Culture

Cyclists In Sydney Have To Carry ID Cards Now, Because This City Is Run By Idiots

Victoria, please invade. Sydney needs you.

In today’s episode of ‘Sydney Is Run By Clueless Old Men’, the distinguished state politicians steadily turning one of the world’s most vibrant and iconic cities into a regional lawn bowls tournament are hitting out at a new enemy: cyclists. Cycling has found itself on the state government’s prescribed activities list, alongside drinking after 3am, buying alcohol after 10pm, going out in the CBD or the Cross, being in places where drugs may be consumed, drinking spirits without mixers after midnight, drinking anything out of a glass container, smoking in the drinking area, drinking in the smoking area, busking without a permit, making loud noises, being outside after sundown, moving of the hips and/or pelvis to music in a suggestive manner, and raising your heartrate above 75 beats per minute.

The centrepiece of the new Go Together road-sharing initiative, which comes into force today, is a law that mandates a one-metre gap between cars and cyclists at all times, even while overtaking. Fair enough. But Go Together also contains a host of fine increases, regulations and general anti-cyclist fuckery that make the business of riding a pushie in Sydney (and all over NSW) a fraught, uncertain and potentially financially ruinous enterprise.

Take the increased fines for common cyclist infringements, like not wearing a helmet, speeding or riding on the footpath. In the past, fines for breaking the rules on a bike typically came in at $71. Now, however, riding without a helmet will earn you a $319 fine. ‘Riding dangerously’, which includes riding on the footpath, now nets a $425 fine. To put that in perspective, the fine for going more than 20 kilometres over the speed limit in a car is $436 — just $11 more. Going up to 20 kilometres over the limit in a school zone only attracts a $327 fine, raising the distinct possibility that a kid riding home from school without a helmet will be fined almost as much as the speeding driver who nearly knocked them over.

Another new rule requires cyclists to carry photo ID on them at all times, with a $106 fine attached for non-compliance. While there’s a one-year amnesty for riders to get used to that new measure, it will likely have a deterring effect on younger cyclists, many of whom don’t have driver’s licenses and will need to obtain a special ID to ride around.

Police led a crackdown on cyclists in the CBD last Thursday to raise awareness of the new rules, issuing more than 450 infringement notices (it’s worth remembering that there are only two countries in the world — Australia and New Zealand — where wearing a cycle helmet is compulsory). Incredibly, a number of those infringements were handed to cyclists riding in the Centennial Park bike lane, where police cars camped out with speed cameras to catch cyclists going faster than 30 km/h.

The genius behind these new measures is Roads Minister Duncan Gay, the self-described “biggest bike-sceptic in the government” who’s been waging a vendetta against cycling and cyclists for some time. Despite major cities like London and New York embracing segregated cycleways as a means of improving cyclist safety and traffic flow, last year Gay went out of his way to rip up the popular and much-frequented separated bike lane on College Street in the CBD. Gay also floated the idea of special licenses for cyclists in 2014, despite the fact most bicycle-car accidents are the fault of the person in the car, not the person on the bike.

Much in the same way that the religious conservatism of Premier Mike Baird and other senior NSW Liberal Party figures informs the government’s approach to drugs and alcohol policy, Gay’s well-documented hostility towards cyclists (and, seemingly, anyone born after 1960) largely explains why these new laws are being brought into effect. Speaking on hostility to the planned WestConnex motorway last year, Gay gave a pretty good idea of how he views the world, describing cyclists as “anti-road zealots” and offering up some pearls of wisdom your scungy uncle found hilarious sometime in the 1980s.

“It is one thing to sit in your cafe, sipping your latte, and complain about cars and roads. It’s another thing to wonder how the grease trap in that coffee lounge actually gets removed,” he told reporters. “More particulate matter goes into the air over the city of Sydney from the chattering class sitting around their log fire and a glass of chardonnay (talking about) that horrible Duncan Gay; they put more particulate matter into the air of Sydney by a factor of four of five than heavy vehicles ever did.”

So there you go! If you’re wondering why the state government is actively trying to drive people off their bikes and back into cars, it’s because the Roads Minister wants to keep wheeling out his hilarious “young people are stupid” routine for the benefit of his mates in state Parliament. If Victoria ever wants to invade, give us a heads-up. We’ll bake a cake for you.

Feature image via Sydney Cycleways.