They’re a familiar sight on the road these days. Sometimes alone, other times in pairs or groups.
There’s no doubt there’s been an upsurge in the popularity of cycling, but having more cyclists on the road has done little to improve the relationship between cyclists and motorists.
Like cats and dogs
The reason for the animosity between the two groups depends largely on who you ask.
Drivers put the blame on cyclists, claiming they’re a ‘law unto themselves’. Cyclists blame motorists for being unwilling to share the road, and acting dangerously.
No matter which side of the argument you’re on, there’s no doubt it’s a polarising topic.
About 17% of Australians now ride at least weekly, and around 5% ride daily to work, so there’s a greater need than ever to get along.
Last year, the NSW Government introduced new or increased penalties for cyclists and drivers who do the wrong thing, claiming the changes are about all about road safety and nothing to do with revenue raising.
The penalties include:
- Not wearing a helmet – $330 fine
- Running a red light – $439 fine
- Riding dangerously – $439 fine
- Holding on to a moving vehicle – $330 fine
- Not stopping at children’s/pedestrian crossings – $439 fine
- Riding at night with lights – $110
Police have warned that these rules will be enforced without exception when people do the wrong thing, as bad behaviour can lead to accidents and even fatalities.
Like drivers, cyclists can face prosecution for riding under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Cyclists are encouraged to carry some form of identification in case there is a crash, although it is not an offence to ride without ID.
Around the same time as new rules were cyclists were brought in, additional regulations were introduced ostensibly to promote sharing of the road.
Rules for drivers
Drivers must allow a distance of 1 metre when the speed limit is 60km/h or less, and 1.5 metres when the limit is more than 60km/h.
If drivers cannot pass a bicycle rider safely, they should slow down and wait. Failing to allow the minimum distance attracts a fine of $330 and two demerit points.
To promote road sharing, the NSW Government made drivers exempt from some road rules when they are passing a cyclist. These include:
- Keeping to the left of the centre of the road (two-way road with no dividing line)
- Keeping to the left of the centre of a dividing line – broken and unbroken lines
- Keeping off a flat dividing strip
- Keep off a flat painted island
- Driving within a single marked lane or line of traffic
- Moving from one marked lane to another across a continuous line separating the lanes
Lights camera action!
Just as many drivers use mounted dash cams, cyclists are now also turning to video technology to record accidents and altercations with motorists.
At a cost of around $200 to $200, cyclists are installing small cameras into bike lights which record footage that can be viewed on a mobile phone.
Cyclists say these small cameras provide peace of mind. They hope that as the technology becomes more widespread, drivers will think twice about engaging in aggressive or dangerous conduct.
It’s legal for cyclists to double-up
One area of confusion for motorists is the practice of cyclists riding side by side on the road.
For the record, it is legal for cyclists to ride two abreast on all public roads in NSW, and three abreast when they are overtaking other bikes.
As our cities become more congested, it’s likely we’ll continue to see more cyclists on the road.
It is hoped that sticking to the rules will reduce animosity and tragedies – indeed, 17 cyclists have already died on Australian roads this year.