Kelly Vincent – 5AA Interview on Bicycle Regulations and the Education Committee

On 2nd of November, Kelly Vincent was interviewed on radio station 5AA to discuss the new bicycle regulations and some of the concerns that have been raised by people with disabilities. Kelly Vincent also discussed the progress with the Select Committee on Disability and Access to Education. Here is the transcript from the interview.

Andrew Reimer: Kelly Vincent you wanted to talk about the new bike regulations.

Kelly Vincent: Yes, as you know Dignity for Disability is broadly supportive of the new laws because we have been contacted by cyclists who don’t feel safe on our roads and we certainly know that many cyclists are being injured or losing their lives on the road. And I think it is time we talk about this given that today was Amy’s Ride and a member of my staff did participate in Amy’s Ride supporting the Amy Gillett Foundation. I think these laws have sparked some conversation about how motorists and cyclists can better work together.

Dignity for Disability is broadly supportive of these laws but we have had some concerns about how they might impact people with disabilities in particular, particularly the laws allowing people to cycle on footpaths. The Royal Society for the Blind and the Blind Citizens Council have been quite concerned about the fact that if someone’s cycling along a footpath and they come across a blind pedestrian, for example, or a deaf or hard of hearing pedestrian that person may not necessarily be able to see or hear them coming. So we’ve been working very hard on getting some more awareness about what cyclists and pedestrians’ rights and responsibilities are and how the Government can better promote awareness and respect among people sharing public spaces. This doesn’t just apply to deaf or blind people, it could be that people are walking along using headphones or distracted by a phone, not everyone will necessarily see or hear a cyclist coming so lots more to be done on raising that awareness.

Andrew Reimer: Somebody who might be just a little bit aged, who might be fatigued, they’re also not going to have their wits about them. The problem I have with these laws is the accountability of the bike rider if he is involved in a collision with a pedestrian or another bike rider which I saw almost happen today. There’s no registration, there’s no way of identifying somebody who might run over somebody and then ride off into the sunset.

Kelly Vincent: That is a concern that’s been raised by the Blind Citizen Council as well, but there are ways of getting around that and it does happen. Cyclists are fined for offences that they cause and particularly can attract demerit points to their licence if they are a registered motorist and they can even attract demerit points where they don’t’ have a licence so in the event when they do purchase or obtain a licence in the future those demerit points from their cycling related offences will still apply once they do become a motorist. There are ways around this but ultimately I think it comes down to making sure we’re all aware of how to be respectful and responsive to each other’s need which doesn’t only apply to people with disabilities and the elderly but to people who might be distracted by devices, head phones, mobile phones, etcetera. We need to be mindful that not everyone will see and hear you coming and take equal responsibility for that.

Andrew Reimer: I took my bike out yesterday and I believe there’s a changing of attitude and awareness, but still early days. I’m also aware there is a culture among many of the Lycra-clad who get out in groups and ride two or three abreast but there’s a certain culture still amongst motorists against pushbikes.

Kelly Vincent: There are cultures that develop in every group and unfortunately it’s not possible to legislate against stupidity and lack of consideration but I think the more we have this conversation and the more people are aware of different user groups who want to use the roads more and particularly for cyclists using the footpath, it’s very unlikely that these will be the Cadel Evans of the world of cycling, that simply wouldn’t be practical or comfortable for someone training for a marathon. For example it’s more likely that the people who will be using the footpaths will be people who are people with disabilities whose disability impacts them from being safe on the road and they’re already allowed to cycle on the footpath, it’s important to remember, elderly people who might not have the speed or the balance to cycle on the road and of course people with young children. This is about finding that balance and making sure that everyone is able to use the appropriate space safely and respectfully. But it’s also important to remember that in the case of cycling on the footpaths, on the top of my head this is already legal in three or maybe it’s even four states in Australia and other countries in the world and the world certainly hasn’t collapsed there so I think it is important that we give each other time to adjust to this and be responsible and respectful of each other. And I also think in the case of a metre matters the likelihood is that motorists are already doing this and we already know about the importance of leaving space in certain interaction on the road, that’s why we don’t tailgate. We understand the importance of leaving space between cars and the same is true of motorists and cyclists interacting with each other. The likelihood is that this is already happening, it’s just that people are being asked to be more aware and more considerate of this growing user group.

Andrew Reimer: With fair and reasonable people it’s happening, but not everybody is fair and reasonable.

Kelly Vincent: Unfortunately it’s difficult to legislate against people being inconsiderate or just plain stupid, there’ll always be people who bend the system but I’m hopeful these laws will result in better access with respectful interaction for the majority.

Andrew Reimer: Also your Education and Disability Select Committee, how’s that going?

Kelly Vincent: It’s going very well thank you. Dignity for Disability has been successful with unanimous support of the Parliament to establish a committee to look into the experience of students with disabilities and the education system. We’re looking into how we as a Parliament and the Government and all of us as a society can better support students with disabilities or even students who don’t have a diagnosed disability as such but have evidenced different learning needs. How we can better support them to reach both academic and social outcomes on an equal basis with all others to the best of their potential. It’s going very well. Unfortunately the need for such a committee was again demonstrated in a story that came out online just this week, it was an interstate case but unfortunately I think it applies just as much to South Australia where a young man with autism was invited to his school formal and then had the principal I think ring up the family and say we want to revoke that letter, this man’s not actually invited. So it goes to show that unfortunately these biases against students with disabilities are not always intentional, sometimes they’re actually very conscious, very intentional and very harmful. So we need to challenge these attitudes that still exist in school around treating students with disabilities differently and we also need to make sure that teachers, school staff and all other relevant individuals and organisations are given the funding and the resources necessary to support them doing that work so that students with disabilities can be included equally and respectfully and as a matter of course. We’ve heard from a number of organisations to date including the Department for Education and Child Development, the Catholic Schools Association and the Independent Schools Association and this coming meeting will move into hearing from individuals, families and parents and I think that’s probably what I’m most looking forward to because that gives us the opportunity to identify what is really going on here and how do we close those gaps. Because I think the individuals facing these difficulties, the parents and students are of course the ones who live the experience and the ones who can tell us what’s really not going on and what we need to change. So if anyone wants to submit to the committee they’re still able to do that and they can do that by getting in touch with the secretary Leslie Guy and she’s contactable via email

Andrew Reimer: Lorraine wants to have a quick word.

Caller, Lorraine: I have a walker, I’m 59 years old, and I’ve had two strokes. I keep walking to the right and I’ve got rear vision mirrors so I can see what’s coming, because you can’t see bicycles or people with skateboards you hear click-click, click-click. Hopefully mirrors will help me because you can’t hear.

Andrew Reimer: Unless they ring their bell, that’s exactly true.

Caller, Lorraine: I’ve got good hearing, I’ve got bad vision, bad balance and all that sort of stuff but they go so fast, you just hear them laughing in the distance.

Kelly Vincent: I think one thing that’s important to remember is that cyclists are required to indicate to somebody either using a bell or their voice or some other device that they are passing, but again as there are consumers who won’t necessarily be able to hear that it’s important that we find different ways around that to make sure that people are respectful and responsive to the fact that they need to be more aware. But I think also the speed issue that you raise is also very valid and I know for example that people using powered mobility devices like electric wheelchairs and gophers are restricted under law to traveling at a maximum of 10ks and hour. Some people have raised with us that they think that’s very unfair when there’s currently no speed limit imposed on cyclists so that is something that we are chasing up. That would be practical to impose a speed limit on cyclists, it is important that we have the measures in place to make sure everyone feels and is safe and respected whether they’re on the footpath or on the road.

Andrew Reimer: Thanks very much. We’ll chat again soon.