• Cyclists in Sydney on Bike To World Day 2016. (AAP)Source: AAP
At the weekend two news reports combined to paint a terrible picture of cycling in Australia's global city, Sydney, and it wasn't pretty.
Cycling Central
22 Nov 2016 - 11:13 AM  UPDATED 2 Dec 2016 - 1:21 PM

The first came from Australia's only Tour de France winner, Cadel Evans, who said that for him, riding in Sydney was a dangerous and unpleasant activity. 

"I'm not intimidated to ride in many places but Sydney is one of them," Evans told the Sydney Morning Herald

He cited Sydney's constrained terrain along with its tight road network and car dependence as factors.

"This could apply to many places in Australia but in Sydney, the traffic is concentrated because the population is concentrated (so) that lack of respect and sometimes aggression is concentrated.

"I'm not accusing drivers. I'm saying road users in general so it's bikes getting angry at cars, cars getting angry at bikes, trucks getting angry at cars and vice versa. A little bit of respect would go a long way."

Evans, who loves the growl of a finely tuned motor, said it was a better option for him to fly back to Melbourne and drive home for a ride around his Barwon Heads home than head out in Sydney.

"I encourage people to ride for the health benefits or for one car less on the road but because of this problem, I don't want to encourage someone to ride and then they go out and get hit by a car," he said.

Sadly Evans's concerns will likely fail to make an impression on the New South Wales government and its roads minister, Duncan Gay, who seems to take particular delight in tormenting cyclists.

It was also revealed that the increased fines applied to cyclists by Gay for various real and imagined crimes and misdemeanours are a real money spinner for treasury, with more than $1.33 million ripped out of the wallets of riders since March, double the 2012-14 financial year amount. 

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And then there is the emerging evidence that cycling numbers are declining in Sydney, with rates sliding below 2013-14 levels, and with some of that decline clustered around February and March 2016, when increased fines came into effect and police blitzed the city in the hunt for two-wheeled miscreants.

The next hit on cycling in Sydney is due to come into effect in March 2017 when photo ID will be required, (just a short hop to a licensing system for cyclists) attracting a fine of $106 if you forget to take a wallet or purse with you.

Yet another instrument likely to depress numbers further, particularly casual riding.

All of this adds up to a city where the messaging and signalling to other road users is that cyclists are an unwelcome presence on our roads and that even someone as celebrated as Evans is unwelcome.

Usually I'd try to offer suggestions to rectify this mess, like learning from world's best practice, dropping the punitive fines, get the police off our backs and ramp up the building of cycling specific infrastructure, but that would presuppose a roads minister who actually listens and takes expert advice from people who understand the complexities of properly integrating cycling into a transport network.

But today we are living in a world where that idea is rejected and tabloid opinions and shock jock feelings are the basis on which decisions are seemingly made.

Their world in one where transport in Sydney is a mess so, therefore, it must be the fault of the most vulnerable of road users, cyclists. So instead of nice things we get the blunt instrument of punishment to silence the braying cries of a media mob.

Evans's comments should make any roads minister rethink their position. He is effectively a globally recognised Australian brand ambassador whose words travel far and have weight, and right now he's telling the world that cyclists are not welcome in Sydney.