Cyclists V Motorists: The Ongoing Feud

Words by: Paula Connell
Image credit: Channel 9 News

Tensions between motorists and cyclists in Perth have always been high.

After a four-hour blitz of cyclists in the Perth CBD by the West Australian Police on Wednesday the 29th of April, 19 cyclists were issued fines.

The offences ranged from not wearing helmets, riding through pedestrian crossings and on footpaths and even leaning on buses while stopped at lights and in traffic. Cyclists argue in defence that they are being forced onto footpaths by the various developments in the CBD causing roads to becoming harder to navigate.

Police Minister Liza Harvey stated that the behaviour of cyclists is more involved with the change in transport trend and shouldn’t be blamed on any particular CBD project.

“I just think that there’s a changing trend in the way people are choosing to get to and from work… They need to obey the road rules just as motorists do.”

The largest number of on the spot fines of $50 went to those riding without a helmet. Despite this police data has demonstrated that the number of fines for helmets have more than halved since 2010. Bicycling WA chief executive Jeremey Murray believes that specific areas in Perth need to be targeted to further improve these numbers.

“There are pockets of places where riders don’t wear helmets (like) Fremantle, North Perth and through the Vincent Area.” Mr Murray continued by stating he believes people in many of these areas don’t wear helmets because they don’t believe them to be fashionable.

Despite the decrease in fines The Health Department released figures in February 2015 showing the number of cyclists admitted to hospital within the state for head injuries had increased by 22% from 234 cyclists in 2008-09 to 286 in the past financial year. Total injuries have increased by 31%.

The Sunday Times visited Fremantle and Leederville in the March. Within an hour more than a dozen cyclists were photographed without helmets.

However WA Police Union president George Tilbury has suggested that to encourage road safety and the prevention of serious head injuries cyclists have the option of visiting a local police station after the issuing of a fine with proof of purchase for a helmet and the fee will be waived.

Despite all these proposals the basic plea of tolerance can still be heard from WA Police Assistant Commissioner Nick Anticich.

“I think underpinning the problem is our attitudes on the roads, and that goes for cyclists and other road users.” Assistant Commissioner Anticich further explains that a sense of entitlement has caused tensions between cyclists and motorists to increase.

When it comes to driving behaviours Assistant Commissioner Anticich believes West Australian’s have some of the worst in Australia. Opposition transport spokesperson Ken Travers spoke out on the inability for the growing population to be supported by the roads if more and more people drive. His response is to use the $70 million is in the state’s road trauma trust account to improve cycle infrastructure in Perth.