19 June 2009

Hardcore New Laws for Cyclists in Australia

To be honest... I don't really know what to write about the news laws in Victoria, Australia. They're shocking.


Just another sad example of bullying people who use a C02 neutral, healthy and life extending transport option.

The maximum penalties under the new act include:

- DANGEROUS riding - $13,610 or prison for twelve months or both.

- CARELESS riding of a bike - $681 for a first offence and $1361 for a subsequent offence

- IF a person is killed or seriously injured by a cyclist and the rider has not immediately stopped and offered assistance - $68,052 or five years in prison

- IF property is damaged by a cyclist and the rider has not immediately stopped and offered assistance - $284 or seven days in prison for a first offence and $567 or prison for between seven and 14 days for a subsequent offence.

Be sure to leave comments at the source.


flyingdutch said...

What's the big deal.

you commit a (serious) crime like killing someone and you DON'T want them fined/prosecuted?

perhaps you need to remove the 2-wheeled rose coloured glasses and realise that we as cyclists can (very, very rarely) also be an issue.

These laws seem more like making cyclists more like every other road user to me

anna said...

Strange. Aren't there already traffic regulations in Australia? Shouldn't they be the same for cyclists and car drivers? Why do they make it so complicated? I don't think there are fines for dangerous/careless car driving, but for certain delicts like speeding, drunk driving, dangerous overtaking, hit-and-run and such. Here, the same regulations apply to everyone, no exception needed for cyclists or pedestrians.

Adrienne Johnson said...

There is remarkably little information in this article. There is no definition of what these offenses actually consist of. Over all, it reads like very paranoid junk.

This is certainly discouraging reading : (

Mikael said...

laws like this that brand cycling as 'dangerous' and feed the fires of animosity already felt by motorists towards cyclists in Emerging Bicycle Cultures serve no good purpose.

Sure, if you need laws to make cyclists liable in these rare situations, fine.

Why not quadruple the fines/sentences for motorists in the process?

Stan in BCN said...

I don't feel like these laws brand cycling as "dangerous". As any other mean of transportation cycling needs regulation although in this case the penalties are way too excesive and subjective.

How is dangerous or careless riding definied??
Are car drivers charged $13,610 for dangerous driving??

Gerry Gaffney said...

I'm a regular commuter by bike in Melbourne, and I was a bit peeved by the laws initially.

However, a couple of things are worth mentioning.

The laws have not been quite the same for motor vehicles and bicycles, Anna. For example, a pedestrian was killed by a cyclist running a red light, but the law was able to to no more than issue a small fine. That was widely considered within the community to be inappropriate.

Cycling is becoming much more visible and popular in Melbourne (hurrah! and despite mandatory helmets), but with that increase in popularity there is also an increase in the visibility of the (small) minority of cyclists who do things like overtake stopped trams (a serious hazard to passengers), speed along footpaths and so on. Their behaviour is problematic for a number of reasons, not least is that one that then brands all cyclists as irresponsible.

Requiring a cyclist to stop at the scene of an accident seems reasonable to me.

Here's another article on the topic:


What bugged me was that the minister said that "Cycling is becoming a legitimate form of transport". And I never even knew I was illegitimate!

And I'm certainly not an apologist for drivers:

juffles said...

For comparison, careless driving in Victoria attracts a fine of 2.4 penalty units, or $272.21, and 3 demerit points (for those outside Australia - get 12 of these and your license gets suspended.)

So why is the fine for cycling so much higher, and why does it automatically escalate for subsequent offences?


Kim said...

Mikael, I think you need to try and keep this in perspective. This is not an attack on the ordinary law abiding cyclist. Why should a person does damage to another, either through malice or sheer stupidity, be treated differently because of their mode of transport?

All people should take responsibility for their actions, irrespective of their mode of transport.

Anonymous said...

In as far as it's practicable, I think cyclists should be subject to the same laws as other vehicles. If there is legislation determining how slow-moving vehicles should behave in traffic, for example, then there is no need for separate legislation for cyclists.

In this case, the punishment should be commensurate with the extent to which the behavior of the vehicle-operator caused the accident and with the severity of the accident. There is probably no need to pass legislation specifically to deal with cyclists. The more cyclists are treated like other road-users, the better.

Anonymous said...

the idiocy abounds!
How many deaths are attributed to people getting hit by bicycles vs. people by automobiles per year?
Let's not forget ... driving a car is a privilege, not a right, that requires passing a test and obtaining a license. It's a huge responsibility and poses a threat to humans' health. Anything this extremist in branding cycling as dangerous in comparison to driving is ludicrous.

Adrienne Johnson said...

Having thought about this, I have come to feel this way- as a cyclist who will have time to travel in the not too distant future, Australia will not be on my list of places to go as cycling there sounds too problematic.

Is there any country in the world that can afford to turn away tourist money, these days? I know that in the summer months, SF is FLOODED by rented bikes with tourists from all over the world. It would be a huge financial hit for the City if that no longer happened.

Tim said...

For those outside of Australia, a bit of history.

A few years ago, a pedestrian was struck and killed by a training cyclist running a red light. The cyclist was only charged with failing to stop at a red light, because it was found that no other laws were applicable. Most of the road laws (dangerous driving etc.) apply to the driver of a motor vehicle.

It was a shortcoming in the law. This new law is a poorly conceived knee-jerk reaction to that event.

IF a similar incident occurs again (unlikely - this was the first cyclist-pedestrian fatality in living memory), now there are new laws which COULD be leveled against the cyclist. As in any civilised legal system, the cyclist would then be in a position to defend the charge.

If found guilty, the cyclist could then be penalised up to the maximum that has been published. Or by significantly less, if the judge doesn't feel the maximum penalty is warranted.

In the case that triggered the law, there's nothing to say that the rider would have been charged with - let alone found guilty of - this new law. But it's an option that will exist in the future if such an incident happens again.

So, it's a law that is unlikely to ever be used, with maximum penalties that may never be applied. As flyingdutch has said, that's not a big deal.

As others have said, though, it would have been much simpler to change the wording of existing law, so they are applicable to the driver of any vehicle... motorised or not.

There's no problem holding cyclists to the same level of accountability as drivers. Of course, it needs to be recognised that cyclists have far less capacity to cause death and injury than motorists do - and that's why we have a court system. The worst "dangerous cycling" offense is unlikely to be as serious as a typical "dangerous driving" offense.

William said...

I'm just posting highlight from the comments on the original article:
apparently the five years in prison to the biker who kills another person, is less than the punishment for intentional murder.

Also, no Australians seem to know what exactly careless and dangerous riding is

And, my goodness do the commenters want bicycles to be registered.

I know what careless riding is, though. It's when I'm on my bike, and I don't have a care in the world. Mmmmm.

Anonymous said...

Change the wording of the existing laws to "operator of a vehicle" where such makes sense to apply to bicycles, future legal issues solved.

For the most part laws that have no explicit definition of the behavior being suppressed are used in extreme, not as they were originally intended but as a free pass by law officers to harass.

Such use is often overturned by the courts, but often not until after the charged has undergone life ruination.

As for the past legal issue; has Australia not heard of certain philosophies of law common to all other legal systems based on British Common Law, specifically the legal terms "negligence" and "reckless endangerment"?

These are serious charges that can be applied to ANYONE (even someone knocking around in their own home) who through careless action threatens or damages the well being of another. There is no legal code that specifically EXEMPTS the operator of a vehicle from these charges, indeed, it is one of the classes to which they are often applied.

Perhaps they do not need new laws in Australia, perhaps they simply need a proper understanding of APPLYING LAW.

Anonymous said...

Mo. college town: Harass our cyclists, go to jail


Melbourne Cyclist said...

Even The Age, the less hysterical Melbourne newspaper (supposedly more mature than the Herald Sun) has some wonderfully anti-cycling people on its comments page on this article :-(

The media are very fond of stirring up anti-cycling rhetoric here sadly, everything is "dangerous cyclists this" and "rogue cyclists that". We've had "crackdowns", "new laws" and all sorts. If on the other hand the media were a bit more supportive, with lots of stories on how cycling can be very healthy, and how all people have a right to use the road safely, we might get somewhere. But that probably wouldn't sell papers.

Personally, I'd always assumed that manslaughter laws could be applied in any case where someone accidentally/unintentionally killed someone else. And I agree with those who say the existing laws for motorists should just be reworded to "road user" or "vehicle operator" or similar, to encompass all of us totally fairly.

A note on registration, aka "rego": full details are available on the VicRoads website, but it's basically a compulsory fee paid by all motor vehicle owners, comprising "registration fee" (i.e. admin), "insurance duty" (compulsory third party insurance), and "Transport Accident Charge" (TAC, that pays for costs related to a motor accident, such as health costs, rehabilitation, transport etc). To get an unregistered vehicle re-registered, you also have to pay for it to be inspected.

Many motorists seem to think that rego pays for roads - you often hear variations on "I pay my rego, get off my road", or "pay rego, then you can use the road". Roads are, of course, paid for by taxes, which we all pay, regardless of whether we drive or cycle. We desperately need a very public campaign to drum this home. Many of them also seem to think that cyclists should be registered purely so that motorists (and some of the angrier pedestrians) can report badly behaving cyclists. Given the lack of understanding of the road rules that some possess*, this could lead to a lot of wasting of police time.

*e.g. thinking cyclists must use bike paths if provided, and get off the road; thinking that riding two abreast is illegal.

My view on it all is that I think all road users should be treated exactly the same - we should have the same laws governing bad behaviour, i.e. the same responsibilities, but we also need to all have the same rights, which includes cyclists being able to safely cycle on adequate provided infrastructure.