30 minutes in charge of bikes
Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards talks about what he would do if he had the power to change any bike riding laws he liked.
Posted on 18.04.2017
I had a dream the other night.
I was made Australian Minister for Bike Riding and given sweeping powers. I could change anything I liked – whether at a federal, state or local level.
A very efficient person showed me to my office and tried to book some appointments. First they wanted me to see an interior designer about redecorating, then they wanted me to see someone from recruitment about hiring some advisors/minders. I waved them away; it was time to get busy.
First thing I did was open the statutes and start ripping into the bike laws. I made 11 quick changes – there was no logic to the order, it was all action.
1. Abolished that it’s compulsory to ride in bike lanes
Queensland got rid of this law and it’s all fine up in the Sunshine State. So, I got rid of it everywhere else so the police aren’t tempted to go nuts.
2. United the minimum distance passing laws
No more parliamentary inquiries or campaigns. Consistency throughout Australia. Yippee!
3. Struck out the offence of ‘riding furiously’ in NSW
Removing it won’t make that much of a difference but it’s stupid and annoying.
4. Scrapped compulsory bells
This one is also annoying. If you’re in trouble you need your hands to brake and steer, not ring a bell. My email pinged: thanks, from some roadies looking to reduce the weight of their bike by a few grams.
5. Gave bikes priority turning left
It’s a major cause of crashes and the law is unclear. It just makes sense to favour the person at greatest risk. So, I made it clear: the rider coming down the inside of a car turning left has right of way. If a car hits them it’s the car’s fault.
6. United the bikes on footpaths law
It’s allowed in most of Australia and it works fine. So, I brought it in across NSW and VIC. Ping: a pedestrian advocate was pretty worked up. I asked them to send me the evidence of increased pedestrian injuries in states where bikes are allowed on footpaths. No more pinging.
7. Made positive provisioning and bike parking compulsory
I put it in every planning law that whenever a new road is built bike facilities must also be built and every new building must put in a specified amount of bike parking and end-of-trip facilities. Ping: a polite but formal public servant reminded me that they already have a policy about that. My response: great, now you have a law.
8. Fixed the Victorian throwing and putting objects in the path law
For some weird reason the Victorian law doesn’t have an offence like the rest of the country where you don’t need to prove intention (mens rea if you like Latin). Easy fix. Ping of thanks from the Victorian police prosecutors.
9. Made 30km/h speed zones compulsory in high density areas
It’s clear as day. Lower speed means lower risk and severity of injury, which means more people riding bikes. So, I lowered speed limits to 30km/h on residential streets and in areas of high activity like schools, shops and transport hubs. This time an email ping came from a stressed mum in a Ford Territory who said she’d never get her kids to school on time if she couldn’t drive 60km/h right up to the school gate. I sent her an alarm clock and a set of Ride2School stickers.
10. Reversed the onus of bike crashes (vulnerable road user law)
Instead of a rider having to prove a driver was at fault, I changed it so a driver had to prove they weren’t at fault. Another ping from the Dutch Consulate: why didn’t you just do this earlier?
11. Compulsory safety assist equipment on vehicles
I introduced a number of compulsory changes to vehicles including under arm protection on trucks, autonomous emergency braking, speed assist systems and lane support systems.
That left the big one: mandatory helmets. Clearly helmets reduce the severity of injury if you have a crash but why haven’t the rest of the world made them mandatory? I needed some analysis and thinking but I didn’t want it lost in the bureaucracy jungle. An advisor appeared out of nowhere protesting loudly about ‘wedge issues’. I thanked them, asked them to leave and passed a law that a decision must be made in three months.
I looked at the clock, it was 9.27am. The Treasurer would be coming in any minute for me to go through and adjust the budget. I got my red pens and calculator ready. I was fired up to trim some things to create a serious bike budget when the most awful thing happened: my alarm went off and I woke up.
Still, it was a pretty good half hour on the job I reckon. But then I would think that as it was my dream.
I’d love to hear what you’d get up to in your dream if you were given the Australian Minister for Bike Riding gig for half an hour? Let Bicycle Network know on Facebook.
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