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It's Time to End the Cycle of Pedal-Powered Law Breakers

25/02/2016 5:32 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Male bicyclist in heavy traffic

Cyclists are amazing people. They're fit, healthy, committed, determined... and a danger to themselves and those around them when they ride recklessly in the CBD and inner-city suburbs of every major Australian city.

In the past two days, I have almost killed one cyclist while driving, as a result of their dangerous riding, and witnessed two dozen more break the law at a busy local intersection, putting themselves, motorists and pedestrians in direct danger.

It's a daily pattern across our capital cities, carried out by men and women who are probably risk averse and safety conscious with their family, in their workplace, when they're driving -- everywhere, except when they slip on their lycra, strap on their helmet and jump on their bike.

Running red lights, weaving in and out of traffic, merging into traffic from the side of the road without signalling and riding across pedestrian crossings are just a few of the illegal manoeuvres other road users witness cyclists get away with every day.

And dare a motorist or pedestrian remonstrate with a cyclist, the rider often becomes indignant almost to the point of abuse. As if anyone should dare question their entitlement to share the roads with other users.

Therein lies the rub. Cyclists riding on busy roads in our major cities expect, not unreasonably, to be afforded every courtesy and accommodation by fellow road users. Yet so often, they wilfully break the laws that motorists and pedestrians must abide by. I can already hear the gears of many peddle protagonists grinding in anger -- don't pretend you don't break the law when riding if you think it'll save you a second or two.

Fuelling non-velocipede road-user anger, the NSW government is rolling out even more pro-cyclist laws, apparently designed to enhance rider safety regardless of the impact it will have on already congested city roadways. The NSW government intends to make it illegal for motorists to pass cyclists unless they are able to give a 1.5 metre berth.

Of course, this begs the question: when congestion causes traffic to move slowly, will cyclists have to give motorists a 1.5 metre berth before riding past? Because, as it stands, this rarely happens.

Bike lanes in the City of Sydney have had a small impact in improving road-sharing. However, they are impractical on a large scale, and research suggests they are underutilised, with the NSW State Government ripping up a seldom-used $5 million bike lane in the CBD in July last year.

The clearest solution to ensure all road users are sticking to the road rules and safely sharing the limited inner-city road space in our cities is to register all bicycles intended for use on roads in our cities and plating them in a similar way to motorbikes and scooters.

This would dramatically increase the accountability of cyclists using city roads. Repeat offenders who daily risk the safety of others by ignoring road rules would eventually be caught out, either by police, CCTV technology, or simply by motorists reporting them.

Rather than going to the extreme of registering every single bike in the state, a simple solution for the state would be to designate busy thoroughfares and CBD areas as 'registered bicycle only' zones. If you want to use your bike as a transit vehicle in this area, it must be registered and plated, with hefty fines for non-compliance. Simple.

Opponents of the concept of registration try to play up the cost of administration and play down the incidents of unsafe riding. However, the reality in our major cities is that it's not just the odd cyclist breaking the law.

It has become a systemic problem of city cyclists ignoring basic road rules and risking their own safety and the safety of other road users and pedestrians.

It's time state governments across the country ensure road rules are exactly that; rules that everyone follows for the safety of all.

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