The NSW government is introducing in March this year some new laws relating to bicycle riding, including increasing fines and the requirement for adult riders to carry photo ID when cycling. These changes are eliciting varied responses, both positive and negative.
From my point of view as a regular cyclist, commuting to work on weekdays and recreational cycling on the weekends, the practical impact of these changes is somewhere between zero and unimaginably small.
Most times when I cycle I already carry a photo ID in my wallet. The only times I might not have a wallet on me is on a short weekend ride with my son in quiet suburban streets. As for the increase in fines, if you abide by the rules then the size of the fines are irrelevant. But more than that, in my 36 years of driving a car, and 7 years of cycle commuting to work I have never, ever seen a cyclist pulled over to be fined. In fact I have never even heard of a cyclist being fined. No doubt it happens, but the infrequency of it makes all this talk about increased fines a meaningless irrelevance.
But aside from the almost negligible practical implications of these new laws, whenever a change in public policy is proposed, I believe these four questions need to be addressed:
- What is the problem that these changes are seeking to solve?
- How is it expected that the changes will be the solution to the problem?
- Is there any evidence or research that shows that the changes will solve the problem?
- What monitoring or assessment mechanisms will be put in place to measure the efficacy of the changes?
It seems to me that these four questions aren’t even being asked let alone answered in the current debate. All in all there’s a lot of noise and smoke, but no motion forward.