Cops botch speeding cyclist's ticket

TOO FAST: Bryce Lyall was clocked doing 68kmh in a 50kmh zone but is appealing the ticket. Police admit they have no power to issue demerit points to cyclists.
TOO FAST: Bryce Lyall was clocked doing 68kmh in a 50kmh zone but is appealing the ticket. Police admit they have no power to issue demerit points to cyclists.

Cyclist Bryce Lyall is appealing an $80 speeding ticket after he copped demerit points on his licence for supposedly driving a car with a personalised plate.

Police using a hand-held radar clocked Lyall doing 68kmh in a 50kmh area. The lawyer was stopped and issued with a fine but was later shocked to find police had issued a notice saying he was driving a car with the registration plate CYCLE.

After queries from the Sunday Star Times, police admitted they botched the ticket. They corrected the error and admitted demerit points should never be issued to cyclists as their machines are not registered vehicles and no licence was required to ride one.

"Demerits can only be applied to certain offences involving motor vehicles, and we will be making contact with [Lyall] directly to confirm this," said a police spokesperson.

The incident has raised questions over how police can effectively penalise cyclists caught on speed cameras while Lyall has raised his own questions over poorly worded and outdated legislation.

For instance, the New Zealand Transport Agency's website claimed demerit points could be issued if someone was to "drive etc cycle, vehicle or animal across level crossing when risk of collision with rail vehicle [sic]". Lyall said this made it sound as though cyclists could still be issued with demerit points.

Cycling Advocates Network spokesman Patrick Morgan agreed legislation needed a tidy-up and said while cyclists should stick to the speed limit, rejected compulsory speedometers or bicycle registration, saying these would create yet another barrier to getting on a bicycle, which has proven health benefits.

Police said bicycles and skateboards could receive speeding tickets but the fact they weren't registered meant "there would be no practical way to enforce an infringement issued by speed camera".

Police issue 20 to 30 speeding tickets to cyclists each year. In 2009, 41 were ticketed for speeding, the highest in the five years spanning 2008 and 2012, according to figures. Cyclists are more often stopped for failing to comply with traffic signals and signs, with close to 300 of these tickets issued in 2012.

Lyall said with no cars around and no speedometer, he had no way of measuring his speed going down west Auckland's Henderson Valley Road. "I had no idea I was going that fast." With more than 17 years cycling experience he always made sure he felt comfortable and in control on a bicycle. "The police should not be worried about it at all. There were no other cars and there were no blind spots . . . I can stop faster than a car can."

Morgan said with some city centres introducing 30kmh zones, cyclists could be caught speeding more often but said it was important not to get hung up on the issue as motorists were "the real issue" attracting 99 per cent of the infringements.

"Let's focus on the elephant in the room," he said. "We know that cars kill about 300 people a year. We seem to accept it."

Sunday Star Times