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"We're annoying the cyclists": SA Liberals

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Liberal leader Steven Marshall says he won’t step down as patron of his local cycling club, despite the Opposition conceding it has “annoyed people who like bikes”.

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The Liberals yesterday gave notice in parliament that it would move to disallow new cycling laws enforcing a minimum metre distance between cyclists and motorists, as well as allowing bikes to ride along footpaths and cars to cross double lines to overtake riders.

But Paul Wilson, president of the Norwood Cycling Club in Marshall’s Dunstan electorate, told InDaily the Weatherill Government’s new rules were “definitely a move in the right direction”.

Marshall is listed as the patron of the club.

Wilson said there was “certainly a lot of ‘us and them’ attitude going on at the moment”.

“From a cyclists’ viewpoint, we’ve got some new laws that should make it safer for us,” he said.

“We’d support anything that’s going to improve our safety.”

He said the changes followed an extensive review and sweeping changes in Queensland, warning the Liberals not to “reinvent the wheel”.

“I’d certainly urge Steven and his advisors to have a look at the background to it, and they’ll certainly come to the point that it has been well received,” he said.

“There’s a lot of negative feedback, but (it’s) negative feedback from the kind of people you’d expect it to come from.”

But he said there would be no move to oust Marshall, insisting the club was “not political” and the local member was “welcome to his opinion”.

Marshall said while “everyone agrees the one-metre rule is extraordinarily sensible”, the move to allow cycling on footpaths had prompted “angst and confusion”.

“A lot of cyclists are concerned about the angst that’s now being created in the public because of the Government’s mishandling of this,” he said.

“It’s just causing frustration, which is not necessary if the Government had gone about this in a more thoughtful way.”

The Liberals and Xenophon-aligned independent John Darley both gave notices of motion to disallow the regulations, but with only four sitting days remaining it’s unlikely either will be debated this year. This would see the existing rules – which came into force on Sunday – remain until the new year, when the Liberals appear ready to strike them down or heavily amend them, despite an ongoing public awareness campaign explaining the changes.

Liberal Upper House leader David Ridgway, who gave notice of the motion, said the move would give the Liberals time to consult on their position, noting: “Clearly people that like bikes are annoyed with us and people that don’t, aren’t.”

Marshall also confirmed that Mark Textor, chairman of the Amy Gillett Foundation, which strongly endorsed the “landmark” new laws, had been engaged by the state Liberals as a pollster, in his role as managing director of political strategy consultants Crosby Textor.

Textor yesterday refused to confirm he had done any recent work for the state party, instead insisting repeatedly: “We’re not engaged by the SA Liberals.”

But Marshall said the long-time conservative strategist had “done some polling for the party since the last election … on a project-by-project basis”.

He wouldn’t comment on whether the relationship would continue until the 2018 election, but said: “We’ve used him in the past and his work was excellent.”

Neither state director Sascha Meldrum nor state president Steve Murray returned calls yesterday.

Marshall said Textor’s work with the Amy Gillett Foundation did not sit awkwardly alongside his strategic role with the party.

“He’s passionate about cyclists’ safety and we commend him for his passion,” he said, before adding: “I’m passionate about cyclists’ safety as well!”

“But there’s enormous frustration in the community about the way the Government has handled this without proper consultation,” he said.

The Opposition yesterday distributed its own survey, with a foreword from Marshall saying: “The State Liberal Party feels that the Government hasn’t property explained the changes, nor has it considered the consequences of the new laws, which are causing concerns for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.”

But Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan dismissed the exercise as “push-polling…to fabricate a position which won’t be a fair representation of the views of South Australians”.

“The survey manufactures misinformation by starving respondents of important details, summing up the new laws in just five dot points,” Mullighan said.

“It also quashes debate. Respondents appear to be asked for their views, but are given no opportunity to provide them in any detail.”

Mullighan said the Government held a detailed consultation in March, “detailing all of the changes to be made to the regulations, as well as the rights and responsibilities of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, so that the public was able to come to an informed decision”.

“The Government’s consultation resulted in more than 1500 submissions of all kinds…more than 70 per cent of respondents in the public consultation process supported the changes,” he said.

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