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No helmet, no bell and no brake - on a fixie - mean bumper fine for Sydney cyclist under new law

A cyclist in Sydney, Australia, has been fined more than £300 for not wearing a helmet, not having a bell on his bicycle, and his bike not having a brake – although he was riding a fixed gear bicycle.

Michael Grafton, who works as a robotics researcher, was stopped last month during an “education and awareness” last month in which police targeted cyclists, reports The Guardian.

He was fined a total of A$531 as a result of the three offences, with the state’s roads minister Duncan Gay earlier this year introducing what some see as Draconian fines against cyclists breaking the law.

Mr Grafton said: “The bell fine of $106 is ridiculous. I don’t ride on the footpath and a bell is useless against cars.

“It has been my experience in the past that if you ring a bell behind a person they are as likely to jump into your way as out of it.

“Pedestrians also see ringing a bell as an aggressive act. The fines are massively disproportionate.”

The cyclist is reportedly contesting the fine imposed for the lack of brake due to the fact he was riding a fixed gear bike.

Under the new law, introduced from 1 March this year, cyclists in Sydney and other parts of New South Wales can be fined A$315 for failing to wear a cycle helmet and A$425 for running a red traffic light. Moreover, from March 2017, they will be required to carry identification.

Academic Chris Rissell of the University of Sydney, who has published widely on the issue of helmet compulsion, which he opposes, said at the time that the higher fines meant New South Wales was “probably going to become the worst state in the world in terms of how we treat cyclists – if we’re not already.”

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Bicycle NSW chief executive Ray Rice said: “There has been no evidence provided that there was any real issue in identifying riders.

“Police have existing powers to do this. It will mean that riders will need to carry a driver’s licence or photo card even when going to the local shops or down to the beach. This will be a disincentive to riding.”

While the city’s government supports cycling, its efforts are hampered by legislation at state level.

Sydney’s mayor, Clover Moore, who was elected on an independent ticket, told the Guardian: “The value of cycling in Sydney has been undermined by hysterical claims that bike riding will cripple the city’s economy, misleading stories that distort data to proclaim that less people are riding, and wilful ignorance of good practice overseas.”

But Mr Gay repeated his stance that the laws are there for bike riders’ own safety.

He said: “With cycling injuries remaining high in NSW, I had no choice but to look at tougher deterrents and increased enforcement to improve safety for cyclists and other road users like pedestrians.

“I don’t want to see another dollar in fine revenue but I do hope to see a reduction in cyclist injuries,” he added.

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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.