By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
The number of cyclists in Australia is increasing, and alongside this, in recent years, steps have been taken and laws reformed around the country to make major cities more bicycle-friendly.
Indeed, whether it’s a casual ride to and from work, or a relaxed Sunday cycle to the beach, riding a bicycle has its benefits – it can be enjoyable, it’s certainly good for the environment, and it can vastly improve your health and fitness levels in the process.
Even better though, it’s a cheap way to get around.
That is, of course, unless you get thumped with a fine.
Especially when it’s for something as minor as not having a bell on your bicycle.
Call it what you like – another attempt to raise revenue, another nanny state regulation gone nuts – but the fact of the matter is, if you’re a cyclist, or looking to buy a bicycle to get around, in NSW, it is illegal to ride a bike without a bell, horn, or a similar warning device.
Sydney Man Gets Fined $106 for Not Having Bell on His Bicycle
If you thought the law on riding a bicycle without a bell was a joke, let’s take the case of Sydney man, Michael Gratton, who copped a ridiculous fine for the offence.
Mr Grafton was cycling to work one morning when he was stopped in a police “education and awareness” blitz.
Before he knew it, he was hit with a fine of $106 for not having a bell on his bike.
He was also not wearing a helmet, and didn’t have a working brake. The offences, in total, left him $531 out of pocket.
Speaking of the incident, the robotics researcher expressed his frustration about the law.
“The bell fine of $106 is ridiculous,” he said.
“I don’t ride on the footpath and a bell is useless against cars. It has been my experience in the past that if you ring a bell behind a person they are as likely to jump into your way as out of it. Pedestrians also see ringing a bell as an aggressive act. The fines are massively disproportionate.”
NSW Introduces Huge Increase in Fines for Cycling Offences in NSW
Mr Gratton was one of many bicycle riders caught out by a huge increase in fines for cycling offences in NSW that came in place in March 2016.
The laws and fines were introduced to help make NSW roads safer for cyclists.
This, however, left bicycle riders with a whole new array of rules to follow – many of which were met with significant backlash and public complaint.
At the time, Roads Minister Duncan Gay said the new laws were not about targeting cyclists, instead they were about targeting “risky behaviour”.
In summary, the new rules state:
- Cyclists must wear a helmet at all times, unless you have medical, cultural, or religious reasons not to
- Cyclists are not allowed to ride on footpaths
- Cyclists must have a bell on their bikes
- Cyclists are encouraged to carry ID at all times
What the Law Says About the Road Rules for Bicycle Riders
As the NSW Government Centre for Road Safety advises, a bicycle is considered a vehicle and thus has the same road rules as other motorists on the road.
In NSW, bicycle riders must obey the road rules. They must stop at red lights or stop signs, give way as indicated by road signs and give hand signals when changing directions.
Cyclists are not permitted to ride on footpaths. However, children aged under the age of 16 are allowed to do so, unless there is a ‘no bicycles’ sign.
Paths that are designed for cyclists and pedestrians are signposted.
When riding on a shared path, bicycle riders must keep left and ride at a speed suited to the environment.
What the Law Says About Having the Right Equipment for your Bicycle in NSW
The RMS instructs that if you’re going to ride a bicycle, it’s important to ensure that it suits your abilities and is roadworthy before you ride.
For the most part, this is for your own comfort.
Equally, this is because under the law, a bicycle is considered a legitimate road vehicle and so the same road rules must be followed by bicycle riders as other motorists.
By law, there are several essential equipment features that bicycles must have in order to be roadworthy.
Under the NSW Road Rules, a bicycle must be fitted with at least one working bell or horn, or a similar warning device.
Further to this, bicycles are required to have at least one working brake, while front and rear working brakes are considered ideal in order to increase your ability to stop your bicycle suddenly and safely.
Tyres should be appropriate to the size of the bicycle and inflated to the pressure as listed on the tyre wall.
Additionally, quality lights and reflectors should be installed so that your visibility on the road is increased. Pedal and wheel reflectors are also advised to increase your chances of being seen to other road users. By law, you must have your lights on between sunset and sunrise and in bad weather.
What is the Penalty for Not Having a Bell on Your Bicycle in NSW?
In NSW, Rule 258 of the Road Rules 2014 makes clear that a person must not ride a bicycle if it doesn’t have a bell, horn, or similar warning device in working order. The same road rule also prohibits a person from riding a bicycle if it doesn’t at least have 1 effective brake.
Breaching this rule, if you end up going to court over it, will attract a maximum penalty of $2,200.
It will only end up in court if the person accused of it ‘court elects’ it to be heard in front of a Magistrate in the Local Court. Potential benefit of this is that it allows you to then enter a plea of not guilty if you dispute it, or a plea of guilty if you wish the Magistrate to impose a lenient penalty such as a non-conviction sentence which effectively avoids the fine.
A non-conviction penalty includes a Conditional Release Order without conviction or section 10(1)(a) dismissal under the Crimes (sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW).
If you’re found not guilty or receive a non-conviction sentence in court, you will avoid the fine and conviction. This will put an end to the case.
However, court-electing allows the Magistrate to impose a maximum fine of $2,200 in court. Albeit, this rarely occurs.
Ordinarily, breach of this rules will result in an on-the-spot fine of $114 that a police officer can issue. The advantage of the on-the-spot fine is that it won’t result in a conviction, and it won’t require a court attendance. Payment of the fine puts an end to the case.
If court-electing this infringement, click here for details on how to represent yourself in court in the most effective way.
For more information, feel free to call out leading traffic lawyers in Sydney CBD for a free first appointment.