“Nothing more than a nice little cash cow for the government,” is how Penny Sharpe, environment spokeswoman for Australia’s Labor party, describes the fines that have been issued to cyclists in New South Wales (NSW). The state has raised $1.33 million since increased penalties were introduced on March 1.
Cyclists in the state face being fined $315 for failing to wear a cycle helmet and $425 for running a red traffic light. Failure to carry ID will lead to a $106 fine from March 2017.
The increased penalties – the fine for riding without a helmet had previously been just $71 – have been compounded by what appears to be a crackdown. In May, it was reported that police had issued 56 per cent more penalties in March and April than in the same period the year before.
The Courier Mail reports that there have been 3,171 riding without a helmet infringements since the changes, which have brought in $1,018,101. On top of this, 1,711 people have been fined for “riding dangerously,” raising $225,310, while 293 cyclists have been fined for not stopping at red lights or pedestrian crossings, contributing $89,838.
Sharpe compared the sums raised through cyclists with the $4,857 brought in via motorists who had failed to comply with safe passing distance legislation and said: “The fines have very little to do about improving safety for cyclists because if this was the motive there would have been a more balanced crackdown.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the number of cyclists has dropped in the state capital – although the government disputes this.
Tour de France winner Cadel Evans recently said that he doesn’t ride his bike in Sydney because it’s too intimidating.
Sharpe said: “NSW is a pretty rogue state in terms of this legislation. These fines are not seen anywhere else, which demonstrates outright hostility from our Roads Minister.
“Every other serious global city is encouraging cycling as it reduces congestion and improves health, but instead we are targeting cyclists. The increase in fines and removal of the College Street cycleway to make way for motorists is a clear example of this.”
NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay defended the state’s approach.
“I’ve been glad to see more cyclists wearing helmets, and more drivers leaving a safe distance as they go past cyclists – but there is still room for improvement.
“It is simple: we don’t want cyclists’ money – that is not why we increased fines for high-risk and downright stupid behaviour. These changes are about improving safety. I don’t want to see another dollar in fine revenue but I do hope to see a reduction in cyclist injuries.”