more heavily does not have a deterrent effect.
Bicycle NSW said: “To have only 17 drivers caught infringing the minimum passing distance road rule in the last year demonstrates that better support to enforce this rule needs to be delivered.
“We have more than 100 records of vehicles in the last three months that have not given bike riders a safe space when overtaking on our roads.
“Bicycle NSW wants to see a significant increase in public education on how to share our roads so that bike riders, pedestrians and drivers all know their responsibilities when travelling in whatever transport mode they choose.
“In 2015, 16.7 per cent of people in NSW rode bikes regularly, that has now dropped to only 12.5 per cent in 2017 — the lowest in the country according to the Australian Bicycle Council’s National Cycling Participation Survey.
“It’s certainly difficult to declare that the increased penalties have reduced the incidents when the overall number of people choosing to ride a bike have declined so dramatically.”
Last year, after the fines were brought in, we reported how some residents of New South Wales Australia, were selling their bikes and telling visitors not to cycle because “if it’s not the abuse from drivers it’s the fines” that make cycling too risky a prospect.
Fines for cyclists increased by up to 500% in a bid by Minister for Roads, Duncan Gay, to crack down on supposed dangerous cycling among anyone aged 12 and over.
Although the fines were, according to Gay, supposed to improve safety of people on bikes, academics believe it will make NSW the “worst state in the world” for cyclists.
One Sydney student who decided to sell her bike, said she couldn’t afford the risk of a fine, which would force her to choose between eating and paying up.
Natalie Synnott said she preferred to ride on footpaths for safety reasons but was afraid of getting caught and fined, which would be a financial disaster for her: "I just know that I will get fined because I have terrible luck," she said.
"It would f*** me up... I actually live week to week. For the most part, I have $100 bucks a week to live and then the rest just goes to rent... I would just be f***ed".
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.