Home > Economic policy > Licenses for cyclists?

Licenses for cyclists?

May 3rd, 2014

NSW Transport Minister Duncan Gay (seemingly one of the few NSW Ministers still in his job) has raised the idea of licenses for cyclists, in response to growing numbers of fatal and near-fatal accidents and (entirely justified) pressure for action against motorists who endanger fellow road users.

He can expect a negative response for a number of reasons. A license scheme is problematic, most obviously because children are (and should remain) free to ride bikes, but can scarcely be expected to pay license fees or sit for an exam. But the policy goal could be achieved without a license. All that is needed is to create a general right to cycle on roads, with no requirement to obtain a license, but with the courts having the power to suspend that right for cyclists who commit traffic offences. There’s no longer any practical requirement for a physical license. If an offender doesn’t have formal ID, a photograph or a phone would be enough to confirm identity in 99 per cent of cases (sad, perhaps, but true).

Then there’s the question of registration. Again, that’s a system that makes much more sense for cars than for bikes. But, if we had a proper system of road pricing, there wouldn’t be much difficulty in including bikes, though I suspect economic analysis would show their contribution to road costs to be very low.

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  1. Socrates
    May 3rd, 2014 at 13:39 | #1

    As in so many things, would not the enforcement of existing laws be sufficient? If the cyclist is at fault causing an accident they can be charged. They are rarely charged because most fatalities are caused by the motorist failing to notice or give sufficient space to the cyclist. In that case the motorist can be charged, and should be. Sadly that rarely happens, and the police are partly to blame here.

    Enforce the existing law, please Mr Gay, and Australian police.

  2. kevin1
    May 3rd, 2014 at 14:19 | #2

    Presumably the primary goal is to control driver rather than cyclist behaviour. But since it seems he wants licensing/testing of (mainly) kids, is proposing a solution so easy to shoot down really a ruse to do nothing? I can’t believe he hasn’t heard of the “fight red tape” campaign.

  3. Ikonoclast
    May 3rd, 2014 at 15:21 | #3

    Sorry J.Q, but your proposal misses all the salient issues. The first salient point is the protection of children. Modern main roads signed at 60 to 80 k are no place for children on bicycles. No parent should allow a child under 14 to cycle on public roads at all. If they do they are derelict in their duty.

    The second salient point is that giving all ages, presumably down to toddler as you mention no limits, the right to cycle anywhere on roads, basically puts drivers in a completely untenable and invidious position. The former group can do anything and the latter group are always liable to either to prosecution or to tremendous guilt for say killing a child although being legally blameless.

    The law ought to be as follows.

    (1) No child under 14 may ride a bicyle on any public road.
    (2) Children 14 to 15 required to get a minor’s bicycle licence by passing a written and practical test at school. This licence only applicable to roads signed 60 k or less.
    (3) Persons 16 and over require a car licence or an adult bicycle licence (tested) to ride on roads.
    (4) For persons with a car licence, booked bicycle infractions cost fines and points on the car licence.
    (5) Persons over 16 must take out insurance to ride on public roads.
    (6) Of course, cyclists must obey all road rules.

    If we want more cyclists (and we do) we must build more bikeways. However, we could make inner city traffic areas much more bike friendly (on the Netherlands model perhaps) and give cyclists enhanced rights in such areas.

  4. sunshine
    May 3rd, 2014 at 15:22 | #4

    One of my neighbors is part of a significant minority of drivers who think cyclists should not be on the road at all .He’s otherwise a nice guy, but to him cycling is only something children do after they master running and before they are mature enough to drive. He can be fairly aggressive about this.

    I ride every day .For those who dont cycle – imagine what it would feel like if every time you went for a drive 10 % of the other drivers thought you shouldnt be on the road and acted accordingly? I think they are just jealous.

  5. Ikonoclast
    May 3rd, 2014 at 15:47 | #5

    The modern driver has a lot to watch out for on busy roads. Cyclists are sometimes hard to see amongst a lot of other colour and movement on a road. I mean not cyclists right in front but on the periphery. As I have said above, the percentage of stupid and arrogant cyclists is about the same as the percentage of stupid and arrogant car drivers.

    I was frightened of cars and trucks when I had a mid-size motorcyle. Any cyclist who isn’t frightened or very wary of all cars and trucks will sooner or later fail the Darwin test. Children under 14 are not experienced enough, have no idea of road rules, relative speeds, stopping distances or the many things competing for a drivers’ attention.

    Personally, I would not cycle on any main road or highway. People who do so need to do a peronal risk assessment and decide how much they value life and limb. I think they are being foolish in the extreme. Yes, I wished we lived in the ideal world with dedicated bikeways everywhere and maybe one day we will. But main roads are not designed as bikeways.

  6. kevin1
    May 3rd, 2014 at 15:53 | #6

    A heavy handed control regime as you proposed (imagine the enforcement required) presumes we know the problems and the answers but I expect it’s more complicated than that. The joy of cycling needs to be preserved too.

    Is there any credible analysis around which identifies the circumstances of injuries to and by cyclists, and what might have avoided them? This would be a good starting point for a strategic response based on structures (lighting, reflective clothing, road, cycle and vehicle adaptation), behaviour modification (cyclist and driver awareness), penalty and legislative constraints. Must be lots of expertise overseas to draw on.


  7. May 3rd, 2014 at 15:55 | #7

    I’ve been cycling on the road since around the age of 8. Its how I got to school, to uni, and to work. Its how I get to the footy, and I get dressed in lycra and do it for fun.

    I hate the idea of any form of licensing for bicycles. It will be yet another of the laws that will mainly pick up the already disadvantaged. And there is no need for it.

    There was a case, a few years ago, when one of my lycra clad brethren killed a pedestrian by ignoring a red light when sprinting for the finish of a recreational ride. Since then, there have been at least 100 cyclists who have died after being hit by cars. Cyclists are far more vulnerable and far less dangerous than cars.

    What should be banned, as soon as practical, is the practice of allowing people to control cars. Once driving is automated, I will feel a lot safer, both on the bike and in the car.

  8. May 3rd, 2014 at 15:57 | #8

    And Ikonoclast, if I was in charge you would lose your license!

  9. Ikonoclast
    May 3rd, 2014 at 17:26 | #9

    @John Brookes

    LOL, I would lose my licence for having an opinion contrary to yours but you pass no judgement on the cyclist who killed a pedestrian. Talk about double standards!

  10. kevin1
    May 3rd, 2014 at 17:50 | #10


    Instead of cheap moralising, how about commenting on the policy issues?

  11. May 3rd, 2014 at 18:16 | #11

    Pr Q said:

    There’s no longer any practical requirement for a physical license. If an offender doesn’t have formal ID, a photograph or a phone would be enough to confirm identity in 99 per cent of cases (sad, perhaps, but true).

    Bike riders should not have to be licensed. But bikes should be registered like cars, which would serve two purposes. Firstly. bike riders would contribute some money to the administration of the transport system which would go some way to alleviating the anger and frustration of motorized vehicle drivers who have to put up with their shameless antics and ridiculous appearance. Secondly a registration plate would enable law enforcement agents to identify and relentlessly track down and prosecute any bike rider who so much as cycled one centimeter out of line. That would satisfy vehicle drivers lust for revenge, for the moment.

    Pr Q said:

    Then there’s the question of registration. Again, that’s a system that makes much more sense for cars than for bikes. But, if we had a proper system of road pricing, there wouldn’t be much difficulty in including bikes, though I suspect economic analysis would show their contribution to road costs to be very low.

    The only economic analysis I’ve seen on the subject of bicycle commuting indicates that it is a very cost effective way of organizing mass transit for short-distance trips (< 10 kms). So if urban planning goes the way our precious elites want it to go, with every thing set up for the so-called "10 minute city", then bike pathways and bike friendly laws would seem to be the way to go.

    It goes every grain in my body to admit it but Anthony Albanese statement last year is probably not a million miles from the truth:

    The economy benefits by more than $21 every time a person cycles 20 minutes to work and back and $8.50 each time a person walks 20 minutes to and from work, according to a policy statement released by Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Tuesday.

    Mr Albanese said the construction of walking and riding paths was relatively cheap compared with other modes of transport. A bicycle path costs only about $1.5 million a kilometre to plan and build.

    The economic benefits of riding and walking to work include better health, less congestion, reduced infrastructure costs, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, better air quality, noise reduction and savings in parking costs.

    I havent seen the workings out but obviously the headline “$21.00 saving for a two-way commute” is premised on a comparison with the economics of an equivalent journey by a one-person car commuter. Bike riders don’t cost much in capital investment, maintenance, fuel, parking space, road wear-and-tear, pollution, sedentary illnesses etc.

    Obviously the same economic logic does not apply to those poor suckers who have the misfortune to be stuck out in the sticks. The idea of cycling say 60 kms a day (perhaps three hours in hilly terrain) would not be appealing to the average Joe whose body is already clapped out and wracked in pain. Perhaps the latte set would care to give them a dink?

  12. May 3rd, 2014 at 18:36 | #12

    A ridiculous idea. In Japan everyone just rides on the pavement, without a helmet. What is wrong with the west’s attitude towards bicycles?

  13. Ikonoclast
    May 3rd, 2014 at 18:42 | #13


    I did that higher up. I guess you didn’t bother to read that.

  14. Fran Barlow
    May 3rd, 2014 at 18:42 | #14

    It seems to me that Duncan Gay is simply trying to divert attention to what ought to be the primary safety strategy — separation of cyclists from motor vehicles. There should be dedicated separated cycle ways following the path of every main connecting road or freeway.

  15. Salient Green
    May 3rd, 2014 at 18:45 | #15

    I don’t see the need for a licence either. Most adult bike riders have one, or had one until losing it. Kids shouldn’t need one.
    When you have motorists who are vexed by the presence of any other vehicle on the road, and if you think of the times you have been tailgated or blocked to lane entry there are many in this category, then what needs to change is driver behaviour.
    Very high fines for dooring and failing to leave 1 metre clearance around cyclists is a good start.
    Many motorists are too stupid even to see that more cyclists mean less motor vehicles and so more room on the road for them and quicker commutes, even allowing for the extra care needed around cyclists. These are the morons with the ‘cockroaches on wheels’ mentality.
    What is needed is a few psychology phd’s working on why normally nice people become psycho when they get behind the wheel of a car and how to stop it.
    I have had close association with two blokes killed on main roads while cycling due to motorist mistake and was told by a reporter in graphic detail how two touring cyclists ended up after going under a semi which chose to clean up the cyclists rather than hit an oncoming overtaker. OOne of them was stuck like a bug to the front and the other was in many pieces.

  16. Ikonoclast
    May 3rd, 2014 at 18:56 | #16

    @Salient Green

    What should the semi driver have done? If he headon-ed the car he kills everyone in the car. This could quite possibly have been two or more people. Plus he probably kills himself. The overtaking vehicle driver is almost certainly in the wrong but his passengers are innocents and no more deserving of dying than the cyclists.

    Riding a bicycle on our inadequate highways, with semis etc doing 100 or 110, is a form of semi-suicide. Hint: when you are dead it doesn’t matter who was in the right or wrong. Cyclists need to get some appreciation of physical reality. Being right and self-righteous is no defence against 10 or 20 tons of metal and load.

  17. May 3rd, 2014 at 19:29 | #17


    No, Ikonoclast, you can have whatever opinion you like. But you admitted to sometimes having difficulty seeing cyclists. That is what you should lose your license for.

  18. sunshine
    May 3rd, 2014 at 19:40 | #18

    I confess that I often break the road rules when I ride. I justify that to myself by thinking that I only do it when safe to do so ,it is only my body that is on the line ,and that it is hard to give respect when you dont get much. Not obviously rational decision making at its best but its hard to imagine changing now- I am a bit embarrassed about that .

    Is it possible that it wouldnt matter if cyclists didnt have to obey any of the road rules ? Most rules would be obeyed anyway for personal safety reasons . Some seem safe to ignore – like left turn on red light when clear .

    If cyclists are to have full responsibilities then they need full rights – I cant see drivers liking that at all .If I am approaching a narrow bit of road will drivers accept me moving to the middle of the lane until the road widens ? Truck drivers sometimes force me to give way simply because they know I will -they think ‘I am so much bigger and more important than him so he will stop for me ‘ -and stop I do. Cars do the same kind of thing -sometimes they take risks with my life rather than wait a fraction of a second.

    In peak hour ,even on freeways, a fit cyclist is faster than a car so not all bikes hold cars up at all ,it is the other way around. A local council here in Melb tested cars against bikes from somewhere beyond Werribee (Gillard territory) to the city centre (40+km) , the bikes won easily- there is alot of so called freeway in that test too. The Herald sun did the same for the South Eastern freeway with the same result ( a guy on a huge Penny Farthing almost beat the cars). On normal congested roads any cyclist is much faster than any car. They are jealous ,it would have been better to remain childlike .

  19. May 3rd, 2014 at 19:41 | #19

    And the cycle haters usually trot out the bit about cyclists obeying the road rules. I’ll go simpler than that. If motorists be nice and don’t kill and maim me, then I’ll make sure I cycle in a way that doesn’t kill and maim them. You can’t be fairer than that.

    Having said this, most motorists are excellent, although some lack the mental flexibility to make the right decision when faced with an unusual situation.

    A very funny example occurred years ago in Kings Park. I was a passenger in a car being driven quite slowly, when a kid aged about 4 rode her bicycle down a grass slope and into the side of the car. “She shouldn’t have done that”, said the car driver in all seriousness. His failure to realise that a kid that young going down a hill on a bike may actually not have been in control was astonishing. Luckily she wasn’t was hurt.

    Most cyclists are good, but some have unrealistic expectations of motorists.

    For example, if you are cycling and a small truck overtakes you and then turns left in front of you, that is thoughtless, but entirely predictable. A cyclist who isn’t ready for that should probably stick to cycle paths.

  20. Ikonoclast
    May 3rd, 2014 at 20:13 | #20

    @John Brookes

    Actually, I have good distance vision and very good peripheral vision. It’s been tested only rencently. The only thing I need glasses for is reading. Your absurd assumption is that even average, competent drivers never get overloaded by multiple things happening on the modern road. Your assumption is that all cyclists are always easy to see in all conditions (even when for example they come from essentially illegal directions which is not all that uncommon).

    For the record, I have NEVER hit another vehicle or a cyclist or a pedestrian or any stationary object in 43 years of driving. I have been rear-ended lightly twice by drivers who were clearly in the wrong when I was stationary at intersections giving way as required by law. I have dropped and skidded a motorcycle on a turn with no other vehicle anywhere near so I am not claiming to be completely perfect.

    I would say the impossible standards you wish to hold all car drivers too (never missing seeing an cyclist even while the cyclist is doing something illegal for example) are a clear example of your unrealistic attitudes on this issue.

    The problem with some cyclists is that they expect all the duty of care from the motorist. Yet they expect to be able to do any stupid thing they like. I also acknowledge that there are some bad drivers and aggressive drivers on the road. That is why I gave up motorcycles and always insist on a ton of metal around me now. It’s called self preservation.

  21. Salient Green
    May 3rd, 2014 at 20:30 | #21

    @Ikonoclast I completely agree. Cyclists need to be extremely defensive anywhere let alone on main roads and highways. I think that the speeds involved on said main roads and highways mostly preclude any benefit from driver education but for town and city speeds a ‘respect for all other road users’ campaign backed up by legislation and policing is what is needed.

  22. Ikonoclast
    May 3rd, 2014 at 21:06 | #22

    I agree with Fran on this issue. Cyclists need to be safely separated from road traffic. I would be quite happy to see one road tunnel less in Brisbane and all that money spent on sole purpose cycle-ways. I would happily pay $52 a year extra rego levy as well to pay for cycle ways.

  23. Moz of Yarramulla
    May 3rd, 2014 at 21:50 | #23

    One amusing study done recently in Melbourne found that more drivers break rules, in more dangerous ways, than cyclists. Even in the high-traffic areas of the CBD. Reports often focus entirely on the terrifying rate of lawbreaking by cyclists (something like 7% jumped red lights), and skipped the details (most red light jumping was by left turning cyclists), then completely left out the matching stats for motorists (similar rate of lawbreaking, but the offenses were the “failure to give way” “change lanes without yielding” type that regularly kill and injure people. They didn’t measure speed AFAIK, but you don’t have to look far to find those stats.

    Which does kind of knock a dirty great hole in the “if they pay rego we can track them down” theory. If that theory worked motorists would by now have stopped breaking the law, and the “speed cameras are a tax” nonsense would be laughed at. And we wouldn’t see reports like this recidivist moron, because those motorists would be tracked down and taken off the road after one offence.

    I’m also curious – do the supporters of this idea want registration plates as well as a fee? If it’s a plate, where exactly should it go – on the cyclist, or the bike?

    As far as the cost, I wonder just how much the average punter is willing to pay to have every bike or cyclist registered. If you look at car registration, the fee doesn’t even cover the whole cost of administration, let alone any enforcement. Expecting cyclists to pay $100 per bicycle, per year, is impractical. So we’re left with a scheme that will be a net cost to taxpayers and somehow we need to justify that. How will it make people safer? How many lives will it actually save every year?

    I suspect you’d hear from the likes of Chris Rissel fairly quickly, pointing out that if you reduce the number of people cycling, some of them will die (from being fat and lazy, basically). Plus the bonus cost of them still needing to get around, so we’d need more public transport (or we’d need to start getting serious about knocking down half the CBD to build roads for people to get to the remaining half).

  24. May 3rd, 2014 at 22:10 | #24

    One interesting factor is that in days gone by cycling was mainly the province of the poor and children. Now most of them are like me, middle aged men. Including Tony Abbott.

    And it shows. We cyclists are now better looked after than ever.

    Separate paths are nice, but only necessary on major roads. Where there is room, the cycle path should not be part of the highway/freeway. Really busy cycle paths need to be dual carriage way. Head on collisions between cyclists can be devastating.

    Suburban streets with a 50km/h limit on them feel pretty safe to me. But I’m basing this on the inner suburbs of Perth. I’ve ridden in the northern suburbs, and it is pretty scary there, because of the attitude of drivers. Somehow I imagine Sydney to be worse.

    Its also fascinating to see bicycle traffic on cycle paths trying to adapt to the increasing volume of cyclists. Going back more than 10 years ago, the idea of giving hand signals on cycle paths seemed ridiculous. Going around blind bends at speed wasn’t a problem. Now you have to have your wits about you and be careful, as there could be a bunch of speeding cyclists around every corner.

    Indicating is very tricky. If a bunch of cyclists look as though they are all turning left, what if one is not indicating because he is not turning? Will a motorist notice? Of course the motorists lobby will just want riding in groups banned.

  25. Ikonoclast
    May 3rd, 2014 at 22:47 | #25

    Well I find it interesting that some cyclists want to race in packs on public roads. What if car drivers did that? Or bikies? They would be thrown in jail. Public roads are not the place for racing packs of cyclists unless the road is cleared for the event.

  26. May 3rd, 2014 at 23:12 | #26


    As long as they don’t break the speed limit, its fine!

  27. Ikonoclast
    May 4th, 2014 at 00:19 | #27

    @John Brookes

    There’s much more to it than that. They should not break any road rules and nor should the pack impede other traffic unduly. A well disciplined and spaced training pack might be OK but racing packs are simply not OK unless the road is cleared for the event. The open public road is a place of serious business (commuting and goods flow) not a playground. Only the immature think the public road is a place for games and races.

  28. ElPoppin
    May 4th, 2014 at 07:10 | #28

    faustusnotes :
    A ridiculous idea. In Japan everyone just rides on the pavement, without a helmet. What is wrong with the west’s attitude towards bicycles?

    I lived in Japan and I am 100% certain that we are not Japanese. Its a cultural thing – you don’t see too many bikes built for racing or long distance riding. Most are for going shopping or locally. Never saw a single incident of road rage, no tail gating etc. Australians are culturally different.

  29. ElPoppin
    May 4th, 2014 at 07:17 | #29

    For me this has a lot to do with our overall culture regarding cars and roads. Driving back from the airport (Tullamarine) there were road works and a reduced speed limit, I stuck to the limit on the left lane and got tail gated, abused and eventually overtaken by cars doing well over the limit. I live near a main road which has two primary schools on it and I regularly see cars use the bike lane to overtake traffic on the left hand side when children are streaming out of school at 3:30pm.
    For me a better solution would be to have all vehicles (including bicycles) fitted with a video camera and either recording the image to a black box or transmitting the data to a nearby data storage facility.

  30. derrida derider
    May 4th, 2014 at 09:01 | #30

    @jack strocchi

    bike riders would contribute some money … which would go some way to alleviating the anger and frustration of motorized vehicle drivers who have to put up with their shameless antics and ridiculous appearance

    LOL. You have just confirmed the point sunshine @4 made – that a lot of this (literally lethal) rubbish coming from those motorised vehicle drivers is driven by simple jealousy.

    ’tis easy fixed, Jack – onya bike.

  31. Brendan
    May 4th, 2014 at 09:10 | #31

    The current NSW government seems at best indifferent to cycleways. The problem is that main roads laid out in the days of horse and cart follow the ridgelines, and they are often the only practical cycling route for anyone not a “hill climber”. Over recent decades the traffic flow on these roads has been reconfigured to optimise motor vehicle flow without apparent concession to cyclist safety. Sydney roads are cyclist hostile, and introducing licences and registration will do nothing to fix this.

  32. May 4th, 2014 at 10:32 | #32

    derrida derider @ #29 said:

    You have just confirmed the point sunshine @4 made – that a lot of this (literally lethal) rubbish coming from those motorised vehicle drivers is driven by simple jealousy.

    No, read what I wrote, not the confirmation bias of your infantile projections.

    Drivers are not “jealous” of riders, who would want to be in the shoes of these embarrassing specimens. We are righteously indignant.

    Motorised drivers resent the fact that bike riders get a free ride on the public roads system without paying their dues or being accountable for their actions. Riders, in the current regime, are literally illegitimate users (feel free to substitute a more colloquial expression for the “i” word) and they only make matters worse with their inflated sense of entitlement.

    For a ripe expression of the contemporary rider world view follow the self-interested drivel spouted off by Michael O’Reilly in his MAMIL column. Although Elizabeth Farrell runs a close second in a field crowded with preening snobs and bossy, self-important types.

    Unregistered riders bludge on drivers by welching on their obligation to pay both the reggo that funds the vehicle administration system and the Third Party personal insurance that funds the accident compensation scheme. They also evade accountability for their road law obligations by riding anonymously.

    A proper bike registration system would end the bike rider black economy and restore the sense of justice and fair play that is essential to under pin the code of the road. Think social contract theory.

    Finally, if you read what I wrote, and, at the risk of sounding like the deadly earnest Fran Barlow, I acknowledge that bike riding (properly financed & regulated) is a legitimate and economic form of road usage and warrants increased public investment to improve its efficacy and safety. But bike riders should make a contribution to this investment – call it skin in the game – and should not be allowed to flout the law or impede traffic on a whim.

    This position would only count as “lethal rubbish” to someone who saw homicidal intent in a harmless bit of mockery. Try not to get your knickers in a twist every time your nose gets tweaked.

  33. Ikonoclast
    May 4th, 2014 at 10:36 | #33

    We need to separate pedestrians and bicycles and cars in our cities as much as possible. Thus we need many dedicated pedestrian ways, cycleways and roadways. This would not be cheap or easy but it is the safest way in the long run.

    Where bicycles are allowed on roads the rational rules are;

    (1) No registration required for bicycles.
    (2) No child under 14 to ride a bicyle on any public road.
    (3) Children 14 to 15 required to get a minor’s bicycle licence by passing a written and practical test at school. This licence only applicable to roads signed 60 k or less.
    (3) Persons 16 and over require a car licence or an adult bicycle licence (tested) to ride on roads.
    (4) For persons with a car licence, booked bicycle infractions cost fines and points on the car licence.
    (5) Persons over 16 must take out insurance to ride on public roads.
    (6) Cyclists must obey all road rules.
    (7) Bicycles barred from freeways and main highways.

    For those who disagree with rule 2 tell me how you can know or ensure that young children understand all road rules and appreciate speeds, stopping distances etc. Letting young kids on biks on roads is madness. Thankfully most parents are too sensible these days. Kids can ride in parks and bikeways. Kids can get exercise by walking and running, they don’t even need bikes.

  34. John Mashey
    May 4th, 2014 at 10:43 | #34

    There seems to be an S-curve in the approach to bicycles in any area that was built for cars.

    1) There are relatively few cyclists, few bike lanes or separate paths and auto drivers are unfamiliar with them. Some cyclists can be nuts, of course.

    2) Then, as bike usage grows, people argue for more lanes, signs for routes, convince others that getting cars off the road in some areas is a plus. Leading businesses and others put in bike racks. Bike racks start to appear on buses, and trains experiment.

    3) Then cycling becomes pervasive enough that many auto drivers cycle sometime, there are well-connected bike routes, bike overpasses across freeways, drivers are used to them. Zoning laws start to *require* bike lanes on new roads. Bike lanes get really well-marked. Bike racks are everywhere, and bike-sharing services appear. Bike clubs are pervasive, they help people learn good behavior and defensive riding. Parents (by now experienced) make sure their kids know what they’re doing. Towns have bike training days for kids. Schools promote ride-to-school.

    Of course, climate and geography affect how practical this is. I once read a blog by a guy who biked to work in Los Angeles. Terrifying. However, New York has made progress, in one of the more congested places. Biking in Portland, OR or San Francisco Bay area is pretty good.
    (I’m not sure how Melbourne would be, given trolley tracks and hook turns. :-))

    For kids, I think the dangerous time is during the second phase, when there is a big expansion. In the first phase, it’s mostly dedicated cyclists, in the third phase it’s so widespread there is plenty of expertise. That doesn’t mean that one needs registration, but it s a really, really good idea if there is some combination that makes sure kids get good training in riding safely.

  35. May 4th, 2014 at 10:55 | #35

    Some years ago someone somewhere did some maths and I remember that a fully laden semi-trailer has the same impact on a road as 100 000 bicycles. So the registration should be $5156 divided by $100 000 or 5.1 cents per annum.

    Car drivers should expect a rise in rego to pay for the transaction costs.

    Car drivers are entitled fucks. I know. I have two.

  36. kevin1
    May 4th, 2014 at 11:31 | #36

    The origin of the original comment by the NSW minister may have been an item on the ABC 7.30 Report program of 15 April “Cycling deaths bring questions for road users and police”. Despite the rising cyclist death toll – 48 nationally last year – the program claims that police often don’t treat such accidents seriously, and in a Qld case made up an accident report (which the police seem to admit).

    It also mentions that in Qld there’s a new law that drivers must give one metre of space when passing a cyclist, and there is a campaign to make this national.

    I don’t think any commenter (including me) has yet raised this. I like it as a regulatory start – being behavioural it’s simple and cheap, and addresses the most common lethal threat in the common user space: the “ton of metal”.

  37. Fran Barlow
    May 4th, 2014 at 12:39 | #37


    I’d disagree with Rule 7 on the basis that these should have dedicated separated bike lanes. Until such are built, or some parallel system makes it redundant, the bikes get the slow lanes.

    I don’t have a fundamental objection to the others, though I see the priority as the dedicated cycleways. I saw a fabulous picture on Twitter of an elevated cycleway in the Netherlands.


  38. May 4th, 2014 at 14:46 | #38

    I think when people talk about cyclist registration what they most often mean is liscence plates so that if a bike runs a red light they can be photographed and fined. Strangely this is seldom applied to pedestrians, who in my experience are at least as likely to cross against the red whenno ttraffic is coming.

    I would personally be happy to have a plate on my bike and pay a registration fee as soon as car drivers are paying the combined costs of the roads they use, air pollution emitted, accidents caused and contribution to climate channge. Since that will never happen in Aus I reserve the right to cycle on the roads I subsize

  39. Fran Barlow
    May 4th, 2014 at 15:05 | #39

    @Stephen Luntz

    Assuming the registration fee was a bona fide reflection of the bike user’s externality, it would be utterly trivial, but yes, let’s have motor vehicle users fork out the true cost of usage to others.

  40. May 4th, 2014 at 15:12 | #40

    @jack strocchi

    Unregistered riders bludge on drivers by welching on their obligation to pay both the reggo that funds the vehicle administration system and the Third Party personal insurance that funds the accident compensation scheme. They also evade accountability for their road law obligations by riding anonymously.

    Nah. Just plain wrong. I pay rego and third party, and I drive a car. I get no discount on my rego for all the times I cycle instead. Its people who drive everywhere who get cheaper rego because I ride. If we are being economically rational about it, I’d certainly endorse higher rego for people who drive more km.

  41. Moz of Yarramulla
    May 4th, 2014 at 15:22 | #41

    they most often mean is liscence plates

    If those worked we wouldn’t see motorists breaking the law, surely? Instead there are regular howls of outrage and claims that cameras are “revenue collecting”, because apparently obeying the law is out of the question.

    This is a classic “first remove the beam from your own eye” case. Read the motorists above and think about which class of vehicle operators are actually responsible for the road toll. Especially since their justifications are explicitly “we must punish people for cycling”. I don’t blame them, actually, that worked really well with the helmet laws – cycling numbers halved and the death rate nearly halved. If they can do that again it’ll probably take another 10-15 years for cycling numbers to get back to “problem” levels…

  42. PhilH
    May 4th, 2014 at 15:22 | #42

    If bicycle licenses were good policy, they would be common in the developed world. In reality, they’re nonexistent. Ergo, people far smarter than the NSW roads minister don’t agree with him.

    The truth? The political right doesn’t like cyclists. They’re wealthy, they drive cars, and bikes get in their way. It’s that simple.

  43. Felix Alexander
    May 4th, 2014 at 15:55 | #43

    Another alternative is that we could get rid of car and fuel fees and taxes to the extent that they are used to fund the roads, because otherwise they give people the idea that the more fuel they use, the more of a “right” they have to use the roads. Cars should only be lumped with reasonable registration and TAC costs, and fuel should only have GST and standard CO2e pricing measures, along with a user-pays system for parking and limited-access roads (which includes “main roads” if Ikonoclast gets their way). Certainly car-oriented subsidies like minimum parking requirements should not be a part of our regulation system. And just like some suburbs are car-only, there should probably be car-light suburbs—and enough of them that people aren’t priced out of the market and forced into car-only suburbs when they don’t really want to be there, unlike the present!

    Licensing is also another system that has proven itself a failure, except as a poll-tax. There’s a few people who aren’t responsible enough to keep their licence, but are responsible enough not to drive without it; but most people who lose their licence seem to keep on trucking… Considering this, what possible benefit will there really be in licensing bike riders? Again, it’s just another poll tax … on a group that is largely already paying the first poll tax.

    Not only that, but how many road users even know the road rules? You don’t need to know the road rules to get a licence, and even if you did they change every other year, and you don’t so much as hear a peep from the government. Someone above talked about a group of cyclists turning left, and one of them not signalling: what does it mean? Well, seeing as there is no signal for turning left on a bike, a road user is simply prohibited from making any conclusion about whether any given cyclist is going to turn left or continue forward until the act has happened. In any case, motorists regularly break road rules, but if you dutifully took down the number plate and reported it to the police, they’d politely laugh you out of the building.

    As to the notion that bike riders hide behind the anonymity of no number plate, I’m very much aware of the fact that whenever I’m riding a bike, my face is very publicly out there for all to see, whereas it seems to me drivers are hiding behind the anonymity of the windows. (And, indeed, vice versa when I drive a car, which is not so often atm.) And I think most people think my way in practice: How many times have you seen a car driver pick their nose? how many times a bike rider?

    So if registration and licensing can’t solve the easy problem, why would it be appropriate to the harder problem? It’s silly. Yes, there is obviously something wrong with the way we do roads, licensing, registration and funding. But the solution is not to extend the problem even further. It’s to re-think the problem and come up with better approaches.

  44. BilB
    May 4th, 2014 at 15:57 | #44

    Considering that there are 2 million new bikes on the road each year it is safe to assume that most people have bikes that they might ride occasionally, and as we are all registered on the birth and immigration registers, there is no need to register everyone as cyclists, we are already registered.

    I wonder which Coalition minister is going next to decide that all pedestrians should be registered, that being equally an equally hazardous activity where people are not covered by third party personal insurance.

  45. Moz of Yarramulla
    May 4th, 2014 at 17:42 | #45

    Felix Alexander :
    Another alternative is that we could get rid of car and fuel fees and taxes to the extent that they are used to fund the roads

    Too late, that was done years ago. Money from motorists is used to partially offset some of the costs they impose (the insurance levies in some states), but there is nothing towards road construction or maintenance.

    A lot of people are deeply ignorant about how our roads work, from the details of the road rules, who pays for roads (all taxpayers!) through to geeky stuff like the makeup of the road toll. Some of the most confident pronouncements of road rules are actually not correct, which is a bit sad. It’s kinda like when talkback radio hosts opine on how government works… the more angry they are, the less likely it is they’re telling the truth.

  46. plaasmatron
    May 4th, 2014 at 18:42 | #46

    It gets my on my goat every time someone claims that car drivers pay for the roads and that therefore cyclists shouldn’t use them. Roads are subsidised by the tax payer to the tune of $17 billion (yes, with a “b”) per year, after subtracting rego and fuel fees.

    (www) .ptua.org.au/myths/petroltax.shtml

    Building dedicated cycling paths is such a cheap option it is hard to imagine why anyone is against it? Compared to building roads the materials and engineering costs are miniscule. Just think about the cost for a bridge for cycling/pedistrians (maximum tare, say 200 people = 20 tons), compared to a simple motor traffic bridge capable of supporting multiple >20 ton trucks bouncing across it.

    Cycling suffers because, like many other enjoyable activites, it does not contribute to GDP the way driving does. I can easily maintain a 20 year old bike for less than $100 a year. I can do it all myself. I don’t destroy roads with my bike. Bikes don’t injure people like cars do. All these things detract from GDP, but make our world a better place.

    So upside down and backwards…

    Most of all, car-free environments are so much less stressful, in every way!

  47. May 4th, 2014 at 19:52 | #47

    John Brookes @ #38

    Nah. Just plain wrong. I pay rego and third party, and I drive a car. I get no discount on my rego for all the times I cycle instead. Its people who drive everywhere who get cheaper rego because I ride. If we are being economically rational about it, I’d certainly endorse higher rego for people who drive more km.

    Thats the typical response of the bike-rider lobby. reflecting their inflated sense of entitlement and ignorance of basic insurance statistics.

    Cycling entails a high existential risk of serious personal accident, with associated costs of medical treatment, compensation etc. Not to mention the high cost of retro-fitting motorways to suit bike riders. Much of this cost is borne by the community.

    Bike riders should be forced to make contributions to the compulsory Third Party insurance scheme to partially defray the spiraling cost of accidents which their life-style choice creates for the community. The evidence indicates that this risk is high, rising and significantly due to the prevalence of reckless, incompetent or just plain stupid bike riders:

    Over half of the participants (52.0%) were injured in single-vehicle bicycle crashes. The remainder involved other road users, including motor vehicles (20.8%), other bicycles (18.8%), pedestrians (6.4%), and animals (2.0%)….Cyclists who crashed on shared paths or in traffic had higher injury severity scores (ISS; 4.4, 4.0) compared to those in cycle lanes or on footpaths (3.3, 3.4) and required more treatment days (2.8, 1.7 versus 0.0, 0.2)…Based on average weekly traffic counts, the crash involvement rate per 1000 cyclists was 11.8 on shared paths compared to 5.8 on cycle lanes. Pedestrians were involved in 16.4 percent of crashes on shared paths.
    Fewer cyclists were injured in on-road cycle lanes than in other cycling environments, and a high proportion of injuries were incurred on shared paths.

    This evidence gives to the lie to the much touted claim that it is motor vehicles (“one ton of steel”) which are too blame for most collisions. Bike riders, like motor bikers, routinely ride in a risky way.

    Bike riders should also be identified to law-enforcement agencies so that those who flout the law can be punished with the full force of the law. Its clear from the number of single vehicle crashes that many bike riders are a hazard to themselves and need to be policed for their own good.

    When I was a kid I rode a bike every where. But I always treated cars as “higher-status” vehicles and invariably gave way to them. Just as sensible car drivers treat trucks and emergency service responders as “higher-status” and give way to them.

    In effect the road is regulated by Thrasymachus law: Might is Right.

  48. Tony Lynch
    May 4th, 2014 at 20:05 | #48

    Ikonoclast, are you OK?

    Another bar in the iron cage?

    Bicyling is social.

    Ask Mao.

  49. Ikonoclast
    May 4th, 2014 at 22:19 | #49

    If one is honest one must note that both car drivers and bicycle riders show an inflated sense of entitlement at times. Car drivers expect to drive on roads subsidised by all taxpayers and they expect to emit a negative externality (pollution, including CO2) without paying the real cost.

    Bicycle riders expect to ride on roads without licences, rego or insurance; ie. also without paying the real cost. Bicycle riders also expect to ignore reality; namely that being in the right does not matter if you are mashed to death by a large vehicle. And bicycle riders are not always in the right though some seem to think they are.

    The fact is bicycles and modern traffic do not mix at all well. With the advent of fast, silent electric cars cyclists won’t be any safer that’s for sure. They need their own dedicated bikeways.

    Brisbane is a spread out and hilly city. Cycling has these limitations in Brisbane so one can hardly expect it to dominate in the foreseeable future.

    Disclosure: I just heard and saw five hoon cars in a row doing wheelies and racing down my semi-rural road at night. Suddenly, my intolerometer has swung against car drivers!!! I do fear for cyclists who have to face those sort of f-wits. Hmmm, maybe the cyclists have a point.

  50. Blair
    May 4th, 2014 at 23:22 | #50

    “The fact is bicycles and modern traffic do not mix at all well.”
    I’ve ridden in France, Italy, Japan and China, as well as in Australia.
    Only in Australia do cyclists get yelled at, pelted with cans & bottles, routinely run off the road, and generally treated as an inferior form of life.
    After a while, you do get a bit paranoid, and maybe over-react to careless or thoughtless behaviour from drivers of larger vehicles.
    Other countries seem to be able to mix bicycles and motor traffic without the same degree of rancour being displayed.

    On John’s original post, the main effect of requiring licensing for riders and/or registration for bikes would be to drastically curtail casual cycling. Much the same as compulsory helmet laws. (I would never ride any distance without a helmet, but I think the discouragement of cycling does more harm than the helmets save.)

    The ACT cycling injury study that Jack Strocchi references raises a couple of interesting points.
    The first is the effectiveness of cycle lanes, as opposed to cyclists just mixing it with the traffic. Who would have thought that a white line on the road would provide real protection for cyclists?
    The second is the high proportion of single vehicle accidents. The study is bit small, and potentially biased by its self reported nature, but the figures are still surprising. And we don’t have the figures relating severity of injury to involvement with other vehicles or pedestrians or animals.
    My observations are that gravel and broken road shoulders are often the immediate cause of bike crashes, but the injuries are usually minor. More serious injuries are usually correlated with higher speed, but again cycle lane riders usually travel at high speed and don’t suffer for it.
    More research needed!
    (I live and cycle in the ACT, so my observations should be relevant to this study.)

  51. kevin1
    May 4th, 2014 at 23:32 | #51

    What do you think of the Qld law requiring motorists to give cyclists a wide (1 m) berth i.e. drive defensively? The focus is to avoid injuries not create model citizens.

  52. Felix Alexander
    May 5th, 2014 at 00:14 | #52

    @Moz, I was referring to the fact that the fuel excise finds its way into general revenue, but discounts are offered for fuel not used on roads, and it is a specific tax on (some) road users, not a general tax on the pollutants (which would, consequently, be payable on all fuel no matter how it gets used.

  53. May 5th, 2014 at 00:24 | #53


    Rupert hates bicycles & cyclists.

    Ask any regular commuting cyclist when they are most likely to be killed or injured on the road – and the answer will be: “Just after News Ltd (& their sock-puppet ABC) run an anti-cyclist rant, complete with ‘comments’ from ‘both sides'”.

    Almost every problem in Australian civil society today can be directly linked back to the fact that Rupert Murdoch’s fascist outlook is promulgated through his virtual monopoly over our media.

    If Rupert decrees that ‘bikes are bad’, then people die. We are having the wrong debate! It is News Ltd we should get rid of, everything else would look after itself if we could do that.

  54. May 5th, 2014 at 00:38 | #54

    @jack strocchi

    Yeah Jack. Most bike accidents are single vehicle. But how many bike fatalities are single vehicle? You don’t need to look up the stats to know it is bloody few. And in car-bicycle accidents in the majority of cases it is the car drivers fault.

    But my personal experience agrees with one of your stats. I feel safer on a road with a marked cycle lane than I do on most cycle paths. Cycle paths need to be dual carriage-way if they are to be safe. The trouble is that cycle paths were originally designed for the slow recreational rider, not for the commuter who is capable of riding at 35km/h and just wants to get to and from work as quickly as possible.

  55. May 5th, 2014 at 00:38 | #55

    Rupert hates bikes because:

    1. Anyone can get one for next to nothing these days (you can get a decent bike for $10 at an op-shop or garage sale);

    2. You can travel hundreds of kilometres on that bike for free;

    3. Anyone doing so is stealing from the car-centric fossil-fuel based business model of society;

    4. You might save money, have fun, get healthier and commute better – all without making a fair contribution to the fascist business model.

    Of course you should be restricted from doing that. Durrr.

  56. May 5th, 2014 at 00:46 | #56

    Its ok @Megan , Rupert is an old dude and will be dead soon.

    Attitudes might change if Tony Abbott is knocked off his bike by a motorist, especially if he’s being irresponsible and riding in a pack 😉

  57. ralph
    May 5th, 2014 at 04:00 | #57

    Rather than introducing new rules the Minister should be considering get rid of some inefficient and ineffective rules – NSW is the only jurisdiction in Australia other than the NT that requires annual testing for light vehicles (yes, you can say with certainty that the car is road worthy one day out of 365). This cost owners about $35 and time adding up to millions for no discernible benefit. Minister Gay is simply having a frolic with the licensing of cyclists. It is the sort of policy “balloon” that might appeal to the car driving swinging voter. A moments thought about the cost of administration and enforcement make this a non-starter.

  58. May 5th, 2014 at 08:38 | #58

    @jack strocchi

    Bike riders should be forced to make contributions to the compulsory Third Party insurance scheme to partially defray the spiraling cost of accidents which their life-style choice creates for the community.

    Hi Jack, I’m a bike rider, it’s part of my ‘life-style choices’ – like walking a lot, eating healthy foods, etc. I broke my ankle last year in a ” single vehicle accident” (my bike wheel got caught in the tram tracks), and I had surgery etc, which you of course as the tax-payer had to pay for (because of course as a member of the well known middle class bike riding elite I’ve never had to pay taxes). So sorry. In future I’ll stay home and watch tv while eating junk food. Should reduce health care costs so much.

  59. May 5th, 2014 at 09:07 | #59

    @jack strocchi
    And of course I should also apologise to you on behalf of another cyclist I know who had the temerity to be riding his bike round a roundabout at the time when a car decided to enter it. (The car driver fled the scene, leaving the tax payer and the cyclist to pick up the tab for medical treatment and surgery.) According to you, the real cause of this accident is the bike rider, for making a “life style choice” to ride his bike to work.

  60. Jim Birch
    May 5th, 2014 at 10:24 | #60

    The sooner we can stop people from driving cars the better.

    OTOH/OT driverless cars will be accompanied by other much more significant social changes arising from machine intelligence so probably no one will notice the reduced road toll.

  61. Ikonoclast
    May 5th, 2014 at 10:27 | #61


    You write: “Only in Australia do cyclists get yelled at, pelted with cans & bottles, routinely run off the road,…”

    Surely, this above is a piece of hyperbole.

    1. I have never yelled at, pelted with cans & bottles or run off the road a cyclist.
    2. What’s more in over 40 years of driving, mostly in Brisbane, I have NEVER seen this done by anyone.
    3. I used to cycle several miles to uni as a 20-something person (long time ago I know). The only attack I ever had was from a magpie.
    4. I used to ride a motorcycle too (a mid-size one as a biker not a bikie) and no car driver ever behaved aggressively towards me.

    However, I have actually seen bike riders yell at cars, albeit the the car drivers were in the wrong on those occasions and the bike riders had had a fright.

    I really think there is a lot of exaggeration from bike riders going on here, unless it is worse in Sydney and Melbourne. You poor put upon bike riders, the whole world is against you isn’t it? My advice, get realistic, roads in Australia and US are not (yet) designed for bikes. Keep lobbying positively but stop the gratuitous attacks on all car drivers who are mostly decent. You might just create the animus that you keep whingeing about.

    I admit there are hoons about but they usually do stupid things at night in the back blocks. I don’t see them doing obvious bad things in commuter traffic.

  62. Ikonoclast
    May 5th, 2014 at 10:32 | #62

    Footnote: Many, many years ago at age 15 I had a stubbie thrown at me from a passing car. I was running (training) on the footpath. The stubbie sailed past my head and smashed on the concrete footpath ahead of me. Only time in my life I have seen this happen. (A projectile from a moving car).

  63. Val
    May 5th, 2014 at 12:25 | #63

    And Ikon, here’s one for you – I have been yelled at when riding my bike, and once when I was riding my bike in the left hand lane a hotted up car sped past me and turned left right in front of me, hitting my front wheel. No harm to me or the bike fortunately, but that kind of stuff is common.

  64. daz
    May 5th, 2014 at 13:02 | #64

    John, I believe the Queensland government looked at the rego for bikes ideas last year in a November paper called “Inquiry into Cycling Isses”.

    From page 105 onward they deal with registration. They note:

    The Committee is therefore recommending against the registration of bicycles, or the licensing of
    cyclists, in Queensland on the basis that:
    ? the registration or license fee is likely to be a disincentive to cycling with all the associated
    health and environmental benefits
    ? there is little evidence that registration would improve road safety
    ? it would not be cost efficient due to the administrative resources required
    ? most adult cyclists also own a car and pay registration and regardless, most road funding
    comes from council rates and federal taxes

    I think that pretty much sums up why registration for cyclists won’t get off the ground.

    And anyway, even if rego does come in, isn’t rego based off the weight of a vehicle? The registration cost for a bike would be small if that is the case, and then they’d have to raise the rego cost for all vehicles to cover the administration of running a bike rego scheme.

  65. May 5th, 2014 at 13:40 | #65

    I would like to say that for many children being able to ride a bicycle increases their safety as it helps them to put distance between themselves and their care givers. A child who can get to their grandmother’s place under their own steam is a lot better off and has a greater sense of autonomy than one that can not. Saving kids lives by keeping them off the roads might also kill kids. We need to increase their safety, both physical and mental, inside their homes before we can trap them there.

  66. Blair
    May 5th, 2014 at 13:52 | #66

    You may think my statement was hyperbole, but all of these things have happened to me, and to other cyclists I know.
    I commuted by cycle for 30+ years, and rode recreationally at weekends, so maybe I get more exposure than many cyclists.
    The car and bus drivers that have forced me off the road seemed totally oblivious to my presence,
    or incapable of realizing that a bicycle might travel faster than walking pace. The yellers and pelters seem to think it is funny to try to startle a vulnerable road user, and maybe cause a crash.

    In reply to kevin1, I think the 1 metre spacing law is a good one, despite the fears of some motorists that cyclists will veer in front of them to cause them to break the law and get a ticket.

    I’d suggest that the minimum separation law should apply to all road users, rather than specifically to bicycles, and that the distance should depend on the speed of the passing vehicle (e.g. 2m at 100kph). Horse riders are even more vulnerable than cyclists to idiotic close passing.

    This brings up another suggestion, that there should be a legal obligation for heavier, faster vehicles to have a duty of care for more vulnerable road users. Note that this does not imply that a car driver is automatically guilty in a collision with a cyclist or pedestrian, but it might take the form of a presumption of fault on the part of the heavier vehicle in such a collision. This is the case in several European countries, and doesn’t seem to have caused any great problems.
    Drafting and enforcing such an obligation is not trivial, and is probably beyond the scope of a blog comment stream.

  67. Andrew Dungan
    May 5th, 2014 at 13:55 | #67

    I ride a lot and am careful to obey the laws. I have had abuse yelled at me and a half ful can of coke thrown at me (

  68. john
    May 5th, 2014 at 14:28 | #68

    ‘No child under 14 [should be allowed to] ride a bicyle on any public road.’

    So it would be forbidden for children to ride a bike to school? Great way to entrench unhealthy, car-dependent lifestyles into the next generation.

    ‘Mum, can I ride down to the shop and buy a lolly?’ ‘No, love, you might get arrested.’

    I think a more nuanced approach is better. Regulation should be proportional to the risk. I don’t see many children riding on 60-80k arterial roads anyway. Probably 80 per cent of public roads, by distance, are minor local access roads on which children should have every right to ride safely, for the sake of the benefits to their health and independence. The road rules and road design standards should allow for this.

  69. Ikonoclast
    May 5th, 2014 at 14:35 | #69

    Well, I have never seen any of these anti-cycle incidents as a 40 year car driver and a 5 years cyclist years ago in my young 20s. But maybe my sample of events is not large enough.

    On the other hand, my wife’s female friend who cycles was run off the road by a fast bicycle pack of (mostly male) lycra louts who yelled at and intimidated her. Also, they did not stop to see how she was when she crashed quite heavily. Anecdotal evidence I know but then virtually all the claims in this thread are anecdotal.

    I think the claim that car drivers are on average more ignorant than cyclists does not hold up at all. It’s part of the “preciousness” of a certain segment of the cycling community that promotes this divisive myth. There would a very close to equal percentage of arrogant, aggressive and ignorant people in both groups. A minority of cyclists break road rules. I have certainly seen it. They run red lights, run pedestrian crossings, ride the wrong side up streets, slip on and off footpaths, ride at night without lights etc. etc. Claiming all the fault is on the side of car drivers is divisive and wins little cooperation.

    Having said all the above, I will repeat I am in favour of much more spending on dedicated cycle-ways.

  70. Ikonoclast
    May 5th, 2014 at 14:40 | #70


    Possibly. I might concede that. My idea on under 14 kids would certainly be an enforcement nightmare and maybe even a civil liberties infringement. As a parent, I never allowed my children to cycle even on back roads until they were 14 or 15. Most sensible parents who are protecting their children properly would enforce that I believe. As to school, most kids can walk to school. Most city kids live within 3k of a school.

  71. Hal9000
    May 5th, 2014 at 15:12 | #71


    What’s more in over 40 years of driving, mostly in Brisbane, I have NEVER seen this done by anyone

    I find this difficult to believe. In 45 years of cycling (and driving, and motorcycling), mostly in Brisbane, but also in Canberra and Adelaide, I’ve experienced this so many times I’ve lost count – at least once every quarter. I’ve taken to wearing a GoPro camera while cycling. I presented the Queensland Police last year with video evidence of a driver abusing me and getting out of his ute apparently with the intention of assaulting me (the traffic light turned green so I was able to escape in the heavy traffic). They gleefully informed me no action would be taken, because I had ‘gotten in his way’. I was occupying a whole lane (as entitled to do by law) at a point where safe overtaking would have been impossible, leading to a red light. Apparently car drivers are entitled to abuse and threaten with impunity if inconvenienced for a nanosecond by a cyclist riding lawfully. I suppose I could have complained to the CMC, but I’m sure they have more important fish to fry.

    As a matter of interest, the worst offenders in terms of gratuitous abuse of cyclists (and dangerous driving behaviour) are tradies in their utes, followed by BMW drivers, followed by large SUV (Landcruiser, Patrol, Land Rover) drivers. Only rarely have I copped abuse from women and never from drivers of small (e.g. Nissan Micra) cars.

  72. Ikonoclast
    May 5th, 2014 at 19:34 | #72


    In turn, I find your claims difficult to believe. I have seen no evidence of this from a car seat. My bike riding days are too long ago to count probably. I agree that tradies and rich people can be gratuitously aggressive more than other classes of citizens. By the sound of it you insist on a whole lane at times. Again I can’t recall seeing a cyclist doing this, so you must be unusual. If you insist on such rights on busy two lane roads with no cycle lane then you are being provocative quite frankly. I would not be provoked and I would not condone others being provoked or aggressive. However, for you to be the target of so many incidents without modifying your behaviour indicates you should look at your own behaviour too. You know, just because you are entitled to do something does not mean it is always wise to do it.

  73. kevin1
    May 5th, 2014 at 19:39 | #73


    Apparently your personal prejudices outweigh the real life experiences of others, who are basically liars.

  74. Ikonoclast
    May 5th, 2014 at 22:00 | #74


    I indicated my personal experience which I admitted was anecdotal. I also noted the different experience of others reported here was anecdotal. So everyone here is anecdotally reporting their claimed real life experiences. I did not call anyone a liar. Because I disagree with your point of view you call me a prejudiced liar. In fact, above I also said I believed, from my observations, that about equal percentages of drivers and cyclists broke rules and acted aggressively. Far from being prejudiced this is an even handed position. I noted most drivers were decent people and did not appreciate being smeared by a small militant section of the cyclists’ lobby. I also noted this smearing will not win friends and influence people in favour of said lobby.

    I also indicated I was in favour of much increased spending on dedicated bikeways. The problem is bikes trying to mingle with cars on narrow one lane and 2 lane roads where there is no cycle lane nor free verge space for cyclists to use. Though technically in their rights, cyclists sometimes unwisely take their lives in their hands doing this in peak hour and they make driving hazardous for all. The majority of decent drivers definitely don’t want to be responsible for hitting a cyclist. On today’s busy roads nobody can see everything all the time.

    Cyclists have no surrounding protection against cars and heavy vehicles. Straight realism suggests they need to employ wisdom and discretion at all times. To me that would mean not riding on busy roads that lack bike lanes or at least a good asphalt verge left of the single white line marking the verge or parking lane. Whatever the rights and wrongs of it, the cyclist should realise his/her life is not worth risking on (badly designed) roads that stack the odds against the cyclists.

  75. alfred venison
    May 5th, 2014 at 22:06 | #75

    i just hope pedestrians never come to need a licence to walk on the FOOTpath.

    i’ve been told that one in 11 victorian seniors has been hit by a bike on a footpath.

    please don’t tell me that its for the sake of your safety & peace of mind on the road, that you put at risk pedestrians’ safety & peace of mind on the footpath.

    Riding on the footpath is illegal unless you have a child (under 12) in tow or it’s a designated shared way. Even there, you must “give way” to pedestrians

    please tell me, instead, that, when you have to be on the footpath, you give wide berth to pedestrians, or, better still, you walk your bike.

    i gave up my snazzy ten-speed in the ’80s while young because i had an epiphany then that in the event of a crash there was no guarantee i would not survive as a vegetable. people who have no option but to use the footpath should not be at risk from people who do have the option to not use the footpath. -a.v.

  76. kevin1
    May 5th, 2014 at 22:37 | #76


    When will people on this blog develop beyond “personal experience”? Which is inexcusablecounts when there are many other scientific grounds for assessment (eg. Amy Gillet Foundation data) when examining these issues.

  77. Ron E Joggles
    May 6th, 2014 at 06:22 | #77

    @kevin1 Sorry, but I need to add my personal experience too – as a road user in all modes (walking, running, cycling, motorcycling, car, bus, slow tractor, gravel truck), I have an informed opinion.

    Here on the Atherton Tablelands I see very dangerous situations daily, and fear that the 1 metre law is giving some cyclists a false sense of safety and even emboldening some to challenge the traffic.

    Roads here are all narrow and winding, yet have a 100 kph speed limit, and a lot of large heavy traffic (including B-doubles) doing 100 kph. In most places there is little or no bitumen surface outside the white line. If a truck comes around a curve to find a cyclist in front of them, they simply cannot stop, and if there is another vehicle coming the other way they cannot swing across to the other side either.

    While I personally am very cyclist-aware, I am concerned that many cyclist exercisers (I never see commuters) seem to be oblivious to the danger. I would never ride a bicycle here or permit my daughter to ride one, it is just too dangerous.

  78. Ikonoclast
    May 6th, 2014 at 07:26 | #78


    By all means link to the data so we can all have a look.

  79. Collin Street
    May 6th, 2014 at 07:47 | #79

    Ikonoclast, why that spelling? In greek they’re both kappa, in latin and english they’re both C.

  80. Ikonoclast
    May 6th, 2014 at 07:57 | #80


    Actually, a quick look at the Amy Gillet Foundations site research raises issues about cyclists running red lights and travelling in dangerous, offending bunches. Now, car drivers do the same thing. I have seen cars run red lights and hoons dragging five cars one after another at close spacing down my semi-rural road.

    So, the takeaway message is that neither cyclists nor car drivers are simon pure. They are all fallible and sometimes foolish humans. Gee, who would have thought it? It just gets annoying when some commenters seem to imply that ALL the fault belongs to car drivers and none to bike riders. The sad fact of life is that bike riders are highly vulnerable. High vulnerability indicates a need for taking great care, even to the point of assessing that some roads (certainly in Brisbane) are so badly engineered for bicycles they are simply too dangerous to ride on.

  81. Ikonoclast
    May 6th, 2014 at 08:04 | #81

    @Collin Street

    As with a lot of internet nicknames, the spelling was varied to try to ensure uniqueness. I consciously decided that mixing the letters inappropriately would be exactly what an iconoclast (or a maverick) would do. But as with all such attempts one finds one was not the first to think of it.

    For example, in another context I invented a marvellous new word (I thought) when I came up with “anthropocalypse”. Of course, an internet check got gazillions of hits and proved I had been beaten to that one too. It’s a rather obvious neologism in hindsight.

  82. Paul Norton
    May 6th, 2014 at 08:15 | #82

    Here’s a study from the UK in 2013.


    Its main finding, which is remarkably consistent with research on the issue that I’ve seen from the mid-1990s onwards from jurisdictions in the UK and North America, is that in cyclist-motorist collisions, motorist error is the cause in about two-thirds of cases, cyclist error is the cause in about one-fifth of cases, and in the remainder errors by both parties contribute to the collision.

    Research also exists showing the most common circumstances in which cyclist-motorist collisions occur. These generally involve behaviours by motorists and cyclists that could be improved or corrected by a combination of education and suitable legislation.

    In my experience, having cycled in four metropolitan areas and three states since I was a wee lad in 1971, the main problem is that many motorists seem not to have been educated in how to interact with cyclists or in the need for alertness to the presence of cyclists.

    To take one example, it is reasonably common for cyclists to be overtaken by motorists and then experience collisions or near-misses when the motorist then turns left across the path of the cyclist. My view is that this is often due to the motorist’s assumption that the cyclist is travelling at a similar speed to that of a pedestrian, rather than an appreciable fraction of the straight-line speed of a motor vehicle, and that therefore the motorist does not realise that the cyclist will actually be travelling faster than the motor vehicle when it slows and turns left. This is a problem that can be fixed simply by education.

    The other point I would make is that I undertook a 100km-plus round trip from Walloon to Aratula and back to Ipswich, mainly by the Cunningham Highway, on the weekend, without incident and with no cause to complain about a single motorist. In the course of interacting with hundreds or thousands of motorists I might encounter one who causes grief through error (or worse). While that one will be the one who sticks in my memory (like the fool in the orange Mazda RX7 on the Tomewin-Murwillumbah Road in 2002), the fact remains that they are just one in hundreds of thousands and I don’t judge most motorists by them. I would like to think motorists would think the same way about the odd incident of bad behaviour by cyclists.

  83. Paul Norton
    May 6th, 2014 at 08:20 | #83

    Also, it’s a funny thing but most of the complaints I hear from cyclists about abusive and harassing behaviour by motorists are from women, older men and physically smaller and slighter men. Younger and/or bigger and stronger looking male cyclists (and I fall into the latter category) seem to cop much less of that kind of thing. Funny, that.

  84. kevin1
    May 6th, 2014 at 08:21 | #84

    @Ron E Joggles
    What I was getting at was about generalisation from anecdote which seemed to become a finger-pointing exercise. This Qld law is new isn’t it, so your own anecdote on its practicality is very relevant. Sounds like banning bikes from some roads might be the only way. An interesting issue is when does the social cost of an accident (externality) justify overriding the cyclist’s personal choice?

    @ikon, I won’t give the links but the Amy Gillet Foundation site has some data and analysis which may be useful.

  85. Paul Norton
    May 6th, 2014 at 08:24 | #85

    On the registration question, I recall an article in New Scientist from about 25 years ago that showed that the wear and tear imposed on roads by a vehicle is a function of the forth power of the vehicle’s mass and the inverse square of the number of wheels. This prompted a letter from a cyclist that argued on this basis that if cyclists were to be charged registration on a pro rata basis for their contribution to road wear relative to that cause by cars, the amount charged annuallywould be a risible fraction of a cent.

  86. Paul Norton
    May 6th, 2014 at 08:41 | #86

    I realise that my comment @83 to some extent contradicts part of my comment @82.

    kevin 1 @84:

    Sounds like banning bikes from some roads might be the only way.

    Well, let’s look at a recent example of where this has been done. The Queensland Government has recently prohibited cycling on the Bruce Highway south of the Cooroy turnoff (previously cyclists could use the highway as far south as Burpengary). One consequence of this is that when I road from Caboolture to Beerwah last month I had to use the Steve Irwin way, which is a single carriageway road with effectively non-existent shoulders, which is too heavily trafficked to allow motorists to observe the one metre rule, and where I was perforce cycling in the operating space of the motor traffic. Had I been able to ride on the Bruce Highway I would have been in the side lane a comfortable 3-4 metres outside the operating space of the motorists.

    Decision-makers need to understand that traffic moving at 110km/h and passing cyclists at 3-4 metres’ distance is much less dangerous than traffic t-boning cyclists at 80km/h.

  87. Paul Norton
    May 6th, 2014 at 08:48 | #87

    “…when I road from Caboolture to Beerwah last month…”


  88. Hal9000
    May 6th, 2014 at 10:09 | #88


    However, for you to be the target of so many incidents without modifying your behaviour indicates you should look at your own behaviour too. You know, just because you are entitled to do something does not mean it is always wise to do it.

    Ikonoclast, does it occur to you this is the same logic as is used to blame women for being harassed and assaulted if they dare to go out at night wearing clothes revealing more flesh than a niqab?

    The reason for the abuse in both cases is to cause sufficient apprehension that the victim will desist from daring to share the public space with those who believe they enjoy exclusive rights to that space.

    At any event, I do not invite abuse. I use as little road space as possible. I take the lane only when an attempt to overtake me will endanger my life – in nearly all cases leading up to traffic lights, where the lanes are constricted. I note that many intersections governed by traffic lights now have dedicated cycle lanes here in Brisbane, but that in Melbourne nearly all lights-governed intersections are so equipped.

    In the Netherlands cyclist fatalities have been greatly reduced by a number of measures, including separate infrastructure but also including absolute right of way laws, whereby a pedestrian has right of way over a cyclist, a cyclist over a motorcycle, a motorcycle over a car and a car over a truck. In the event of a collision, the onus of proof is on the party not having right of way to prove innocence. The opposite, in other words, of the situation here in Australia.

  89. Collin Street
    May 6th, 2014 at 11:44 | #89

    Roads, of course, are for transport, not for cars. In fact, bicycles-for-transport has a decades-longer history than private motor cars: the bikes were there before the cars were, almost the entire road network was set out before cars came into other-than-experimental use.

    [see also buses, trams, free-roaming livestock, and little old ladies with walking frames, which also significantly predate the use of private cars. “I support construction of bike lanes!” is really “I want a resource built for common use devoted to my preferred use”, in this context.]

  90. Val
    May 6th, 2014 at 13:36 | #90

    @Collin Street
    not quite – what most non-car road users at present need is protection from cars, rather than something for their “preferred use”. You might as well argue that foot paths are for pedestrians (selfishly? so you seem to imply) wanting something for their “preferred use”.

    Of course an alternative is to get cars off roads, or at least slow them right down. Having just spent a couple of months in Frankfurt, riding a bike seems much easier there (I was a pedestrian and PT user rather than bike rider while I was there) because many streets are narrow (with wide footpaths), and often one-way. Cars can only go slowly and there are many more bikes and pedestrians about. It all seems much safer and more civilized.

  91. Fran Barlow
    May 6th, 2014 at 16:24 | #91


    Anthropocalypse would also be a portmanteau — it being the result if the conjunction of two other part words.

  92. May 6th, 2014 at 17:51 | #92

    As others note, most drivers are wonderful. Its just that the consequence of a driver being aggressive can be so devastating.

    But I did once have an empty stubby lobbed at me by a passing hoon (bouncing just in front of me, as luck would have it). I rang the police with the vehicle rego, and was asked if I could identify the driver. As I couldn’t, they said there was nothing they could do. And a mate of mine was once smacked in the face with an empty plastic bottle while riding at night by an idiot who thought it would be fun.

    And only quite recently a hoon roared past about 4 of us, sounding his horn from a long way back to let us know that he was coming. I waved at him (as I always do to any vehicle that beeps at me), and thought that was the end of it. But a few hundred metres up the road he was sitting in a car park. I observed that he was overweight, and of uncertain parentage, and took the opportunity to explain this to him. There was a revving of engine, and we cyclists got off that road really quickly. Luckily he got bored.

  93. Tim Macknay
    May 6th, 2014 at 18:05 | #93

    @John Brookes

    Its ok @Megan , Rupert is an old dude and will be dead soon.

    Not if his mother is anything to go by!

  94. May 6th, 2014 at 22:17 | #94

    @Paul Norton
    It’s probably your fault that I momentarily thought someone had said ‘it seems like banning jokes from some roads might be the only way to go’

  95. Blair
    May 9th, 2014 at 21:49 | #95

    “A Current Affair” did a show on this question on Wednesday night (7th May).
    Google “a current affair registering cyclists” to get a link.

    I didn’t see the show, (allergic to commercial TV) and the web replay started throwing up pop-ups, so I don’t know whether it adds anything to the debate.

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