NSW cyclists face big increases in fines - and will have to carry photo ID

New laws aimed at defusing tensions between motorists and cyclists - but are they punitive?

The state of New South Wales in Australia is bringing in new laws from March next year that will make it compulsory for cyclists to carry photographic identification as well as introducing huge increases in fines for bike riders who break the law.

At the same time, drivers will be required to give cyclists at least a metre’s space when overtaking them – and more if they are travelling at a speed above 60 kilometres an hour.

The legislation is aimed at reducing tensions between motorists and cyclists, more than 1,500 of whom are admitted to hospitals in the state each year, according to Bernard Carlon, executive director of the Centre for Road Safety, quoted in an SBS report.

But NSW Greens transport spokeswoman Dr Mehreen Faruqi said the new fines, for offences including riding without a helmet, were punitive against cyclists.

"We will all benefit from a bike-friendly NSW, but the state government is going out of its way to make life harder and more dangerous for cyclists," she explained.

Outlining the new rules in a post on his official Facebook page yesterday, state premier Mike Baird said: “There aren't many topics that provoke more heated debate than road rules and cyclists.

“Anytime this comes up on talkback radio some driver will call in and say something like ‘Cyclists are a law unto themselves. They break the road rules whenever it suits them. They are totally dangerous’.

“And then a cyclist will call in and say ‘Drivers are lunatics who show no regard for our safety. They drive too closely to us and swerve at us. THEY are totally dangerous’.”

The Liberal politician continued: “Here’s what we want: cyclists to obey the road rules and drivers to not endanger cyclists.

“So, today we announced new laws that will hopefully help both of these things to happen.”

Here are the details of the forthcoming laws:

Drivers must give cyclists at least 1 metre space when overtaking (and at least 1.5 metres if you are travelling faster than 60km/h). This is designed to make cycling much safer and it has been campaigned for by many cycling advocates. Failure to do this will attract a fine and loss of 2 demerit points.

Cyclists must carry photo ID. (A photo of your ID on your phone is ok too.) We have rejected the idea of licences for cyclists. But we do think it is reasonable that if police need to issue a fine, they can identify the person they are speaking with.

Fines for cyclists are increasing from $71 to $425 for offences including running red lights and not stopping at pedestrian crossings. This brings these fines into line with what drivers pay for breaking road rules and will be more easily enforced with the new identification laws. These rules are for the safety of cyclists and other road users.

Mr Baird added: “I’m sure there will be heated debate about these new laws. What I hope is that we have struck the right balance in an effort to keep our roads safe.

“We want cyclists to be safe. We want them obeying the road rules. And we want drivers to be responsible when driving near cyclists.”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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