Night riders

It's time we turned the spotlight on death-defying cyclists.

For some years now, I've been trying to dob in a group of road users who insist on breaking the law every night. Now if they want to break the law that's their business; my concern is that I, or some other unfortunate motorist, will end up in court because we've cleaned up one of these law breakers.

I'm talking about cyclists who ride at night, without any lights, dressed all in black and often without helmets.

Senior Constable Albert Leijser from the Police Bicycle Safety Section confirms that bicycle riders "like all other road users" have to obey the laws. That, in their case, means having front and rear lights on at night, indicating when they're turning, and generally trying to avoid causing an accident.

Maybe it's because we live near the University of WA, or have several schools in the area, but rarely a night goes by when I don't narrowly miss one of these deeply camouflaged night riders. After a couple of particularly nasty close shaves I've called the police on my car phone and reported the near-death experiences only to be told, yes, they are aware of the problem, but no, there's not much they can do (by the time a patrol car got to the area the errant cyclist would be long gone).

I had a few suggestions. If they simply sat outside the university around 7 o'clock any winter's night they'd nab dozens of lawbreakers. Probably as many as they nab in the booze bus they regularly set up along Broadway in Nedlands. Maybe they could even combinethe two operations. "We've done that," said Constable Leijser. "Last year we targeted bicycle riders all around the university, from the Narrows Bridge to Broadway. We got about 50. The fine is $100 for no lights, $50 for no helmet. We've only got about four patrol officers in our section, and resources are limited."

But things are going to get tougher for the no-lights brigade. For the record: At night a cyclist must have a clear white beam-type light in front and a red flashing light at the rear. Amber lights, or reflectors on pedals, are no longer good enough.

And at the end of next month police will be stepping up action against another group of problem cyclists.

These are the ones you come close to killing in broad daylight when you drive in the Perth CBD. Or, if you're on foot, the ones who come close to killing you when you try to cross the road: zigzagging courier cyclists, weaving between cars and listening to a walkman, so they can't hear your horn or your yelling.

As in other big cities our businesses, law firms and delivery companies are finding that cyclists are the cheapest and quickest way to courier documents and parcels across town, because they have no parking problems. "Courier cyclists are increasing in enormous numbers," said Constable Leisjer. "It's become such a traffic worry over the past 10 years we're now trying to get some ground rules."

The first of a series of strategy meetings will be held on September 27 in the police traffic department boardroom. All cycle courier company bosses have been invited to that meeting to discuss the best ways of avoiding friction and other forms of close contact between those on two wheels, those on four wheels and those on foot.

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