Over $350,000 has been raised in New South Wales through fines for cyclists not wearing a helmet since March 1

Around 1,500 fines have been issued to cyclists in New South Wales, Australia, under new road laws brought in on March 1, compared to just four to motorists.

Under the new rules, cyclists can be fined $319 (£160) for not wearing a helmet, representing an increase of nearly 350 per cent on the previous level of fine for the infringement.

According to figures from March and April, nearly 1,100 cyclists were fined for not wearing a helmet, adding around $350,000 (£175,000) to the government’s coffers, with the number of riders fined for the infringement rising from 710 the previous year.

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To protect cyclists, a minimum passing distance of one metre, or 1.5m when the speed limit is more than 60kph, was brought in, with a $319 fine introduced for breaking that rule. So far, according to the Sydney Morning Herald only four motorists have been fined.

“We agree that education is the best method but it has to be backed up by a reasonable level of compliance, which is fining people,” said Bicycle NSW chief executive Ray Rice in the Herald.

“[The number of motorists fined] does seem very low in proportion to the number of cycling fines issued in the same period.”

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Green party transport spokeswoman Mehreen Faruqi told the paper that unsafe behaviour on the road hadn’t been reduced, but that more infringement notices have been issued “as police have gone on blitzes to rake in more money”.

NSW roads minister, Duncan Gay, rejected claims that the increase in fines were a way to raise revenue.

“We don’t want cyclists’ money – that is not why we increased fines for high-risk and downright stupid behaviour. These changes are about improving safety,” he said.

“I don’t want to see another dollar in fine revenue but I do hope to see a reduction in cyclist injuries. It is simple: if you wear a helmet, you won’t get fined.”