A spate of violent accidents involving bike riders has sparked fresh calls to consider state-based registration for cyclists across Australia.
Victoria’s Bayside City Council, which includes popular cycling route Beach Road in St Kilda, will petition the Victorian Government to consider cycling registration at a meeting of local government next week.
Mayor Laurence Evans said the registration of bicycles or licensing of bicycle riders would help the police and the public to identify cyclists involved in an accident or breaking road rules.
“Given the continued growth in cycling in Victoria, the introduction of a registration scheme for cyclists would be beneficial for all road users,” Cr Evans said in a statement.
Likewise, in New South Wales ongoing controversy and a rise in the deaths of people riding bikes saw roads minister Duncan Gay suggest the state would consider licensing for bike riders.
“I am increasingly persuaded that we need to look at a licence for cyclists,” he said.
“It’s not going to worry the ones that are doing the right thing, but the bad ones that are running lights, crossing over, being aggressive, they’re a large part of the statistic,” said Mr Gay.
However, Mr Gay also admitted it was a very low percentage of cyclists breaking laws – “probably under one per cent”.
NRMA spokesperson Peter Khoury is opposed to cycling registration and says it would unnecessarily deter casual or weekend riders, including families.
“There’s a number of high-profile injuries and deaths involving cyclists [this year] so we are not surprised these conversations are taking place across the country,” Mr Khoury said.
While generally not supported by cycling and motoring groups, registration is not a new issue.
Last year in Queensland a parliamentary committee looked into policy to improve road safety for cyclists, including the possibility of registration.
A minority of the 106 submissions to the inquiry supported registration for cyclists.
The committee recommended against the registration of cyclists saying the “significant negative consequences of introducing a registration scheme far outweighed the limited benefits”.
The cycling community, as well as motoring industry bodies, have hit back at the idea saying it would lower cycling rates and would not improve safety.
The CEO of Bicycle Network, Mr Craig Richards, said adding expensive registration fees would stop people riding because they wouldn’t want to pay.
Writing in The Age, he said: “The legal and financial implications involved in introducing a registration scheme limited to some councils is mind boggling. I’m sure it’s got the constitutional lawyers scratching their heads. No doubt the council accountants will be just as confused when they run their numbers and find out that the cost of running a registration scheme will punch another gaping hole in their leaking budgets.”
Should bikes be registered?
The case for
Accountability: Supporters believe that registration of bike riders would make them more accountable when breaking road rules.
User pays: The payment of registration fees would go towards the costs of cyclists using the roads – the Brisbane City Council is investing $120 million across the city in cycling infrastructure.
Better stats: Registration would allow better stats on how many people ride on state roads, this would in turn give an improved ability to plan and build infrastructure.
The arguments against
Reduce riders: The main argument against registration submitted to the Queensland inquiry was that it would reduce cycling participation. Advocates believe that more people riding on the road is safer, so if this is the case, less people would make it more dangerous for riders.
Cyclists do pay: According to Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than 80 per cent of adult riders already pay car registration. Additionally, most funding for roads funding comes from council rates and tax revenue. Additionally a Queensland study found cyclists save the community $0.06 for each kilometre they ride instead of drive.
Broken laws: Cycling advocates argue it is unlikely to stop the small percentage of cyclists breaking road rules – much the same as motorists still break laws.
The NRMA says cyclists’ behaviour is already monitored and police do have the capacity to enforce the law: “Just like if you crackdown on motorist behaviour, the best way is to have a clearly visible police presence.”
If not registration then what?
Education: Motoring bodies believe the better alternative would be to educate and attempt to change the hostile cyclists vs motorist relationship on the road.
Infrastructure: Instead of shelling out to start a cyclist registration program, the NRMA believes more infrastructure is needed – ideally to separate cars and bikes.
Laws: The Amy Gillett Foundation Tracey Gaudry says she does not support cycling registration and would like to see laws to improve cycling safety, including a “safe passing distance”.