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Registration for cyclists – how about a smart-helmet?

By Alexandra Craig - 18 November 2014 94

cyclist-stock-171114

We all hear calls from time to time for cyclists to pay vehicle registration, have a numberplate, and generally be held accountable for their behaviour on the road. A Sydney designer reckons he’s found the solution. Toby King has presented his idea of a ‘smart-hat’ or ‘smart-helmet’ to Mosman Council. Duncan Gay, Minister for Roads in New South Wales has asked his Department for a list of recommendations. The smart-helmet has a registration number on the back, a mini numberplate if you like, that can be recognised by CCTV and speed/red light traffic cameras.

Before I go any further, I’m not against all cyclists. Just like I’m not against all car drivers or motorbike riders. I’m against idiots who disobey the road rules, put other people in danger and generally act like they own the road. I think that all road users should be held accountable for the way they behave, so I think this smart-helmet is a pretty good idea just like the registration plates for cars and motorbikes are a good idea.

However, I know this would be a very, very difficult, near impossible, policy to implement. The first thing I considered was whether every single bike owner has to have one of these helmets or just people who ride regularly on the road. And if it’s those who ride regularly on the road, how do you determine that? No one is going to put their hand up and say ‘yeah, I do – make me wear a dorky-looking helmet and pay money I would rather spend on something else.’ Plenty of people have a bike for leisure purposes but occasionally have to ride on the road to get where they’re going – do these people have to register their bikes? If they don’t, does that mean they literally can never ever ride on the road? If they ride on the road and get pulled up by police for not having one of these helmets, how do they prove they don’t regularly cycle on the road? Do only owners of road bikes have to register them? Plenty of people ride other types of bike on the road, how do you prove that they’re regular riders on the road? The possibilities go on forever.

Many will argue that implementing registration plates on bicycles or bicycle helmets will discourage people from riding and force them back into cars. Well… if cyclists don’t want to be held accountable for the way they ride, maybe they should be discouraged from riding. If you obey the road rules, what have you got to hide? If bicycle registration forces someone back into a car where they will be held accountable for their actions, then that’s a good thing. I understand that people don’t want to have to pay to do something they’ve previously done for free, however paying for car registration, insurance, petrol and all the other costs of running a car would be significantly higher than the costs of registering a bicycle.

I don’t believe any major political party would ever support this or take it to an election, definitely not in the ACT anyway (however, if I’m wrong, Katy Gallagher or Jeremy Hanson should please feel free to correct me!), so some might argue that this discussion is just a waste of time. If that’s the case, perhaps more should be done to crack down on people disobeying the road rules. Most mornings on my way to work I see at least one cyclist running a red light, just because they can. Greater police presence on our roads would be extremely helpful but understandably that’s not always possible.

I heard a story recently of a cyclist that t-boned a car and in this instance it was 100 per cent the fault of the cyclist. It caused damage to the car but the cyclist just rode off and the motorist couldn’t get their details – in this situation, a numberplate to memorise would have been handy. Again, I reiterate my point of not all cyclists do the wrong thing. It’s absolutely the minority that ruin it for everyone else, but that doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. I don’t think many people would disagree with that… except cyclists.

Aside from identifying cyclists by their registration plate, the smart-hat also has a range of fancy features such as brake lights and indicators. For more information on these features you can check out the website

What’s Your opinion?


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94 Responses to
Registration for cyclists – how about a smart-helmet?
dungfungus 2:27 pm 18 Nov 14

Felix the Cat said :

dungfungus said :

How much did it cost to repair the exclusive cycle path that was washed away near the Duntroon entrance? It was replaced with a bridge (albeit a recycled one), no less.

And your point is? Cyclists aren’t the only people that use this and other “shared paths”. Should we register pedestrians, skateboarders, wheelchairs and prams too? According to your logic, if we are providing infrastructure for them, then we should.

My point is that while you may call it a “shared path” it isn’t. The few times I have attempted to walk across that bridge cyclists have appeared from both ends simultaneously at speed and there is no where for a pedestrian to go. At the best, one of the cyclists will slow down and complain while the other one passes, at the worst the pedestrian will be hit.
In practical terms, the bridge is for the exclusive use of cyclists.

Alexandra Craig 1:58 pm 18 Nov 14

Limestone_Lizzy said :

Alexandra, I think the consensus of the cycling community at this helmet is “the homer car”. It is a fix for a problem that does not exist.

Of the top of my head:

The indicators would require me to take my hands away from the grips for the handle bar and interact with a switch on the helmet? Or would you consider wiring the helmet to the thumb indicator switch? Wireless indicator switches? Even worse operate a smartphone (which would mean I break the road rules of phone operation?)

The brake lights would operate how? A gyro would be pretty hit and miss as the head moves around a lot

The rego plates would be obscured most of the time on cyclists riding road bikes as the head is tilted quite forward.

The size and weight of the helmet greatly increase the forces on the neck, I know there are studies into this currently, but anecdotally, a gopro mount is being blamed for the Schumaker injuries. I would love to see this heap of crap get close to ISO.

It is a joke.

Yup. Hence why I didn’t talk about all those crazy technical features of the helmet. I think that’s a whole new discussion in itself.

Grail said :

Here’s how you crack down on people disobeying road rules: put more visible police on the roads. Whether you achieve that by replacing the existing unmarked cars with marked cars or adding more police patrols in marked cars (and motorbikes and push bikes), is up to the implementer.

Perhaps a system of coloured ribbons to be laced into the spokes of the wheel? What happens when the bike doesn’t have enough spokes to lace ribbons? A registration number a cased in the rear reflector might be one option: this way anyone with a camera that has a flash will be able to capture the number fairly easily (if the camera has a high enough resolution).

Agree re police presence, as I said in my article. If I had it my way (which I don’t but it’s still fun to dream) we’d have about 50% more police on our roads in peak hour. Especially on Northbourne and the GDE/Parkway. Not just for bicycles obviously.

The world would be a much happier place if bikes and cars had to have ribbons on them. I like your way of thinking! 🙂

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

Interesting idea.

I think we need to take a better run at this, though. What are we actually trying to achieve? Why?

Perhaps we need to think in terms of the real requirements. Do we want to hold cyclists accountable for their actions on the road? Why? What are the benefits?

Once we have worked out exactly what it is we are trying to achieve, THEN we can look at options for achieving it. I think the debate around cyclists and their actions is not yet resolved, and we need to really nut out what we want first. Technology is nice and all, but if it doesn’t solve a meaningful problem then it’s a waste.

Well, others can answer this question too but what I want to see achieved is all vehicle users being held accountable for their actions through identification.

Antagonist said :

I don’t like the idea of the helmet. It won’t work. I DO like the idea of an identifier on bikes such as hanging a ‘number plate’ from beneath the seat of a bike or similar for a nominal fee. And a simple book test for cyclists to qualify for that identifier or number plate – as a means of demonstrating that people know the road rules and their roadcraft to keep themselves safe(r) on the roads. Not as a means of issuing fines for speeding (tongue in cheek comment cyclists – keep your lycra on!) or running red lights for example.

I think the reason they’ve gone with the helmet idea though is because of it’s visibility. Perhaps a registration plate on the back of a bike is too easily obscured? Or maybe the designer just wants people to look silly.

Felix the Cat said :

Cyclists are now legally allowed to ride across pedestrian crossings. Suggest you refresh your knowledge of the road rules.Or better still, hand your licence in and sell/scrap your car.

http://www.cmd.act.gov.au/open_government/inform/act_government_media_releases/corbell/2014/government-response-to-vulnerable-road-users-inquiry

While I know this is law now, and I’m not going to knock people for obeying the law… this piece of legislation makes me really nervous. The other day I was driving, and as usual slowed down a bit for the pedestrian crossing, and there were no pedestrians/bikes in sight. Then out of nowhere this bike zoomed in front of me, across the pedestrian crossing. If I had accelerated about 4 seconds earlier I would have hit the rider. I know that I would have been in the wrong, but basically this new rule means that you pretty much have to stop at pedestrian crossings even if no one is in sight so you can look right up and down the path to ensure a cyclist isn’t going to zoom in front of you. Just thinking about it makes me feel paranoid.

Rollersk8r said :

It’s amazing there’s none of the enthusiasm (or Riot ACT posts) to dob in people who litter, or jaywalk, or swear in public, or take 9 items through the 8-items-or-less checkout… No, because this would involve actual confrontation, instead of the desire to punish others from the safety of your car, then whinge about them from the safety of your keyboard.

You don’t know what type of behaviour I have or haven’t reported before in my life. Not everything I talk about or take action on happens on RiotACT. However, maybe I will do an article in the future on people littering – especially those who throw cigarettes from cars. People should know better than that – and in Canberra too of all places.

Postalgeek said :

Have you actually seen the helmet design?

Good luck with that. It’s bigger than an original Stackhat.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/north-shore/smart-hat-could-be-the-answer-to-cyclist-registration-councillor-says/story-fngr8h9d-1227121392639?nk=f7da6c43b095e7347557720e3929ce0e

If you think registration is a magical bullet that corrects people’s behaviour, has it stopped drivers from speeding, driving without a license, drink driving, hit-and-running, going through red lights, stop signs, turning without indicating, dooring each other in car parks, illegally parking, road raging etc etc etc?

Haha yep. Hence why I said in the article that no-one would ever agree to wear such a dorky piece of attire. It looks like something out of a space movie.

And yes, I know registration doesn’t change people’s behaviour. What registration does do is gives someone identification, something for other cyclists or motorists to remember if you need to report them, something that will catch them on a red light camera etc.

wildturkeycanoe 1:27 pm 18 Nov 14

Considering only a handful of countries in the world including Australia actually have mandatory helmet laws, I really think imposing a particular one-fits-all helmet for all cyclists is way over the top. The size of the number plate will be useless for anything except very high definition cameras [not your simple dash cams], especially at the speed differentials involved. Red light camera fine? The speed an average cyclist like myself rides, if I were to get caught in a red light camera shot, the next few seconds would place me in the path of cars at the front of the grid and I don’t think the fine would help much with the rest of the medical bills I would be paying.
I ditto the sentiments here about dobbing in bad behavior from a number plate, considering the plate would have to be attached to a name and address. If so, and the police were remotely interested/had time, who is going to manage the system? The R.T.A? Roads A.C.T? Does that mean children will have to get their parents to pay for their registration as well? It won’t be free, nothing is free and this system will come at a cost. The government will not see it as a revenue making exercise, as fines and penalties wouldn’t come close to the operating costs involved so the only way to make it viable would be to have a ludicrous price tag on the number plate. Does anyone want that? I don’t and I am not necessarily on the side of cyclists for this debate.

Postalgeek 1:10 pm 18 Nov 14

Have you actually seen the helmet design?

Good luck with that. It’s bigger than an original Stackhat.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/north-shore/smart-hat-could-be-the-answer-to-cyclist-registration-councillor-says/story-fngr8h9d-1227121392639?nk=f7da6c43b095e7347557720e3929ce0e

Having said that, happy to pay rego and wear a number plate on my head and jump through all the hoops demanded by certain drivers, as long as it means we are no longer the only vehicle expected to share lane space with other vehicles and can claim a whole lane like every other user.

And when I get bored, I’ll just flog someone else’s helmet and run red lights for laughs.

If you think registration is a magical bullet that corrects people’s behaviour, has it stopped drivers from speeding, driving without a license, drink driving, hit-and-running, going through red lights, stop signs, turning without indicating, dooring each other in car parks, illegally parking, road raging etc etc etc?

Rollersk8r 1:02 pm 18 Nov 14

Cyclist behaviour simply Is Not That Big a Deal.

Argue all you like for cyclist rego – and I know you all will – but it simply will never happen because it’s impossible to implement and police. Impossible for many, many reasons – but mainly the huge administrative cost (and presumably a whole unit of police dedicated only to penalising cyclists), the impracticality of defining exactly how every bike in your household will be used (including kids) and the slippery slope of then having to register scooters, skateboards, rollerblades, pogo sticks and all sporting equipment in general.

It’s amazing there’s none of the enthusiasm (or Riot ACT posts) to dob in people who litter, or jaywalk, or swear in public, or take 9 items through the 8-items-or-less checkout… No, because this would involve actual confrontation, instead of the desire to punish others from the safety of your car, then whinge about them from the safety of your keyboard.

Felix the Cat 12:56 pm 18 Nov 14

dungfungus said :

How much did it cost to repair the exclusive cycle path that was washed away near the Duntroon entrance? It was replaced with a bridge (albeit a recycled one), no less.

And your point is? Cyclists aren’t the only people that use this and other “shared paths”. Should we register pedestrians, skateboarders, wheelchairs and prams too? According to your logic, if we are providing infrastructure for them, then we should.

Felix the Cat 12:51 pm 18 Nov 14

dungfungus said :

How about road spikes across pedestrian crossings for a start?
This would force cyclists to dismount to lift their bikes over the spikes and at the same time they would be obeying the law for once.
I know I will get a lot of support for this suggestion.

“Better to have people think you a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”

Cyclists are now legally allowed to ride across pedestrian crossings. Suggest you refresh your knowledge of the road rules.Or better still, hand your licence in and sell/scrap your car.

http://www.cmd.act.gov.au/open_government/inform/act_government_media_releases/corbell/2014/government-response-to-vulnerable-road-users-inquiry

dungfungus 12:17 pm 18 Nov 14

Grail said :

Here’s how you crack down on people disobeying road rules: put more visible police on the roads. Whether you achieve that by replacing the existing unmarked cars with marked cars or adding more police patrols in marked cars (and motorbikes and push bikes), is up to the implementer.

You don’t crack down on disobeying road rules by requiring people to carry a registration plate around with them wherever they go. The “smart helmet” is a useful piece of art to help educate the discussion on the issue. It will not achieve anything like the stated aim of helping prosecute or deter road rule violation.

As for the matter of registering cyclists, just be aware that some people already use their bikes because they can not afford any other form of transport. Adding more costs to their transport will not help anybody. The cost of registering a car is significant compared to the cost of fuel and maintenance. $980 for my little Jazz, for example, which is about 1/20th the initial value of the car and about half the cost of fuel for the year.

So estimating a “fair” price for registration would put it at about $20/year for my bike. But this doesn’t address the issue of where to put the registration plate.

A special helmet will interfere with the manufacturers of helmets and compromise safety. Labels to stick to helmets will only help if the rider always uses that helmet. Plates affixed to the bike might help, as long as you can find a place to fix them that won’t interfere with safe operation of the bicycle.

Perhaps a system of coloured ribbons to be laced into the spokes of the wheel? What happens when the bike doesn’t have enough spokes to lace ribbons? A registration number a cased in the rear reflector might be one option: this way anyone with a camera that has a flash will be able to capture the number fairly easily (if the camera has a high enough resolution).

But then it still comes down to the reason for registering bikes in the first place: if the supposed aim is to hold miscreants accountable, what is preventing this right now? If you are going to require registration of bicycles, how long until you require the registration of pedestrians? Where will this nonsense stop?

If the reason is “paying for roads,” well we already do this through income taxes and rates. Car and truck operators cover a small portion of the extra wear and tear they cause through registration fees and fuel excise, but assuming those fees contribute significantly compared to the extra costs of road construction and repair required to support trucks instead of bikes or cars, is foolish. The cost per kilometre of roads to support push bikes is an order of magnitude less than the cost of roads intended to support light traffic, which is an order of magnitude less than the cost of roads intended to support heavy vehicles.

How much did it cost to repair the exclusive cycle path that was washed away near the Duntroon entrance? It was replaced with a bridge (albeit a recycled one), no less.

Antagonist 12:16 pm 18 Nov 14

You can’t argue logic against emotion – which is exactly what we are already seeing here starting at post #1.

I don’t like the idea of the helmet. It won’t work. I DO like the idea of an identifier on bikes such as hanging a ‘number plate’ from beneath the seat of a bike or similar for a nominal fee. And a simple book test for cyclists to qualify for that identifier or number plate – as a means of demonstrating that people know the road rules and their roadcraft to keep themselves safe(r) on the roads. Not as a means of issuing fines for speeding (tongue in cheek comment cyclists – keep your lycra on!) or running red lights for example.

I was riding around on roads at 10 years old along places like Barry Drive without having a clue about road rules beyond the meaning of red and green lights. And looking back at some of those experiences, I am amazed that I am still here today.

dungfungus 12:14 pm 18 Nov 14

How about road spikes across pedestrian crossings for a start?
This would force cyclists to dismount to lift their bikes over the spikes and at the same time they would be obeying the law for once.
I know I will get a lot of support for this suggestion.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 11:58 am 18 Nov 14

Interesting idea.

I think we need to take a better run at this, though. What are we actually trying to achieve? Why?

Perhaps we need to think in terms of the real requirements. Do we want to hold cyclists accountable for their actions on the road? Why? What are the benefits?

Once we have worked out exactly what it is we are trying to achieve, THEN we can look at options for achieving it. I think the debate around cyclists and their actions is not yet resolved, and we need to really nut out what we want first. Technology is nice and all, but if it doesn’t solve a meaningful problem then it’s a waste.

Grail 11:12 am 18 Nov 14

Here’s how you crack down on people disobeying road rules: put more visible police on the roads. Whether you achieve that by replacing the existing unmarked cars with marked cars or adding more police patrols in marked cars (and motorbikes and push bikes), is up to the implementer.

You don’t crack down on disobeying road rules by requiring people to carry a registration plate around with them wherever they go. The “smart helmet” is a useful piece of art to help educate the discussion on the issue. It will not achieve anything like the stated aim of helping prosecute or deter road rule violation.

As for the matter of registering cyclists, just be aware that some people already use their bikes because they can not afford any other form of transport. Adding more costs to their transport will not help anybody. The cost of registering a car is significant compared to the cost of fuel and maintenance. $980 for my little Jazz, for example, which is about 1/20th the initial value of the car and about half the cost of fuel for the year.

So estimating a “fair” price for registration would put it at about $20/year for my bike. But this doesn’t address the issue of where to put the registration plate.

A special helmet will interfere with the manufacturers of helmets and compromise safety. Labels to stick to helmets will only help if the rider always uses that helmet. Plates affixed to the bike might help, as long as you can find a place to fix them that won’t interfere with safe operation of the bicycle.

Perhaps a system of coloured ribbons to be laced into the spokes of the wheel? What happens when the bike doesn’t have enough spokes to lace ribbons? A registration number a cased in the rear reflector might be one option: this way anyone with a camera that has a flash will be able to capture the number fairly easily (if the camera has a high enough resolution).

But then it still comes down to the reason for registering bikes in the first place: if the supposed aim is to hold miscreants accountable, what is preventing this right now? If you are going to require registration of bicycles, how long until you require the registration of pedestrians? Where will this nonsense stop?

If the reason is “paying for roads,” well we already do this through income taxes and rates. Car and truck operators cover a small portion of the extra wear and tear they cause through registration fees and fuel excise, but assuming those fees contribute significantly compared to the extra costs of road construction and repair required to support trucks instead of bikes or cars, is foolish. The cost per kilometre of roads to support push bikes is an order of magnitude less than the cost of roads intended to support light traffic, which is an order of magnitude less than the cost of roads intended to support heavy vehicles.

Solidarity 10:58 am 18 Nov 14

A helmet with indicators and number plates embedded in it?

That’ll work for recumbent riders, but nobody else.

Limestone_Lizzy 10:58 am 18 Nov 14

Alexandra, I think the consensus of the cycling community at this helmet is “the homer car”. It is a fix for a problem that does not exist.

Of the top of my head:

The indicators would require me to take my hands away from the grips for the handle bar and interact with a switch on the helmet? Or would you consider wiring the helmet to the thumb indicator switch? Wireless indicator switches? Even worse operate a smartphone (which would mean I break the road rules of phone operation?)

The brake lights would operate how? A gyro would be pretty hit and miss as the head moves around a lot

The rego plates would be obscured most of the time on cyclists riding road bikes as the head is tilted quite forward.

The size and weight of the helmet greatly increase the forces on the neck, I know there are studies into this currently, but anecdotally, a gopro mount is being blamed for the Schumaker injuries. I would love to see this heap of crap get close to ISO.

It is a joke.

On registration in general
Registration plates or not, your report of a dangerous car or bike means nothing. Police might ask questions or pay somebody a visit for circle work at a school but there will not be traffic notices that stand up to any scrutiny based on ‘concerned citizens’.

Registration fees are tare weight based. Heavier vehicles pay more. Pro-rata to the weight of a 1700 kg car a bike would be under $10 a year. Further, around half of rego fees is CTP. Apart from a handful of instances personal injuries caused by bikes are relatively minor so this fee should be even lower. Obviously there are plenty of newspaper articles of specific instances but as a whole bikes don’t cause nearly as much or severe personal injury to others as cars.

Bringing up specific instances of bikes causing damage does not quantify how much damage a bike causes (for example personal injury $ per kilometers ridden)

Are you really proposing a punitively large rego fee on the one mode of transport that causes the least amount of damage/harm?

Your observations of a particular cyclist misbehaving on the road is as likely to be representative of cyclists as my observation of a particular car misbehaving on the road being representative of all drivers.

Bottom line is that bikes are far more often that not the victims of injuries suffered in an accident and in about 4 out of 5 cases they are in the right. That is the real problem.

Grail 10:48 am 18 Nov 14

Maybe we should register pedestrians too. I know of many cases where a person has walked into a shop and robbed it, and all the police have to go on is facial features and clothing!

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