Number plates for kamikazes

Sun Herald

20 September 1998
By Frank Walker

CITY bicycle couriers would have to get a special licence and put number plates on their bikes under a plan to crack down on reckless riding.
Police figures obtained by the Opposition through Freedom of Information legislation showed 174 bike riders had been fined for infringements in the city in the past financial year.

Fifty were caught riding on footpaths, 56 without helmets, 39 running red lights and 19 going the wrong way up one-way streets.

Nearly all were couriers and, because there were fewer than 200 bike couriers listed, it was a very high infringement rate.

But despite warnings about safety, the State Government has for two years ignored a Staysafe Committee report recommending a crackdown on bicycle couriers.

Staysafe chairman Labor MP Paul Gibson said the Government was ducking responsibility. "Too many people are being injured by bike couriers as they whiz around the city," he said.

Staysafe recommended couriers be licensed and lodge a bond, in case they did not pay fines.

Police told Staysafe only a third of fines were paid because few riders carried identification and many were foreign visitors.

Opposition transport spokesman Michael Photios said that under a Coalition government bike couriers would be licensed and lose their licence after three infringements.

"Sydney's cycle couriers are known as kamikazes on bikes," he said. "We want tougher laws which force them to obey the road rules.

"People should not have to dodge cyclists when they are walking on a footpath."

Pedestrian Council chief Harold Scruby said the real level of law breaking by couriers was "a thousand times higher" than the 174 fines handed out. "An elderly person has been knocked over and killed by a cyclist in the city zipping up footpaths," he said.

"The Government must act on this problem as elderly people risk their lives just walking along the footpath."

Bicycle NSW chief Neil Tonkin said: "Couriers give the rest of the bike riders a bad name.

"Not enough is done to make bike riding safe in the city but anybody who breaks the law by riding on footpaths or going the wrong way up one-way streets deserves to be caught by police and fined heavily," he said.

Police Bike Squad officers said they often caught three or four couriers a day before the couriers messaged each other on how to avoid them.

A spokeswoman for Transport Minister Carl Scully said there were no plans for new courier laws but police may increase bike patrols before summer.