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.
95 thoughts on “Licenses for cyclists?”
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.
@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.
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.
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.
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.
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 😉
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 (
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Apparently your personal prejudices outweigh the real life experiences of others, who are basically liars.
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.
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.
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.
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.
@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.
By all means link to the data so we can all have a look.
Ikonoclast, why that spelling? In greek they’re both kappa, in latin and english they’re both C.
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.
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.
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.
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.
@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.
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.
I realise that my comment @83 to some extent contradicts part of my comment @82.
kevin 1 @84:
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.
“…when I road from Caboolture to Beerwah last month…”
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.
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.]
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.
Anthropocalypse would also be a portmanteau — it being the result if the conjunction of two other part words.
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.
Not if his mother is anything to go by!
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’
“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.