After a spate of fatal bike accidents NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay has floated the idea of forcing all pushbike riders to carry a special bike licence. He said bad cyclists are a part of the problem by running red lights, crossing lanes and being aggressive towards motorists.
Putting aside the rights and wrongs of the idea of a bike licence, Stacks Law Firm specialises in providing legal assistance to victims of vehicular accidents, and their lawyers meet many cyclists injured in collisions with vehicles.
They have yet to meet a motorist injured by a cyclist. Indeed, official statistics show a steady increase in the number of bicycle injuries and in 2013 fatalities doubled on the previous year.
"I am seeing more and more people who are victims of cycling injuries seeking some sort of financial compensation to help them get on with their lives. Many need compensation to help them receive ongoing medical treatment or make their homes suitable for wheelchairs," said Stacks specialist Nathan Luke.
Cyclists injured in a motor vehicle collision have rights to compensation, even if they can't identify the vehicle at fault. Cyclists don't need to be registered and insured. Claims must be submitted within certain time limits so it's wise to seek expert legal advice quickly.
There is anecdotal evidence that anger is growing among some motorists that they have to share public roads with cyclists. Cyclists cite tradies' utes, small trucks, vans and SUVs – many with bull bars – as the worst offenders for abusing bike riders. Drivers say their frustration centres on cyclists running red lights, swerving in and out of traffic, and not being visible, especially at night.
"The reality is that cyclists can lawfully use public roads but they do so without the protection of big hunks of metal around them and without seat belts or air bags. While cyclists should obviously obey the rules of the road to avoid accidents, where there is an accident between a cyclist and a motor vehicle it is the cyclist who faces catastrophic injuries or death and not the other way around. We should be doing all we can to make cycling safer, and that means more bike paths and safety programs aimed at educating road users, not more bureaucracy such as bike licences.
"At Stacks Law Firm we are very experienced in helping people injured in bicycle accidents recover compensation to help them get on with their lives. But frankly, we would rather not need to have that skill," Mr Luke said.
"We'd rather cyclists weren't injured on the roads, and that means better safety provisions and more protected bike lanes."
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