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Aussie former politician says cyclists should be banned from roads

Former NSW Roads Minister claims roads too dangerous for cyclists so get them on bike paths instead

It seems that people making anti-cycling rants Down Under take their cue from similar outbursts made in the UK. Last month, shortly after TV chef James Martin confessed in the Daily Mail to deliberately running cyclists off the road, Australian comedian Magda Szubanski was forced to apologise to cyclists after a televised outburst against them.

And now, three weeks after MP David Curry’s anti-cyclist tirade made headlines here, a former New South Wales Roads Minister, Carl Scully, has suggested that cyclists should be banned from the nation’s roads and has slammed cycling organizations for failing to support his vision of a world in which cyclists are excluded from the highway and forced to use off-road cycle paths instead.

In a column published on the website of Melbourne-based newspaper The Age under the perhaps inflammatory title ‘Cyclists do not have the same rights as motorists on roads,’ Carl Scully, who was Roads Minister for NSW from 1996 to 2005, says that under his tenure, he sought “to provide safe cycle ways and invested millions of dollars in the process.”

Reading Scully’s piece, it’s clear that he believes that bikes and cars don’t mix. He even describes cyclists, in effect, as ‘pedestrians on bikes’. He adds that he is “still surprised as to how someone willingly gets on a bike and takes a huge risk with cars, trucks and buses, often travelling well over 80 km/h.”

Scully says, “the claim put to me often by cycling lobby groups, "that bicycles are non-motorised vehicular transport and have as much right to be on the road as any other vehicle", was a claim I rejected firmly every time.”

It’s clear that Scully’s relationship with cycling advocacy groups was a fraught one. He claims, “despite a massive increase in funding, policy and delivery, the bicycle lobby groups remained at best sceptical, and at worst disappointingly hostile” towards his plans, adding, “perhaps this was because I made it quite clear that I believed riding a bike on a road was profoundly unsafe and that where I could I would shift them to off road cycle ways.”

Scully, who now works for an engineering consultancy that specialises in road infrastructure, among other areas, claims that large-scale road-building projects in NSW have ground to a halt now he is no longer in charge of them. He suggests that since that means cyclists will have to continue using the highway, “it may be necessary to regulate the manner and time in which they may use our roads.”

One suggestion he makes is that cyclists be banned from the road in morning and evening rush hours. That seems to ignore the evidence of studies conducted worldwide that consistently show that people commuting by bike reach their destination more quickly than those in cars during peak periods.

Another proposal is that cyclists should be forced to share the footpath with pedestrians, although he acknowledges “local councils would have to step up and start building much wider footpaths and cyclists would need to take greater care of pedestrians.”

Scully concedes that “cyclists are unlikely to be happy being regulated to time-of-day cycling or to footpaths and off-road facilities,” but says “before rejecting this option out of hand, they should consider not only how unsafe it is to be sharing the roadway with vehicles, but also acknowledge that it is motorists who pay fuel levies, tolls, registration and licence fees, as well as the huge cost of buying and running a motor vehicle.”

It’s a familiar argument, but one that misses the essential point that in Australia, as elsewhere, not only are most cyclists car users themselves, they – and non-driving cyclists – also pay taxes that in part go towards funding transport schemes.

As pointed out when it reported on Scully’s column, he isn’t the first politician to have tried to force cyclists off the roads to leave them free for motorists.

The website cites cycling campaigner John Franklin’s online history of cycle paths, which says it was a policy favoured by planners in The Netherlands and Germany during the 1920s and into the 1930s, when it was willingly embraced by the Third Reich. In 1934, the latter introduced measures in Germany to combat “the problem of disciplining cyclists" not using cycle tracks.

And during the Second World War, cyclists – well, those who hadn’t had their bicycles confiscated altogether – in The Netherlands were forced to use cycle tracks while the country was under Nazi occupation.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Zaskar | 14 years ago

Some areas yes, but loads of off road areas.

Funny as Australia has it's forst UCI road champion with Cadel Evans.

I thought OZ was a sporting country but shows it has its issues too.

I guess thats why roadies are top execs over there so they have the money and influence to sue the drivers.

OldRidgeback | 14 years ago

Didn't realise it was that bad there on two wheels.

TiNuts | 14 years ago

Having spoken to a number of people who have had the "experience" of cycling on Australian roads, it seems that drivers there treat cyclists considerably worse than their Brit counterparts so this ill-informed suggestion by Carl Scully really comes as no surprise.

It seems that, so I've been told, if you take to the road on your bike in Aus you have to be prepared for neanderthal drivers throwing all sorts of junk (bottles, cans etc) as they pass - that is if they don't try and force you off the road first.

Maybe that's why McEwen is such a great sprinter!


dave atkinson | 14 years ago

doesn't look like a big lad...

OldRidgeback | 14 years ago

Just a thought but I do wonder about this guy's physique. My experience of people complaining about cyclists is that they all tend to be on the large side. In otehr words, maybe he requires psychiatric examination as to his dislike of people fitter than him?

0range5 | 14 years ago

OK, so there are differences of opinion, but for the guy to just reject statements just 'because', is typical politics. Politics never seems to require anyone to justify anything, or present a logical argument, but just to have the power or influence to make stuff happen. And then when their masterful schemes fail, they find someone else to blame. Politics again. I know he's no longer in politics officially, but he's still acting like it.

He's basically saying that cyclists should not be on the roads because car drivers are incapable of driving to a standard that avoids them! I drive, I've never hit a bike or a motorbike, and in fact I don't know anyone who has. I ride on the roads, and have never been hit by a car. The only dodgy incident was a Mercedes about 19 years ago, who saw me in his mirror, decided I shouldn't be on the road & tried to run me off the road. I wasn't in his way ...the only time I've kicked a car, he moved out the way.

What's most worrying is that Carl Scully's attitude. He refuses to acknowledge rights that apparently are law at the moment. And it's hard to make out, but is he refusing to acknowledge bikes as vehicles? Well if so, he needs to spend some time on his own, to realise he's not God... The danger about wanting more rights for 'X' and less rights for 'Y' is that one victory just gives the person an inflated ego and they start looking for the next group to victimise. Doesn't usually matter who the next lot are, anyone will do.

So, in view of the fact that confrontation usually makes people dig in and refuse to change, I'd urge the Aussie cyclists to be creative, use as much humour as possible & point out solid arguments. Avoid stooping to his level of veiled insults.

Sometimes enemies become friends - that's the ultimate victory. Get the bloke cycling! It's happened before, one of the mad EU officials used to spend all his time thinking of anti-motorcycle laws, then suddenly switched sides it seemed by the photos that appeared of him on bikes! So there's always hope!

OldRidgeback | 14 years ago

What an oaf, at least he's an ex-politician so no-one has to take him seriously. I expect that the road building form he now workds for will be a little embarassed by this outburst too.

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