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Safety for All is the Priority, Not Bicycle Licensing

In the last two weeks Sydneysiders have witnessed two fatalities and a serious injury as a result of collisions between bicycles and heavy vehicles. These tragic accidents stimulate people’s compassion and calls for action.

The NSW Minister for Roads and Freight Duncan Gay has suggested a licensing system for cyclists, saying “We will look at it on a safety basis.” But there is no evidence to suggest that licensing would have made any difference to the incidents over the last few weeks or would contribute to a change of culture on Sydney’s roads. The fact that there are a host of operational challenges and impracticalities to the licensing of cyclists creates an unhelpful distraction from what should be the government’s first priority – making our roads safer.

With safety as the priority for all road users, Bicycle NSW recommends that the NSW Government immediately follow the lead of Queensland in trialling minimum passing distance legislation, requiring a minimum of one metre when a motor vehicle overtakes a bicycle rider. This will provide motorists and cyclists alike with certainty over what is a safe passing distance. We believe this simple message can save lives when it is fully implemented and becomes part of Australian driving behaviours.

In addition the government needs to continue the focus on encouraging mutual respect between all road users and the importance of everyone obeying the rules. Bicycle NSW in partnership with the NSW Centre for Road Safety, the NSW Police, NRMA, Subaru and Toll Holdings is a proud supporter of the “It’s a Two Way Street – Show Mutual Respect” Campaign led by the Amy Gillett Foundation.

But by far the most effective safety initiative is the creation of a safe network of separated and connected bicycle paths in and around our urban centres.

Other safety actions Bicycle NSW believes require greater attention are educating all road users on the rights of others to safely use the roads, practical training programs to develop rider skills and knowledge as well as education to increase awareness around the importance of visibility by wearing a light and bright reflective clothing; obeying the road rules; riding in a predictable manner, giving hand signals; and planning your route using quieter streets, separated bicycle lanes and shared paths.

Governments at all levels around Australia have committed to plans and targets to increase bicycle usage because of the significant contribution that bike riding can make to reducing transport congestion, improving our health and enhancing the liveability of our urban spaces. Registration or licensing of bikes or riders should not be considered as a priority. The focus for action should be on solutions that will encourage bicycle riding and create a safer environment for everyone to respectfully share our roads

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