Australian Old Fart Says Cyclists Are Copping Too Many Fines.

Cash cows: Werner Steyer believes the fines for biking offences suggest the government is more interested in revenue raising than safety. Picture: Robert Peet
According to the leader of a Bike Users Group based in Illawarra, the NSW State Government is treating cyclists like "cash cows". However, our regular columnist Rob Scott says cyclists can't have it both ways. He says cyclists can't claim they're legitimate road users when it suits them, and then also claim they shouldn't face legitimate road fines when they break existing road rules.

A 66 year old cyclist named Werner Steyer from Wollongong says the recent increase in cycling fines in NSW is a sign the government “would rather treat them as a cash cow rather than focusing on improving bicycle safety”.  Well of course he’s going to say that  –  it’s what well heeled retired white guys with investment properties do  –  they whine about how tough their lives are.

Quite predictably,  when I conducted a quick street survey yesterday,  the vast majority of people didn’t have much sympathy for cyclists who cop fines.  The common response was “Why should a valid road user be exempt from a traffic fine if they ignore the Traffic Act?   Simply because they ride a bike?”  After all,  cyclists are the first people to remind us bicycles are legitimate road vehicles too  –  when it suits them.  But when it doesn’t suit them?  For example,  when they start getting fines?  All of a sudden cyclists become victims of oppression by the omnipresent State.  Boo Hoo.

Old mate Werner reckons the recent increase in fines are discouraging people from riding bikes for fear of being stung.  Sure,  on the face of it,  statistics on cycling fines in the last two years might seem to back up that claim,  but only barely.  In 2016 the NSW .gov boosted cycling fines for a number of offences, including not wearing a helmet, which was $71 but is now $344.  The Office of State Revenue Data shows that between 2014-15 and the last financial year the number of helmet-less riders fined jumped 113 per cent to 6102 and the number of cyclists caught for not having a rear red light on the bike went up 79 per cent.  So sure,  for a whole bunch of offences,  fines went up.  Big deal.

In life there are three types of falsehoods - lies, damn lies, and statistics.

Mark Twin, chapters of my autobiography
Ahhhhh, statistics. Wonderful statistics...

The problem with statistics is when we look at them in isolation.  For example,  Australia had an unusually low number of cycling fatalities in 2016,  with a total of 29 deaths  (the 2nd lowest number on record).  The following year the number of cycling fatalities bounced back to slightly above the historical average of 37 deaths per annum for the last 20 years.  Temporarily,  cycling advocates around the nation were screaming about the massive 80% increase in cycling fatalities in just one year,  without any perspective on the historical average.  

Those claims were highly alarming of course,  but at the end of the day the only people who were listening were cyclists who heard only what they wanted to hear.

Which brings us to the spurious claims by Werner Steyer who says the recent increase in fines is discouraging people from riding their bikes for fear of being stung.  Motorists quite naturally respond with “hey,  if you don’t want a fine just follow the road rules,  it really is simple.”  But that’s not how cyclists think it seems.

When you're a cycling advocate the only thing that counts is more people on bikes. It doesn't matter if more people die while riding bikes because it's dangerous, that's irrelevant.

Logical fallacies are rife in the cycling world.  In response to this recent article,  Ed Hore from the grandiosely named Australian Cycling Alliance says Australians need to be more active;  that we need to fight obesity and other modern diseases brought on by inactivity  –  therefore,  by extension,  we need to promote cycling as an alternative to the private motor vehicle,  which means we shouldn’t have traffic fines for cyclists at all.  

Here we see the logical fallacy  –  Claim A is true  (people need to be more active) therefore Claim B is true too (cyclists shouldn’t cop fines).  But Claim B isn’t true.  That’s why it’s a logical fallacy.

It’ll come as no surprise to anyone that cycling advocates are notoriously selective about when and how the Traffic Act should be enforced.  Anything which promotes more bicycles on the road justifies the logic used to reach that conclusion,  even when the logic is inherently false.  

Perhaps most ridiculously of all,  Edward Hore himself verges on being morbidly obese.  A near perfect example of “do as I say,  not as I do.

Ed Hore in front of his car
Edward Hore from The Australian Cycling Alliance, seen here in front of his car, says cyclists shouldn't get fines so that more people will ride bikes to help fight obesity.