The Failure Of Cycling Advocacy In NSW

MWCC have been fairly vocal of late on the issue of cycling advocacy. Those that know us, know that we often have an opinion on most issues and we aren’t afraid to put it forward or ruffle a few feathers. Here is a piece from our a President Jim Buda, you may have read or heard his opinion lately as he has appeared in the SMH, Daily Telegraph, local paper and ABC radio. Here he questions the role that our Cycling Groups have played in the recent affairs of the soon to be introduced metre passing and increase in fines.

In early march we will see the introduction of the 1m clearance law and a hefty increase in penalties for cyclists who break these laws. These laws have come about with consultation with the leading cycling advocates in NSW and this is the best that they could deliver. It is hard to see any evidence of lobbying for some enlightened proposals that may make cycling better in NSW. Rather the entire effort is a lame roll over and a tacit consent to the anti cycling lobby that has driven the more crazy suggestions on how to “manage” cyclists.


Most roadies I know are a bit nonplussed by the new rules. Most wear helmets, carry ID etc. But the advocates and government have failed to consider the urban cyclist, as distinct from the sports cyclist. We have been sold out to the arguably unenforceable 1m rule as shown in Adelaide and we are yet to see how this will be measured and held up in court. There is even disagreement that the 1m rule will improve driver behaviour. Most already give a metre and those that don’t, will their behaviour change?

The biggest failure of our advocates is the inability for them to see beyond the narrow paradigm of our roads minister and actually think about some bigger issues that impact cycling and the urban environment. Boris Johnson transformed London with his bike share plan in 2010 (post the Paris scheme) and recently Paris announced that cyclists could roll through red lights


Back in NSW the grinding lack of imagination of our politicians is in stark contrast with the way that the rest of the world is heading. It is depressing to come back to Sydney from a trip to Europe and see the vapid alliance of shock jocks, wowsers and illiberal politicians cook up new ways to make our city less liveable. More depressing still to see this done with the apparent consent of our main cycling advocate groups.


Will this bike helmet make a comeback?

Where is the announcement on cycling infrastructure, the announcement of road sharing safety messages, the reduction in speed limits on some suburban roads or a message that would say that cycling has a legitimate role in a modern city or local community? At present it seems to be limited to removing bike lanes like College Street and a few posters advising the metre change at bus shelters and train stations – not quite the target market of the car driver.

There is some encouragement in the recent news from the ACT and quietly the NT has relaxed helmet laws and found an increase in cycle use. Hopefully the Nanny State will peer beyond its borders and see that there are some enlightened options operating effectively in other parts of Australia. Hopefully our advocate groups will actually try to think actively on the issue of advocacy and not simply block users on social media who disagree, or realise that it is not their core mandate and get out of the way of real cycling advocates.

Meanwhile I have a dream, that one day a more enlightened government will actually think critically on the role of the bike in the city as legitimate transport and recreation and that government will work positively with creative and well informed cycling advocacy groups and perhaps, along with Parisians, we may be able to legally and safely run a red light.

For further reading on advocacy groups and links to their relative positions

Jim Buda

President MWCC.

Read Jim’s other pieces –

Sydney Morning Herald



  1. Jason

    Hear hear.

    As a rider who is both a sports *and* utility cyclist, I’ve been baffled at the lack of substantive response from cycling clubs. Perhaps because NSW previously gutted non-sport participation, which has only been recovering in the past few years. Perhaps not.

    Anyway, good to see MWCC taking a stand on this.

    Lastly, your “not simply block users on social media ” comment. Mark Textor blocked me when the NSW fines were announced, after I pointed out that NSW already had safe overtaking rules on the books and that his 1MM lobbying simply gave Duncan the sweetener he needed to jack the fines up. Didn’t even wait long enough for me to post the exact rules. Nice work, Mark. We don’t need you anyway. We need more of the above instead.

  2. Chris

    I’m depressed and unsure how this will all pan out. The mandatory helmet laws in particular are a known block to casual, urban or commuter riding. No helmet laws = a much larger cycling community, both men and women. In places like Manly it will be interesting to see if the Police have the manpower (willpower?) to actually enforce the new ID and helmet laws. Highway patrol will certainly not have the incentive to police the 1 metre rule unless someone has a near death experience AND video evidence. McCarrs Creek will become more dangerous as the new legislation permits drivers to cross the double lines if they ‘think’ it’s clear – putting oncoming cyclists and motorists in the impact zone. If the bicycle was invented today it would be part of the solution, not the problem!

  3. Stuart

    Point the finger straight at The Amy Gillett Foundation and Liberal Party operative Mark Textor who has,as with Jason above, blocked me on twitter for daring to criticise the AGF. Textor seems glad that cycling is being criminalised in NSW and can’t see beyond his 20 road bikes and love of all things right wing. I would urge all road cyclists to boycott AGF rides like the Big Canberra Ride and Amy’s Gran Fondo.

    Cycle .org are fighting the good fight but of course were not invited to participate. Very disappointed also in CNSW and CA who both seem to think this all fine too. They cam’t see beyond track and road racing.

  4. Sean

    This is yet another (big) nail in the coffin of Sydney, if not NSW, as a place to live.
    These anti-liveability, anti-transport and discriminatory laws will have repercussions for years that will result in Sydney grinding to a halt, with corresponding increases in road related offences, especially road rage.

    By the time those charged with leading our state realise the folly of their ways, it will be too late, with Sydney becoming an expensive, unliveable slum and likely Melbourne (plus all other capital cities) becoming preferred places to work and LIVE!

  5. Isabel

    I think it’s great that the ‘roadies’ are coming on board with this and thanks to you at MWCC. Really uplifting! As a normal-clothes cyclist who cycles for transport to get from A to B I had never understood why the so-called ‘lycra brigade’ didn’t ‘get it’ about utility cycling (ex PM Tony Abbott the best case in point). Also, I think a lot of the board members on some of the supposed utility cycling advocacy groups don’t really get it, either. I also think that the cycling groups, e.g. Bicycle NSW and Bicycle Network need to band together even if one is wary of the other and they may disagree on some details. I think this division in the bike advocates (and the members who have strong opinions on the bicycle advocacy groups) plays well into the hands of the Ministers who can continue ignoring us as we’re still infighting ourselves. Yes, let’s even get over Mandatory Helmet Law and its, “I always wear one” or “it saved my life” and blah blah and unite. Rant over !

  6. congokid

    Here in the UK, where in London at least some better cycling infrastructure is actually being budgeted for and built, it really is depressing to see what’s going on in Australia and NSW in particular.

    It’s also particularly ironic that news outlets here are carrying this story

    The world’s most liveable cities – 2016

    in which Sydney features at number 10, while London has almost dropped out of the top 40.

    Although public transportation and traffic congestion are among the 39 factors analysed in Mercer’s evaluation, it’s clear the ranking system ignores the huge benefits that cycling and other active transport bring to cities.

    It is to be hoped that before it publishes its next quality of living rankings, Mercer gives more weight to another factor, limitations on personal freedom.

  7. Alan - Freestyle Cyclists

    Thanks Jim – good to hear someone speaking out on quarter of a century of failed cycling advocacy. Its blindingly obvious by now that the meek acceptance of MHLs was the beginning of all this. They gave an excuse for everyone to blame cyclists for their own vulnerability, and did absolutely nothing to improve safety. Now we have the new rubbish from Duncan Gay as a result. Make no mistake, the new fines are almost entirely to do with helmet wearing, with the added fine if they stop you and you don’t have the official ID. An absolute disgrace. I’m also tired of being told we have to “stick together” on cycling advocacy. Any organisation that continues to support the fining and harassment of utility cyclists who don’t want to wear a helmet
    has no place in modern cycling advocacy. In this regard, the Amy Gillet Foundation are the worst offenders. In any other country they would be treated as a lame joke.

  8. Peter

    G’day Jim and all. I am a little confused about your article. If it is intended as an attack on cycling advocacy groups, then shame on you for perpetuating the division between our groups. Together we stand, divided we’ll fall. If it was intended as another attack on these blatantly stupid anti cycling laws, i couldn,t agree with you more. I’ld word your second sentence slightly differently. “These changes have come about despite consultation with leading advocacy groups in NSW.” BNSW did not so much as lame rollover, but were steam rolled over despite a genuine sincere participation in the government’s cycling round table. The very, contempt shown to our collective cause, when Premier Baird refused to meet a coalition of cycling lobby groups presenting a petition at Parliament house last week, shows the very difficult political environment in which we have been advocating. Yes, we’ve failed, this round. Let,s unite to strengthen our message of outrage that our government treats the potential of urban transport cycling with such disdain. Please everyone support the campaign

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