Cashless tollways neglect bike riders: Motorcycle Council of NSW

The chairman of the Motorcycle Council of NSW has expressed his outrage at the Road Traffic Authority's (RTA) "neglect" of motorcycle riders in its planned cashless tollways, saying the RTA has "not considered motorcycle riders in their plans".Guy Stanford told ZDNet Australia today that the council has had "several issues" with the RTA, the most recent arising over e-tags, as he said "the cross city tunnel is about to go e-tag only and no other technology is being offered to bike riders".

The chairman of the Motorcycle Council of NSW has expressed his outrage at the Road Traffic Authority's (RTA) "neglect" of motorcycle riders in its planned cashless tollways, saying the RTA has "not considered motorcycle riders in their plans".

Guy Stanford told ZDNet Australia today that the council has had "several issues" with the RTA, the most recent arising over e-tags, as he said "the cross city tunnel is about to go e-tag only and no other technology is being offered to bike riders". According to Stanford standard e-tag devices are unsuitable for motorcycle riders.

"Some riders use the e-tag for a car, but it is dangerous to use and unreliable unless waved around by hand while riding through the gate," he said. "Doing this in peak hour traffic is just plain dangerous."

According to Stanford "despite strenuous efforts by the RTA, its contractors and co-operation with the Motorcycle Council of NSW, no suitable e-tag is even on the horizon".

Communications Director of the RTA, Paul Willoughby, asserted that e-tags are not becoming compulsory, as he said car and motorcycle drivers who do not display an e-tag when driving through an automatic tollgate will be photographed and charges will be made to their e-tag account or a fine sent to the vehicles owner's home address.

Yet, Willoughby admitted that the charges applied to vehicles that are photographed will be more than those applied to e-tag equipped drivers, making the charges higher for motorcycle riders using tollways.

When questioned as to the alternative for motorcycle riders on cashless tollways Willoughby refused to answer any more questions.

Stanford said this method of charging bike riders for using the tollways is "totally unreasonable".

"We are quite happy to work within the system, just give us e-tags that will work," said Stanford. "Why should we [motorcycle riders] be paying for their failure within public policy?"

Stanford said there has been a "failure" in the construction of road and traffic policy, as he said the RTA is not speaking to organisations such as the Motorcycle Council before it announces new strategies.

"There has been a breakdown of community consultation in the policy process recently," said Stanford.

"We have been discussing the issue of e-tags for three-four years and we still don't have anything that works, and we are happy to work with the user pays system but it has to be fair," he said.

Stanford said all the possible solutions to the e-tag dilemma that have been considered have "serious shortcomings", as "with vibration, exposure to all weather and inability to orient the antenna for reliable use" a suitable design has not been found.

"This is due to significant problems in mounting in or on the small frontal area available and the vast array of differing frontal designs. Only a selection of motorcycles can be mounted with one or other of the proposed designs. All are expensive to implement," he said.

"The only solution appears to be to allow motorcycles to go free, or put in a pay booth."

According to Stanford, motorcycle riders in Melbourne are not charged by the cashless e-tag only tollgates. However, he said the recent move by the NSW RTA is typical of the "30 years of neglect" it has received in the past.

"The RTA has a lot to catch up on," he said.

Stanford claims motorcycle riders provide the most efficient use of the infrastructure, as they contribute little to road deterioration and traffic problems. However he said bike riders face "continual problems" on the road including paying too much for regular cash tollways and issues with bay parking.

"A further compounding problem is that motorcycles are charged the same rate of toll as cars and this is seen as unreasonable by motorcycle riders," he said. "A motorcycle has almost zero foot-print in congested traffic and has immaterial wear on the road as well as being very ecologically sound with low weight, clean exhaust and small engine size."

Stanford said from research taken by the Motorcycle Council appropriate rate for a bike on the Harbour Bridge should be AU77 cents, however he adds "when you talk about light weight motorcycles we're actually in the negative, we should be paid".

Stanford adds that bike riders also face problems in bay parking, as he said "at least four bikes can fit into a car spot but we are expected to pay the same parking fee". He said displaying the paper tags to validate the parking space also presents problem to motorcycle riders.

"Motorcycles are not only invisible to cars on the road but are also invisible to public policy," he said.

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