Wednesday, 24 February 2016
The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I would like to put on the record that Dignity for Disability will not be supporting these three motions today (or however many motions we are up to at this point). As I have raised in this place before, Dignity for Disability is broadly supportive of the new cycling regulations, and since their implementation in October I understand they have been working relatively well.
When these new regulations were first introduced Dignity for Disability did raise some concerns about how the changes could impact on people with disabilities in particular, and I think members will recall me talking quite extensively about the fact that it is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of how these regulations impact people with disabilities. On the one hand one can foresee a situation where people who might have mobility or balance issues and who are not able to cycle very quickly might actually feel safer and be able to start cycling for the first time in a long time, if not for the first time ever. That is a plus.
On the other hand, we did have some concerns, particularly about people with sensory-related issues. You may recall, Mr Acting President, that we held a very productive round table on the regulations, which was attended by representatives from Blind Citizens Australia and Guide Dogs SA (representing both people with sight-related and hearing-related disabilities), as well as other people with an interest in this area, including people with sight-related and/or hearing-related needs themselves. The gathering also included representatives from the office of the Minister for Transport, and the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure had a representative there as well.
During this discussion, there were concerns expressed that allowing people to cycle on footpaths would result in an increase in incidents, particularly for those who could be more at risk, such as ageing people, or aged people—I suppose we are all ageing, more and more rapidly it feels sometimes, Mr Acting President. There may be particular implications for aged people, people who may be unsteady on their feet, people who use mobility aids, people who are blind or vision impaired, people who are deaf or hard of hearing. I am certainly still mindful of these concerns and we are working towards a solution; however, I believe that removing these new laws would be a premature and knee-jerk reaction to something that appears to be working well for the majority of South Australians, and that could work well for all South Australians with proper consideration and education.
Dignity for Disability would prefer to see the government run an education campaign, as I think the Hon. Mr Parnell mentioned as well, particularly for cyclists and all other communities to be mindful of people who may be susceptible when travelling in a public space, especially where someone might be cycling on a footpath and a pedestrian may have concerns. We believe that cyclists are capable of being considerate of pedestrians and that we can work out a solution to ensure that all members of the community can share and be safe on our footpaths.
I must say that these considerations are not only pertinent to people with disabilities but, in this day and age where people might be walking on the footpath wearing headphones or looking at their phone or another distracting device, it is not only about being considerate of the needs of people with disabilities in terms of whether or not a person who might have sight or hearing-related needs might not see or hear you coming: it is about everyone. We need to be mindful, as we are all taxpayers and all members of this community and this state, and no-one’s rights should come above another’s.
As I mentioned before, it is also important to highlight that the new regulations may also have many positive impacts on people with disabilities. In the past, for instance, people with disabilities who wanted to cycle on a footpath had to carry a doctor’s certificate with them. Now that this is no longer a requirement, I believe it may further encourage more people with disabilities to feel comfortable and safe taking up cycling either for recreation and fitness or for everyday commuting.
Dignity for Disability want to encourage a local industry and market in South Australia for trikes and modified bikes as well as modified motor vehicles. I know minister Maher and I have discussed it at length in this place and we believe it could have many benefits financially as well as socially for South Australia, particularly in the wake of the pending closure of Holdens, etc. We believe that people who want to cycle, particularly given the obesity epidemic— should be encouraged to do so. South Australia should do what it can to enable them to do so. Dignity for Disability is also very supportive of the requirement for motorists to leave a safe minimum passing distance when overtaking cyclists. It is my understanding that these regulations have proved to be working well thus far and have actually resulted in motorists leaving more than the required distance from cyclists, as I think other speakers have pointed out as well. These regulations help to remind drivers that cyclists are people, too: they are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and so on. They all, as we all do, have a right to use the road and to get home safely.
All that being said, I would now like to raise that these regulations are not, in fact, a new or radical idea. Measures allowing for a one-metre passing distance and for cycling on the footpath for people of all ages are already in place in a number of jurisdictions. All ages cycling on the footpath is already allowed in Queensland, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The minimum safe passing distance is also legislated in Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory, and in March this year will come into effect in New South Wales. I think as previous speakers have said, the sky has certainly not fallen in those states or territories.
Adelaide, a city which is beginning to increasingly pride itself on being a cycling city and that hosts the Tour Down Under annually (an event perhaps best dubbed ‘the festival of lycra’) needs to keep up this progress and do what it can to be a more liveable city, alongside cities such as Amsterdam, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo. I also make the point that making better infrastructure for cyclists often has the flow-on effect of increasing accessibility for people with disabilities in terms of increasing footpath usability and so on. Again, this is not just about cyclists: this is a measure we can implement for the safety and wellbeing of all.
Just before I close, I thought it was interesting to point out that I have done a bit of research—when I say ‘I have done a bit of research’, I have asked the parliamentary library to do a bit of research and they have been very accommodating, and I thank them for that. The research shows that, if we review the statistics of pedestrian versus bicycle crashes on footpaths for the time period of 25 October, the date on which these regulations came into force, to 31 December of the same year, and if we compare that time period with the years between 2011 to 2015, we can see that there was one serious crash in 2013 and one or two minor crashes in all but 2014 when there were no accidents reported.
We have a baseline—it is certainly not a large baseline—and we have not moved above it with the introduction of these new cycling laws, so I do not accept that statistically people have yet been proven to be any more unsafe than they have been in the past. In fact, I think it is quite clear that they have been proven to be more safe. Of course, no matter what laws or regulations we have in place, there will always be people who break those laws or bend those rules, and I think we have to be very careful not to vilify a whole class of people and not to take away the right of a whole class of people to be safe and respected on our roads and our footpaths because of the behaviour of a few.
I also respectfully suggest that the same people who are going to be, as the Hon. Mr Parnell put it, ‘dicks on a bike’ are probably the same people who are going to be ‘dicks behind the wheel of a car’ as well. I do not accept that having these regulations in place gives any particular rise to people who want to be rule breakers. It simply affords safety to those who abide by the rules which is, as far as I can see from the statistics that I have shared, the vast majority.
Overall, Dignity for Disability believe the best in people. We think that while a small percentage of people do the wrong thing, cyclists, drivers and pedestrians can and must peacefully and safely coexist on our roads, footpaths and shared public spaces and, therefore, we cannot support this motion today, but we will continue to lobby to ensure that we get the education and measures to ensure that these regulations do reach their full potential.