Advocates for cyclists have welcomed new laws which passed the Assembly this week that allow police to issue motorists with strict, on-the-spot fines for negligent driving, riding and scooting.
Drivers who injure cyclists or any other vulnerable road users will now face fines of up to $900, while drink-riding offences for e-scooter riders have also been introduced in a bid to make the scheme safer before it expands across the city.
Pedal Power ACT chief executive Ian Ross welcomed the changes, which he hoped would encourage drivers to take more care on the road around cyclists.
“Where someone drives negligently and harms another person, there must be clear and immediate penalties,” Mr Ross said.
He also welcomed a significant education campaign which the ACT Government will begin rolling out later this month, saying it is important Canberra drivers are aware of the new rules.
The Share the Road campaign will be highly visible in public spaces, including on buses, at petrol stations and in shopping centres.
In late 2020, there was public outcry after a dashcam image of a cyclist getting hit by a passing motorist was circulated online, and it was later revealed the driver had been issued with what many, including Pedal Power, saw as a “grossly inadequate fine” of only $393.
ACT Greens spokesperson for active travel Jo Clay, who had moved the amendment to incorporate higher fines into the government’s bill, said strong measures were needed to improve road safety.
“Fines for negligent driving that harm someone are part of a range of measures that can address safety concerns and encourage more Canberrans to walk, ride or scoot,” she said.
Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said introducing a new offence of negligent driving occasioning actual bodily harm would address a gap in the ACT’s current laws.
“It seeks to capture harm that is serious but not necessarily permanent – like major bruising, black eyes and lacerations. These types of harm are most often experienced by vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists when other road users don’t take enough care,” Mr Steel said.
The bill also introduces higher automatic licence disqualification periods for several driving offences that result in serious harm or death and new offences such as not taking reasonable care and attention when driving or riding.
Mr Steel said it was hoped the new laws would help all Canberrans to both feel and be safe on the roads.
“That’s why we have strengthened the range of offences and penalties for unsafe behaviour that puts other road users at risk – particularly those who don’t have the protection of a car around them,” he said.
Police will also be given new powers to direct a person to get off, or not get on, devices like e-scooters and bikes, as well as penalties if these directions are ignored.
“In preparing for the city-wide roll-out of shared e-scooters, we’ve heard that Canberrans want a clearer framework to guide good behaviour and encourage considerate sharing of the road when people are using these devices,” Mr Steel explained.
“All of us have a role to play in working towards Vision Zero: no deaths or serious injuries on Canberra’s roads.”