Opinion | Mystery old blokes intriguing spokes-men

INSIDE TRACK: Hot tip on quotas might be on the money.
INSIDE TRACK: Hot tip on quotas might be on the money.

THERE are no “got me another cyclist” infringement quotas for police in NSW. I know that for sure because a bloke in Belmont told me.

He was an elderly bloke who I’d never seen before in my life. I didn’t know the mystery man’s name or where he or the information had come from.

I spoke to him, said “how are ya”, took my bicycle helmet off and we yacked.

He could have been the same bloke who told Councillor Alan Robinson just a couple of days before interviews were scheduled for the attractively remunerated NCC General Manager job that the former Hunter Water executive Jeremy Bath was a dead-set shoe-in. I’m not sure if it was the same bloke, but the elderly bloke Cr Robinson referred to was on the money.

I had strong faith on Good Friday that elderly blokes in Belmont were the equivalent of a one-man Insiders’ panel.

Anyways, near the end of Belmont cycling track, the elderly bloke passed me a tatty USB with some interesting bicycle infringement figures.

The total number of infringement notices issued by NSW police to cyclists from 1 March 2015 - 29 February 2016 was 6576. In the period from 1 March 2016 - 29 February 2017, the figure was 9859.

That’s close enough to a 50 per cent increase in infringement notices issued to cyclists since the whopping fines were introduced by the NSW Government on 1 March 2016.

Now while there are no quotas, it would either seem NSW police have been instructed to more aggressively target cyclists or that police have been inclined to do so because they feel the bigger fines are worth handing out.

In the 2015 calendar year, 4796 cyclists were nicked for a helmet infringement. In the same period in 2016, 5948 cyclists were issued with infringements.

That’s nearly a 25 per cent increase in overall infringements. The old fine was $71; the fine since 1 March 2016 is $319.

But it’s not an even story across the state, although the periods of time being analysed here differ by around three months.

In the Newcastle Local Area Command, the total number of infringements in the 2016 calendar year was a neat 400 – down from 478 in 2015, with helmet offences dropping from 344 in 2015 to 329 in 2016.

In Port Stephens LAC, infringements were down from 88 in 2016 from 121 in 2015. Helmet offences were down from 106 to 82. 

Lake Mac LAC bucked those two downward trends in bicycle helmet infringement notices, with police issuing more than double the number of tickets -101- in 2016 compared with 47 in 2015. Total infringements in Lake Mac were up from 64 in 2015 to 115 in 2016 – an increase of almost 80 per cent.

Newcastle and Port Stephens bucked the state trend by issuing less tickets to bicycle riders in the 2016 calendar year than in 2015, while infringements in Lake Macquarie boomed. And the downward trend in Newcastle and Port Stephens either suggests the bigger fines are having an overall impact on the compliance of bicycle riders in those areas, or that the coppers have more pressing issues at hand.

Lake Mac appears choc-a-block with bicycle outlaws where the police have both the time and inclination to enforce the law.

Quotas? I’m not sure.

I’ll ask an elderly bloke in Belmont.

Twitter @paul_scott_ or emailpaulscott@gmail.com