Skinny guy in big suit discriminates against cyclists.

Councillor Ken Ong heads Melbourne City Council’s planning committee, and believes he was almost hit recently by a bike coming through a red light. (Full story here). My answer would be to do away with the need for red lights, by keeping cars out of the city, but shucks, that’s just because I’ve been to Europe. As matters stand though, Ken has indeed copped a start from a cyclist breaking a technical law. And if the cyclist was being reckless, Ken has been a victim of actual wrongdoing—reckless riding—for which we already have an applicable law. Ken needs to call for that law to be enforced.

He has an odd solution, though, to the problem of cyclists bombing red lights. He’s calling for a new, special law. He wants all cyclists in the city to ride below 20km/h.

We have a name for special rules targeting identifiable groups: “discrimination”. Limiting the speed of all cyclists because some run lights, is like limiting the speed of every young lady who drives a little white car, because some of that type talk on their phones, or limiting the speed of all asian men drivers, because Ken Ong’s oversized suit is bad for tourism. It’s irrational. It’s playing the man, not the ball.

So by all means mouth off about speed limits on bike paths, or lower speed limits for all kinds of vehicles using the road, or extra cops targeting reckless bike riders. Just don’t be discriminatory toward an identifiable group. It’s demeaning enough for Melbourne’s cyclists already.


  1. Amoeba says:

    In the UK we have Andrea Leadsom MP, (or is that Loathsome?). Who, while claiming to be a cyclist has attempted to introduce a bill that would if brought into Law, produce a penalty that would only apply to cyclists.
    Thankfully, it appears that this particularly ill-thought-out attempt has failed. I can’t help but conclude this was in-reality an attempt at self-promotion.

    Almost needless to say legislation already exists for prosecution of cyclists. But the irony is that motorists in the UK who kill or injure vulnerable road users are very rarely prosecuted to the full extent of the Law, while cyclists who kill tend to be treated much more severely. In the case to which Leadsom referred, the cyclist received a huge fine in comparison to what a motorist could reasonably expect. There was also conflicting evidence about whether the cyclist was on the pavement or in the road, in that case, the Police believe he was in the road, the victim was intoxicated and the cyclist ploughed into a group of intoxicated teenagers spanning the road*.

    There is what amounts to an unofficial motorists’ discount in operation in the UK Legal System, when compared with the penalties for causing death or serious injury while NOT using a motor-vehicle. Only those who have committed serious additional crimes are seen as ‘real criminals’ – evading arrest, driving under the influence of drink or drugs, texting / phone use & etc. As a result a motorist who has killed or seriously injured a pedestrian or a cyclist can expect a trivial fine and often either no ban or a short one. Some are listed here cases compiled by Martin Porter, Barrister (called 1986, QC 2006) where no charges have been pursued against the driver who has collided fatally with a cyclist. []:

    In-fact, this double standard has been highlighted by Brake.
    Brake, the road-safety charity makes the same point about the most commonly-brought criminal charges and penalties for traffic offences in the UK; and Brake’s concerns about the inadequacy of many of them.

    Then there is this article in the Times newspaper:
    [quote]Motorists who cause death on the roads should face tougher sentences of up to life in jail because current penalties are too lenient, according to one of Britain’s most senior road death investigators.
    The head of Scotland Yard’s Road Death Investigation Unit has called for the merging of road traffic and homicide laws to impose stronger penalties on those found guilty of killing cyclists or pedestrians.
    Detective Chief Inspector John Oldham said that the relatives of car-crash victims resented the “very small” sentences when motorists had been reckless. He added that many cases were wrongly considered “accidents” when they were the result of human decisions.
    Causing death by dangerous or careless driving carries a maximum punishment of 14 years in prison, compared with up to life for manslaughter and an automatic life sentence for murder. “The sentences are very small, and the families hate that,” Mr Oldham told The Times. “In my particular world we get very upset by the word ‘accident’. For families there is no accident about it. An accident on the road is the result of the decisions people make.” …..[end quote]

    Then there is this apparently unofficial, but well researched study:
    A Critical Review of the Legal Penalties for Drivers Who Kill Cyclists or Pedestrians – J Voelcker, April 2007
    ‘This thesis critically reviews the regulation of motor vehicles in Britain, and in particular the prosecution of drivers who kill cyclists and pedestrians. The development of road traffic regulation is discussed with particular emphasis on the social and legal processes at work behind the evolution of the law, and anomalies in the current laws are highlighted. The differential rights and
    responsibilities of drivers and vulnerable road users are considered within a conceptual framework which uses class- and power-based synthesis to explain demographic trends in car use and road casualties. A critical analysis of a set of court transcripts and newspaper reports involving road accidents then aims to discover whether those drivers who are convicted of killing vulnerable road users are less harshly punished than other criminals who cause death without intent. The thesis concludes by discovering that drivers are less harshly punished, and that this is due to a bias in the criminal justice system because of a lack of representation of vulnerable road users amongst judiciary, policy makers and legal officials. Unequal class and power relations allow the interests of drivers to be over-represented whilst the rights of pedestrians and cyclists are eroded.’

    Let me be perfectly clear, I have no problem with fair and equal punishment for law-breaking by all road users. The burden of punishment should fall upon those responsible, not some ‘out-group’. Currently, this is not the case.
    I am a cyclist driver and a pedestrian.

    * I have experienced a similar occurrence, the only difference was that in my ‘incident’ the teenagers got out of the way – I believe from their menacing actions that they meant me no good.

    • Steven says:

      Thanks that rather extraordinary endnote. I’m hardly sure my flippant post is worthy of it. If there is anything I can ad here, it is my view that responsibilities should be commensurate with rights, and we give drivers the right to employ unnatural power, on public land, for their personal transport.

    • Lukas Junker says:

      I seam to remember you claiming to do just the same on your bike: employ unnatural power for personal transport. Or was that unnatural torque?
      Anyway, why don’t we just all stay at home? That would be safest. I think the good councelor should advocate helmet laws for pedestrians, with all these reckless intoxicated people on various amounts of wheels out to get us!

    • Steven says:

      are you accusing me of taking commuter enhancing drugs?

  2. Edward Hore says:

    Just wondering if you spoke to Cr Ken Ong, I did, and I found he was heavily mis-quoted and comments were taken out of context. I think it is always best to talk to the source than create a story direct from a Newspaper article.

    The difference with the way I work, than most of those around me, is I will go to the source and ask what was said, and why it was said. If you want to know what was said and why it was said, feel free to contact me.

    People say my method is confrontational, I think finding the truth is always confrontational, but is better than spreading a story spread by bad journalism.

    • Steven says:

      Are you saying bloggers need to uphold higher standards of journalism than traditional media? Look, I got those photos of Mr Ong’s suit from Mr Ong’s website. And I’m fairly certain he’s calling for 20k limits for cyclists.

    • Edward Hore says:

      You are right, my mistake, just like the Herald Sun, let nothing get in the way of a good story.

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