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New laws could land Aussie riders in jail

State rules put cyclists in same league as drivers

Controversial new laws which could see cyclists jailed for up to five years for hit-and-run offences have been introduced in Australia.

The state of Victoria has introduced a range of draconian penalties that range from a fine of $681 (AusD - £330) for a first offence of careless riding, to dangerous riding (£13,610 - £6,650) and all the way up to killing or seriously injuring someone and not stopping ($68,052 or five years in jail - £33,000).

The state’s roads minister, Tim Pallas, said: “The new laws put cyclists on a similar footing to motorists when it comes to being charged with serious traffic offences and also apply to cyclists riding on roads and bikes paths.

“We’re driving home to cyclists the need for them to obey road laws or be punished. There are now harsher consequences for what are serious offences.”

Bloggers on the Herald-Sun newspaper’s website have been divided about the new laws.

One, Peter Mac, said: "Good thing I had my pushies brakes tuned. Cause at least one pedestrian a week with their iPod blaring steps in front of me without looking causing me to swerve or brake. Now there are higher penalties for hitting a zombie then I gotta be extra careful."

Others have welcomed the announcement, saying it was about time cyclists ‘made themselves accountable.’

Mr Pallas said two people had died in the past 10 years after being hit by cyclists and another 68 had been seriously injured.

“Increasingly the message has to be everybody needs to share the road and nobody has an exclusive right to use the road and nobody has the right to ignore the road rules,” he said.

The new laws are in sharp contrast to those in the UK, where most cycling offences, such as riding on the pavement or jumping red lights, incur a fixed penalty notice of £30. The maximum fine a cyclist can receive for dangerous cycling is £2,500. There is no offence for causing death by dangerous cycling, although changes in the law are regularly called for when a pedestrian has been killed or seriously injured following a collision with a cyclist.

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OldRidgeback | 15 years ago

...or when some tourist looking the wrong way walks into your path - like the two Danish tourists who stepped off the kerb in front of me on my commute some years ago. Luckily no-one was seriously hurt that time, which was down to my quick reactions and decent (mountain bike) brakes though I still knocked them flying. If I'd been ona fixie with one or no brakes they'd have gone to casualty, and so would I most likely.

I do wonder about the insurance liabilities for fixie riders with one or no brakes by the way. It is a requirement to have at least one working brake on a bicycle in the UK. But if a fixie rider was to knock down a US tourist used to sueing for damages, it could have serious implications. Even for a bike with one brake, the person being knocked down could argue in court that this was insufficient for urban riding.

Come to think of it, having just one brake or no brakes on a fixie - could be a good idea for a poll?

thebikeboy | 15 years ago

Sure Jon, but the punishment should be proportionate to the seriousness of the crime. As one of the commenters in the story says - if the laws are that tough he'd better have good brakes for the next time someone plugged into an iPod walks out in front of you. And Lord knows I don't approve of cyclists running red lights, but the fact remains that they are the most likely victims of their actions - which is not the case when a motorist does the same thing.

Jon Burrage | 15 years ago

but at the same time riding like an idiot should be discouraged.

cat1commuter | 15 years ago

2 deaths in 10 years. And how many caused by cars?

Australia - tough on cycling and tough on the causes of cycling. They clearly don't think that their compulsory helmet laws have discouraged enough cyclists.

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