New fines for cyclists who don't wear a helmet will boost the average annual revenue stream of about $335,000 for the offence to more than $1.5 million, if the same number of riders are fined.
The hike in revenue figures, obtained from the office of NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay, are the result of the impending increase in the helmet penalty from $71 to $319 – an increase of 349 per cent.
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New bike laws: NSW cyclists respond
We ask cyclists in Sydney what they think of the five-fold increase in some fines for bicyclists in NSW, effective March 1st.
From March 1, cyclists will also have to carry proof of identity, while motorists will be required to give cyclists a metre gap when overtaking in speed zones of 60km/h or less, and 1.5 metres in higher speed zones.
The penalty for a cyclist disobeying a red light, which increases from $71 to $425 (up 498 per cent) could result in a revenue jump from just under $24,000 (also averaged over the past four years) to more than $142,000, according to the minister's figures, if the same number of fines are issued.
The number of penalty notices issued has shown no trend of increasing since 2011 – in fact, in the case of helmet and red light offences, the number of fines issued in 2014/15 was down on the previous year.
Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore, in her first comment on the new regime, agreed that governments needed to encourage safe behaviour by motorists and cyclists as cycling participation increases, but she believed the measures could be a discouragement.
"It's good to see a trial of the 'a metre matters' approach in Sydney, which will make it safer for people to ride and help change attitudes in Sydney so that all people – whether walking, riding or in a car – can share the roads and pavements safely," she said.
"But hiking up fines for bike riders and forcing them to carry ID is all stick, no carrot, and risks discouraging riding. Better infrastructure and education is the solution.
"The government needs to invest in the safe, separated bike infrastructure that will keep bike riders safe and leave more space on the roads for people who need to drive."
The lord mayor said more than 7000 people ride to work in the city centre each day – the equivalent of 116 full buses, or seven Sydney trains.
Mr Gay said the new measures weren't about grabbing cyclists' money and it was only fair that cycling fines are brought into line with those for motorists. Being a responsible road user, whether a cyclist or a motorist, was not negotiable, he said.
"Last month, I announced a new cycling package that was developed in close consultation with stakeholders, including cycling groups, to improve safety for all road users in NSW.
"We don't want cyclists' money – that is not why we increased fines for high-risk and downright stupid behaviour. These changes are about changing behaviour and improving safety.
"With cycling injuries remaining high in NSW, I had no choice but to look at tougher deterrents and increased enforcement to improve safety for cyclists and other road users. I hope I don't see another dollar in fine revenue but I do hope to see a reduction in cyclist injuries."
Mr Gay said he had asked the Centre for Road Safety to look into directing all revenue from cycling fines into the Community Road Safety Fund used for safety initiatives, such as flashing lights at schools, and high visibility policing, including motorbike police in the CBD.
Bicycle Network spokesman Garry Brennan said that NSW bike riders felt betrayed by Mr Gay's move to increase fines.
"It is the policy of all Australian governments, state and federal, to encourage more people to get on bikes for the health, economic and congestion-busting benefits that riding instead of driving can bring," he said.
"But this mean-spirited move is more like punishment than encouragement.
"The level of the new fines appear to have been pulled from a hat. The fines for not wearing a helmet will generate such a massive amount of revenue that enforcement will be distorted towards helmet offences and away from other road rules that are just as important for safety.
"There has been no proper analysis of trends in bike-related offences, no research into what level of fines are needed for deterrence, and no investigation of why other jurisdictions in Australia are able to manage the bike riding community without resorting to heavy-handed measures.
"Compliance with laws is important for rider safety, but you achieve this by engaging with riders, working with them and supporting them, not by hammering them with the threat of huge fines and with oppressive regulations about carrying identity cards."