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State rules put cyclists in same league as drivers

Controversial new laws which could see cyclists jailed for up to five years for hit-and-run offences have been introduced in Australia.

The state of Victoria has introduced a range of draconian penalties that range from a fine of $681 (AusD - £330) for a first offence of careless riding, to dangerous riding (£13,610 - £6,650) and all the way up to killing or seriously injuring someone and not stopping ($68,052 or five years in jail - £33,000).

The state’s roads minister, Tim Pallas, said: “The new laws put cyclists on a similar footing to motorists when it comes to being charged with serious traffic offences and also apply to cyclists riding on roads and bikes paths.

“We’re driving home to cyclists the need for them to obey road laws or be punished. There are now harsher consequences for what are serious offences.”

Bloggers on the Herald-Sun newspaper’s website have been divided about the new laws.

One, Peter Mac, said: "Good thing I had my pushies brakes tuned. Cause at least one pedestrian a week with their iPod blaring steps in front of me without looking causing me to swerve or brake. Now there are higher penalties for hitting a zombie then I gotta be extra careful."

Others have welcomed the announcement, saying it was about time cyclists ‘made themselves accountable.’

Mr Pallas said two people had died in the past 10 years after being hit by cyclists and another 68 had been seriously injured.

“Increasingly the message has to be everybody needs to share the road and nobody has an exclusive right to use the road and nobody has the right to ignore the road rules,” he said.

The new laws are in sharp contrast to those in the UK, where most cycling offences, such as riding on the pavement or jumping red lights, incur a fixed penalty notice of £30. The maximum fine a cyclist can receive for dangerous cycling is £2,500. There is no offence for causing death by dangerous cycling, although changes in the law are regularly called for when a pedestrian has been killed or seriously injured following a collision with a cyclist.