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Drivers are supposed to leave a metre when passing cyclists

New rules for cycling in New South Wales (NSW) could be scrapped after a motion was put forward to disallow them. The new rules have only been in place since the start of the month, but the fines in particular have received a largely negative response from cyclists.

From March 1, drivers in New South Wales have had to leave at least one metre of space when passing a cyclist in speed zones of 60km/h or lower and at least 1.5 metres on faster roads. Drivers who breach the new law face a $319 fine.

Fines have also gone up significantly for cyclists. Riding through a red light attracts a penalty of $425, as does failing to stop at a children/pedestrian crossings and riding dangerously. Riding without a helmet or holding onto a moving vehicle brings a $319 fine, while a cyclist can even find themselves having to pay out $106 for riding without a bell.

A new requirement for cyclists to carry ID is not going to be enforced until 2017.

Transport for NSW said the measures would improve the safety of people on bikes. However, Professor Chris Rissel of the University of Sydney – who regularly publishes on cycling issues – said the legislation meant NSW was “probably going to become the worst state in the world in terms of how we treat cyclists – if we’re not already.”

Having sought the opinion of its readers, The Guardian reports that most local cyclists are on Rissel’s side on this one.

“I got abused by a driver on Saturday morning for not moving out of his way – apparently it is my responsibility on a bike to move a metre aside to let the car pass without having to deviate his line,” said thetubbyone.

John Cobb said that within five minutes of his first day riding under the new laws, he had twice been on the receiving end of close passes, “by motorists who were obviously eager to stop at the red light only 100 metres ahead.”

Rodney Lochner said he previously cycled on the footpath, but fearful of receiving a fine for this, he now rides on the road – even though he is terrified of doing so. “I nearly got pushed off today and later got shouted at for using my lane. I ride in a hilly area, with narrow roads. To ride safely clear of the ‘door zone’, I am now forced to slow down the traffic. Is this the NSW Government's intention?”

Greens NSW MP Mehreen Faruqi has now put forward a motion to repeal the fine increases. It is expected to be debated and voted on next week.

“Jacking up fines massively for cyclists does not make anyone safer,” she said. “In fact, all it does is discourage people from cycling.”

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