Rally to put the brakes on pushbike couriers

The Sydney Morning Herald

Tuesday 3 December 1996
By Richard Macey

Pushbike couriers cycling into Martin Place today had better not go alone.

Speakers at a 1 pm rally, called by the Pedestrian Council of Australia, will be demanding action to change the riding habits of Sydney's 200 pushbike couriers.

"The safety of the city is being compromised by these urban cowboys," the council's chairman, Mr Harold Scruby, said yesterday.

Mr Scruby, a former Mosman councillor and a committed pedestrian, said the behaviour of courier cyclists was "much, much worse", despite repeated police crackdowns on their riding on footpaths and against traffic lights.

The rally would call on the State Government to implement recommendations made more than six months ago by the parliamentary Staysafe committee, he said.

The committee recommended that all bicycle couriers be registered and that they be required to carry identification. It also proposed that couriers should have points taken off their driver's licences for traffic breaches committed on bicycles. It further proposed forcing couriers to pay bonds to cover any unpaid traffic fines incurred on the job.

Mr Scruby said one pedestrian had been killed by a courier cyclist in the past two years. "I am young enough to dodge these blokes, but aged people feel very threatened."

Mr Paul Gibson, the head of the Staysafe committee, said he did not know when its recommendations might become law. "I had hoped it would be ready by Christmas," he said, adding. "You can't legislate in five minutes." However, Mr Gibson agreed action was needed to combat "kamikaze pilots on bikes".

"Most of the cowboys are from overseas, on holidays. They can pick up their $700, $800 or $900 a week being a courier, they can get charged with as many offences as they want, and they go back home and their fines are never paid."

The Sydney Police District's traffic operations co-ordinator Senior Sergeant Danny McConville, described courier cyclists as "frightening". "There is still a problem with bicycles going through red lights, going the wrong way down one-way streets and riding on footpaths," he said.

A spokesman for the Minister for Roads, Mr Scully, who took over the portfolio on Thursday, had no idea what had happened to the Staysafe report. However, Mr Scully had called for a copy, he said.

Mr Paul Yeo, a supervisor at Top Gun, which employs about 15 courier cyclists, said that in 90 per cent of accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians the latter were to blame.

Every pushbike courier probably broke the law at some time, he said, but they were just "trying to make a decent living". "We push them to get the jobs done but we don't tell them to run red lights or run people over."

One courier, Mr Andrew Eather, acknowledged he rode on footpaths and against red lights but said he was not dangerous. "If I am going to run a red light, I am not going to endanger myself or other pedestrians."