Keeping us safe… (updated)

August 8, 2017 at 16:58 | Posted in bicycles | 8 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I got pulled over the cops the other day. Rather excitingly, it’s the first time I’ve ever been pulled over with lights and sirens blaring!

The reason was that I was riding like cyclists do in 98% of the world – that is to say without a polystyrene hat. In Australia, of course, this deviant behaviour is considered a criminal offence. And not a minor one – the fine is $325. That’s the same as a car driver not giving way to pedestrians on a crossing flashing amber, and drinking alcohol whilst driving.

I spoke to the officers, and explained I have an exemption, and showed it to them. It remains to see if they accept it or if I get a ticket through the post. But what a waste of everyone’s time.

Still, it seems the NSW police are keen to ensure vulnerable road users are suitably penalised for daring to use a Sydney road network that is hostile towards them. A few days later, I was in the city and witnessed no less than five motorcycle cops booking pedestrians who dared to scuttle across a pedestrian crossing when it wasn’t green. Given that this is right outside Sydney Central Station and there are a lot of pedestrians needing to cross, that there is relatively few vehicles, and that the green time for pedestrians is woeful (about five seconds every three minutes), you can hardly blame a few people for crossing on the red man.

But no, the NSW police were there, handing out tickets ($72, if you were interested). Whilst I watched, I saw two cars drive through on very amber lights ($325, as explained above), and one on red ($433), but rather than jumping onto their powerful motorcycles to catch the miscreants putting people’s lives in danger, they just chatted amongst themselves.

Great to know our safety is so important to them.


In recent news, it was reported that the number of fines issued to cyclists rose massively last year  – $1.99m in fines, compared to $0.33m the previous year. The number of injuries also fell, by about 7% – but cycling participation fell about 25% (from 17% of people to 12.5% of people regularly riding bicycles). This means, of course, that cycling actually became more dangerous last year. All those fines and police activity have driven people off their bikes, and made it more dangerous for those that remain.

And, true to form, I was pulled over yet again this morning. This is on a ride where I saw perhaps 4 drivers using a mobile phone, and close to 10 drivers driving through an amber or red light. So a pretty typical ride. The road safety priorities in NSW (and Australia more generally) are truly f—-d.

police again


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  1. When we have a government with a petty collective mind, we can’t expect much more than the same type of attitude from the people who selectively enforce their laws.

  2. Funnily enough. I got asked a couple of questions regarding the split rule in Queensland recently. One was “what is the distance for passing”? And the other. “How long has it been law”? No biggie. Except the two people asking thise questions were Qld Police officers.
    True story.

  3. Could you explain the various reasons for an exemption, please. I’ll speak with my Doc about it ;). Thanks

  4. With 1500 pedestrians involved immediately minor crashes with cars daily in Sydney the Police should be applauded for trying to enforce safety. As for your attitude to Helmets use on suburban streets maybe you should avail yourself of the data in relation to the tremendous difference they have made in safety. You sir are the type of cyclists that promotes negative attitudes to the rest of us. If you have an exemption from wearing helmets I’d also suggest you should have an exemption from having an Ambulance attend to you when you get a further head injury.

    • Oh dear, John. It’s hard to know where to start with this…

      Lets start of with your alarming statistic around the number of pedestrians injured. Why are they be injured? Because of careless car drivers. Yes, it’s drivers who are causing the carnage on our roads (over 1000 mobile phone offenses in a single day; stats show 80% crashes with cyclists are motorists fault etc etc).
      If car drivers are the ones causing the injuries (and they are), then the police should be focusing on them, as the cause of the danger, NOT on pedestrians and cyclists, who are the victims. And fines etc should be much much higher for motorists, given that they pose such a huge danger to others.

      The police in the UK have now realised this – this is from the blog of the West Midlands Police in the UK. (KSI = Killed or Seriously Injured):

      “…drivers need to expect a zero tolerance approach for any offence involving a vulnerable road user, or an offence that could contribute to a collision involving a vulnerable road user. The only way to change driver behaviour and concentrate minds on looking out for vulnerable road users and change driving habits is through enforcement, and the resulting fear of being prosecuted. Now for those who will no doubt be spitting out their finest percolated roasted bean brew at this moment screaming “what about the cyclists !” well…….statistical analysis shows they aren’t to blame, innocent in the majority of KSI collisions it would be a waste of our time, and thus public time and money to concentrate on cyclist behaviour. The figures speak for themselves…….driver’s don’t let your prejudices get in the way of the truth…….”

      Read that again. ‘A waste of time and money to focus on cyclist behaviour’. Police should focus on the cause of the carnage, not the victims. Seems pretty common sense, don’t you think?

      Of course, in the car-centric society we live in, this is somehow still seen as sacrilegious. We still believe our ‘right to drive’ trumps all else, including the safely of others. Kill someone with a single punch, and you go straight to jail for eight years. Kill someone because you crashed into them, and you can expect a fine and to lose your licence for a few months. Surely you can see there’s something wrong there? In general we refuse to take personal responsibility for our actions when driving; instead talking about ‘accidents’ (there are no accidents; collisions happen for a reason, usually because of bad driving), and saying things like ‘the cyclist collided with a car’ (no, the cyclist was rammed by a careless car driver) and so on and so on.

      Finally, when it comes to me not wearing a helmet, things are not as straightforward as they seem. For starters, because i ride regularly I am on average going to live longer and more healthily than those who do not. Accordingly, my burden on the health service will be lower – so seems a bit strange to want to deny my medical treatment, when I’m actually doing the right thing by myself and society. This is just one of the anomalies of helmet laws – an activity that is actually healthy (benefits of the exercise outweigh the risk of injury by about 70:1, even without a helmet) is made illegal. Weird – who thought it was a good idea to make exercise illegal? And we wonder why there is an obesity crisis…
      And as for helmet safety – well, again, this is by no means clear cut. Take a read of this, as a sort of primer:

      I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on my blog, John. I really hope you read and absorb the above, and perhaps change your views. Outside of the strange bubble that is Australia and NZ there are almost no significant medical, safety, law enforcement or cycling organisation that think mandatory helmet laws are a good idea. 25 years on from Australia/NZ introducing them, not a single country has followed suit. And we have one of the worst records in the world for cycling safety, helmets notwithstanding.

      Stay safe, ride carefully, drive even more carefully, and wear a helmet if you like. Everyone who rides a bike, however they do it, is doing something positive for the world. Let’s drink to that.

  5. So, just follow the rules and give the police zero reason to fine you? Then write to your local MLA/MPH and complain.

  6. I don’t think there’s even an auto industry in Australia so who’s behind the scenes putting these laws in?
    It sounds like Australia needs a revolution.

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