Police break the courier cycle

by Morgan Ogg
The Daily Telegraph, Thursday, November 19, 1998

AN OFFENDER zooms across double yellow lines and takes off down a city lane.

Constable Ashley Brown and his partner are in pursuit, tracking the offender as he runs two red lights in busy mid-morning traffic.

But this is not Commodore versus Subaru Impreza, it's brands such as Trek against Prairie Blazer. (sic)

Yesterday, the police took on the City's bicycle couriers -- and lost.

Constable Brown's target escaped, no doubt aware there was no registration number by which police could catch up with him later.

"I was yelling at him to pull over but he just took off," Constable Brown said. "They're all built like this," he added, raising a finger.

Ten minutes later the officers had their first pinch, a very unhappy courier caught riding near Town Hall without a helmet.

"Piss off mate, you're a leech on the butt of society," the courier screamed at a Daily Telegraph photographer.

The $43 fine didn't immediately convince the courier to start obeying road rules.

Within the next hour he was seen running two red lights and cycling on the wrong side of George Street, but later walked his bike through Martin Place.

About a dozen police on pushbikes hit the CBD's clogged streets to target the couriers for all manner of offences -- running red lights, cycling on pavements, malls and the wrong direction down one-way streets. (sic)

Within minutes word was being spread on the courier's radio network of the police presence.

But police had a contingency plan.

A team of plainclothes officers mingled with pedestrians at major intersections, nabbing offending cyclists every couple of minutes.

A tongue-in-cheek police commander, Superintendent Donald Graham, said: "We have been very impressed with the change in the compliance of couriers to road rules.

"Although we detected 60 riders for infringement notices ... and cautioned a further 73, we did observe many couriers doing the right thing, which was a pleasant change."

In total, 89 fines were dished out.

But according to Allied Couriers, the cyclists are much maligned and misunderstood, their reputations underserved. They get abused, their tyres are let down and their bikes stolen.

Allied general manager, Michelle McDowell said bicycle couriers were directed to obey all road rules, but "they react to the demands that are put on them by clients in the city."

"Where they get cranky is when there's pedestrians doing the wrong thing, there's cars doing the wrong thing, and it's the couriers who get targeted," Ms McDowell said.

She said that the city's already clogged traffic would be "horrendous" without the bicycle couriers.

What we should be doing instead of targeting them is probably doing some things to make their jobs easier." Ms McDowell said.

More cycleways and cycle racks, she suggested.

But Supt Graham was not talking about gilding the couriers' paths:

"The message is simple for couriers -- obey the traffic rules or prepare to pay a fine," he said.

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