10 December 2021

Advocates hold concerns new proposed laws won't go far enough to protect vulnerable road users

| Lottie Twyford
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Dashcam image of the cyclist hit by a passing motorist

Dashcam image of the cyclist being hit by a motorist in October 2020. The incident later prompted calls for stricter punishments for motorists. Photo: Screenshot.

Despite advocates and community groups speaking in support of a proposed bill to slap harsher penalties on motorists who cause harm to vulnerable road users, a parliamentary inquiry has recommended against it.

The ACT’s peak cycling body Pedal Power backed the proposed legislation introduced by ACT Greens MLA Jo Clay in June that would have introduced heavy penalties on motorists who injure vulnerable road users by way of a traffic infringement notice (TIN).

But a recent committee inquiry has instead recommended a different bill, introduced by Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel.

The committee was concerned that the proposed penalty in Ms Clay’s bill was an infringement notice rather than a court-imposed penalty.

They said the issuing of a TIN was “unusual” in an offence where there could be subjectivity around the circumstances.

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Currently, if an offence falls short of causing grievous bodily harm, the only applicable penalty is a $393 fine plus three demerit points.

Ms Clay initially tabled the bill following an October 2020 incident which saw a driver given a $393 fine after colliding with a cyclist on William Hovell Drive.

Dashcam footage shows the driver, who was towing a trailer, crossing lanes without indicating before colliding with the first of two cyclists.

The cyclist was taken to hospital for treatment.

At the time, the ACT’s peak cycling body, Pedal Power, labelled the fine “grossly inadequate”.

Ms Clay said such a low fine sent a bad message to drivers and indicated to vulnerable road users that their lives were worth less than others.

Her initial bill would have added an offence of ‘Negligent driving – harm to vulnerable road user’ and quadrupled the maximum penalty to 50 penalty units or a maximum fine of $1600 and the loss of three demerit points.

Mr Steel’s bill contained a raft of amendments to the Road Safety Act, including the introduction of a new offence for negligent driving that occasions actual bodily harm, as well as increases to minimum automatic licensing disqualification periods for culpable or negligent driving.

Mr Steel’s bill would introduce a $598 fine for negligent driving alone which could be issued as an infringement notice. All others would go to court.

It also adds new offences to address the unsafe use of other vehicles including e-scooters.

Mr Steel has previously noted that his bill attempts to increase the safety of all road users, not just pedestrians and cyclists.

Pedal Power ACT CEO Ian Ross said he’d like to have seen both bills enacted but believed Ms Clay’s bill would have had “the most impact on the cycling community and most benefit behaviour change on our roads”.

“However, Chris Steel’s bill, if enacted alongside a strong community education campaign, has the potential to increase safety for all vulnerable road users. That’s the outcome we’ve been looking for, and we are hopeful we will see that change on our roads in 2022,” Mr Ross said.

When the bill was introduced earlier this year, Mr Ross said there was evidence to suggest that people’s behaviour changed when strong penalties were introduced.

“We know strong penalties act as a good deterrent,” he said.

“People’s driving behaviour changed when strong penalties were introduced for drink driving and speeding through school zones.”

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Mr Ross noted it was important the ACT fostered a culture where drivers took care when driving near vulnerable road users.

“If they don’t, our police need to be equipped to impose high and immediate penalties,” he said.

Ms Clay also argued that the concept of issuing a traffic infringement notice for the offence of causing harm to a vulnerable road user had been supported by multiple organisations such as Pedal Power ACT, We Ride Australia, the Australian Federal Police Association (AFPA) and the ACT Law Society.

Ms Clay would now like to now see the government’s bill pass with an amendment to include issuing a traffic infringement notice for the offence of negligent driving causing actual bodily harm with a penalty set in the range of $900 to $1200.

She’s also calling for the final bill to include special protections for vulnerable road users.

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tonewatto1606:23 pm 22 Dec 21

I was hit an run while riding my bike by a driver of a Forde Ranger on 11 Dec. Lucky there was a witness who saw the incident and provided the rego details of the FWD to me and the police. The hardest part about being involved in an accident as a cyclist is getting the insurance details off the driver, even though these are required by law to be provided.
By law drivers are to keep at at least 1 m away from cyclist. Why is this so hard. If driver hits a cyclist from behind, the car has not only come without 1 m of a cyclist, but it has hit another vehicle (cyclist) from behind… this is the driver of the car’s fault. Believe me, the damage to the cyclist is a lot worse than what can be done to a car! Why won’t drivers then provide insurance details, I bet if they were hit from behind by a car they would be after them!!!!

“The hardest part about being involved in an accident as a cyclist is getting the insurance details off the driver, even though these are required by law to be provided.”

Surely you can see the massive irony in a cyclist saying this about drivers right?

Tijana Delov7:52 pm 15 Dec 21

This is horrible to watch and I hope that cyclist is OK. It looks like both are at fault. Why is the cyclist in the middle of the road and it looks like the driver forgot he had a trailer on the back when he overtook them wrecklessly. Bigger fines aren’t going to fix this.

The cyclist is supposed to be in the middle of the road when there is no bike lane, to ensure s/he is seen by other road users. There was no bike lane on the road going to the right, so the cyclist was following the rules. The car driver could clearly see the bike, so there’s no excuse for hitting it.

Actually in re-watching the video it’s clear that the cyclist was towards the left of the lane as he went into the road that veered to the right. He was indicating with his arm that he was moving over to the right of the lane cycling out of the way of the oncoming car and trailer behind him. He was not quick enough. If he’d been further right he might have been ok, but if he’d been further to the left, he’d be squashed on the road.

Don’t you think as fellow Canberrans we should ask how that cyclist is doing now after the collision before pointing the finger?

Cyclists sometimes do stupid things.
Motorists sometimes do stupid things.
Most cyclists are also motorists.
Let’s just try to get along.

Agree! That involves understanding all perspectives and considering the needs of others as well as oneself.

It doesn’t matter how much the fine is when there’s such a low risk of actually incurring one.
That’s why you still see so many people using their phones while driving – people are deciding it’s worth the risk, even with potentially a stiff penalty, there’s such a low chance of actually being issued with a penalty.
It also explains the ACT Government’s obsession with speedbumps – people have worked out that there is such a low probability of being fined for speeding, that the only way of slowing them down is to put a dirty great obstruction in the road – it’s a ‘solution’ straight out of the third-world where law enforcement is largely ineffective, and objectionably: it equally penalises those who still have some regard for speed limits.

Looking at the picture one question comes to mind.

WTF are the cyclists doing so far over to the right of that lane?

There is no room for the motorist to pass them safely on the right so he tried to get around on the left which unfortunately didn’t end well.

Are cyclists legally allowed to slow cars down to their speed now simply by being to far over to the right for the car to pass safely?

Technically it’s illegal to obstruct traffic, though it’s obviously never enforced.
Unfortunately cyclists like those above are their own worst enemies (and those of all other cyclists) when it comes to expecting others to share the road with them. And which cyclists are you going to notice and remember? I won’t matter how many cyclists you see who are content to share the road – we’ll always remember the one pig (eg. as pictured above) who seems to think he’s entitled to the whole road.

Whoopsie, didn’t read the article did we? According to the police, you know, the people who actually enforce the road rules, the driver was in the wrong. Are you aware that as a driver, you have to indicate when changing lanes.
Who’da thought eh?

purplevh

I quote: “Dashcam footage shows the driver, who was towing a trailer, crossing lanes without indicating before colliding with the first of two cyclists.”

That’s obvious okay to you, as it got no mention from you. Instead you instead attack the victim, showing very well your blinkered bias.

As a motorcyclist I find it somewhat illogical that the onus of safety is placed upon the person least likely to be injured in a collision.

No pint being legally in the right if you are the one in the ambulance. So no changes in the law are going to keep you out of the ambulance or the hearse.

It’s not really that illogical – those who have the potential to inflict the most carnage have a greater responsibility to be careful. That’s why there are more hoops to jump through to get a licence for heavy and/or public vehicles compared to a private car.
But you are quite right that there is no point insisting on a legal right if you’re going to end up under a truck.

I like your point about heavy vehicles but the same goes for a motorcycle licence BECAUSE you are the one most likely to be hurt.

“Keep left unless overtaking”. The principal behind that is that the slower vehicle moves aside or gets out of the way of the faster vehicle. It’s an accepted rule that helps keep road users safe.

The vulnerable road user rules rewrites all of this with the slowest road user (bike) now been given the “right of way”.

I try my best to provide the 1 and 1 1/2 metre clearance but there are times when you find yourself with a vehicle on your right and no where to go, except to brake and these situations can occur with little notice.

Not sure the relevance of the keep left unless overtaken rule here. Cyclists moved to the right hand lane (well before the vehicle was even close) as the left lane peals off to the left and the right lane runs straight to the lights where one can only turn right.

Incident happened where the two lanes diverge. You suggesting bikes but allowed to turn right?

I think he was talking about how far right in that right lane the cyclists were.

Clearly they were within about a metre of the median strip as can be seen by the second cyclist.

Not condoning what the driver did but he had no room to get past on the right of them.

It’s not always possible for the slower vulnerable road user to get out of the way, when a faster vehicle approaches. This cyclist tried but was not quick enough.

So the cyclist who was in the cycle lane. Swept across to the right hand side, then decided to take up the middle lane.
The car driver couldn’t anticipate the rider thinks they are turning right then has them try take the middle of the road.

The road rules say stay 1 metre from the cyclist which he was until the cyclist cycled towards him. Clearly the current road rules don’t work and the cyclist seems think think they are king of the road and trying to show up the motorist.

Cyclists shouldn’t be in the road as we can’t hold them accountable to cycle rules that are flawed.
Clearly the 1meter rule can’t handle the case where the cyclist approaches the car.

Otherwise any cyclist approaching a traffic light is setup to be able in incite a crime by any parked motorist.

ACT government is fitness focused, Cyclists are more valuable than motorists because they are fitter, and more likely to live in apartment . Banning their own staff from having chocolates in the office.

As a cyclist you can hit and kill someone and get a slap on the wrists.

You must be watching a different video than the one I’m seeing gooterz.

In the one I’m looking at, the cyclists indicate right before moving into the single right-turning lane, and seem to maintain a steady position in that lane from then on. The motorist has plenty of time to see the manoeuvre, and to see that they are approaching a red light.

The motorist then seems to proceed directly through the cyclist in order to not delay their stopping at the red light ahead.

It seems to me the motorist was lucky not to be charged with attempted murder.

Ricketyclik,
That is a grossly simplistic viewing of what happened and anyone calling this close to “attempted murder” is blind or ignorant.

All the video highlights is the expected outcome of allowing vulnerable (and slow) road users in the same areas as much heavier and faster vehicle traffic.

The van driver clearly made a mistake in that he firstly didn’t anticipate the cyclists wanting to turn, then didn’t expect them to occupy the lane instead of the shoulder.

He then had a choice of braking hard or missing the turn he was trying to go towards. Instead he tried to overtake the cyclists and the accident occurred.

You can blame the driver all you want but these types of accidents are guaranteed to reoccur when you have such slow and difficult to see road users on the same infrastructure as 2 tonne vehicles going much faster.

Chewy agree not attempted murder, but think your take is rather simplistic as well.

It is clear as day the driver was being a knob head and did what ever it took to get in front and as a result misjudged the amount of space he had to do that. End result he clipped the rider in the process.

That’s reckless driving any day of the week. But you are right mixing vehicles like this is always going to occur so long as we have knob heads like this driver on the roads.

And no I don’t ride, well on the road anyway.

Clear case of negligence on the part of the driver and a breech of the ACT road rules.

“Motorists must take care and show consideration when sharing the roads with cyclists, who have the same legal rights and obligations as other road users”

“on single lane roads, you may pass a vehicle on the left hand side if the driver of the vehicle has signalled an intention to make a right hand turn and has moved across to the centre of the road to allow other drivers sufficient room to pass on the left.”

Never overtake:
where there are double unbroken lines or an unbroken line on your side of
the centre line (unless allowing the required minimum distance to pass a
cyclist when it is safe to do so);

OR if there is insufficient room

JC,
My take is simplistic only in that it’s a recognition of the obvious physics and risks involved in allowing such a small and slow moving vehicle to operate in the same space as cars and trucks.

It is an easily predicted outcome of road cycling laws which are not fit for purpose and would only be fixed by removing cyclists from the road entirely or creating fully separated cycling infrastructure.

“It is clear as day the driver was being a knob head”

No, it really isn’t.

It’s clear he wasn’t fully paying attention and made a mistake. A mistake that happens literally hundreds of times on Canberra roads daily.

A mistake that no amount of driver training will completely remove.

So you are right in that these types of accidents will continue to occur as long as we have drivers who make mistakes on the road where cyclists can legally use them.

ie. Forever. Well at least until we get autonomous driving cars maybe.

Quote: “cyclists, who have the same legal rights and obligations as other road users”

The same obligations…such as a license, registration and third party insurance?

Really?

No_Nose, you have missed the point. Those aren’t the obligations you are looking for.

Does anyone know why the cyclists are riding in the middle of the lane here – almost as if they are trying to prevent other road users from passing, although there seems to be sufficient space, if only they could keep to the left of the lane?

It’s time for cyclists to be registered, licensed and insured, so that when they hit and injure pedestrians, they are accountable for their actions. The same for those on any vehicle such as a motorised scooter.

I’m tired of seeing children, old people and the less mobile or intellectually flexible being harmed by cyclists. I’ve seen toddlers hit by cyclists, because cyclists unreasonably assume the child will continue straight ahead, when children do not, as they’re highly impulsive and unpredictable. The adult cyclist or scooter rider needs to be aware of this and act with more care. It would help if cyclists called out a warning to pedestrians ahead, as many do not use bells, just zooming through at speed in the expectation that all pedestrians follow a linear course. Wrong!!!

Either way, riders of all vehicles need to be trained, licensed, registered and insured.

I wonder if there is a way of making a network of paths that cyclists can utilise without the threat posed by vehicles?

Hmmmm, I think they are called cycle paths.

That just replaces one threat with a bunch more… unrestrained dogs, inadequately restrained dogs (on leads that extend several metres, allowing the dog to run into the path of other users – a classic example of complying with the letter of the law while totally disregarding the intent), uneven surfaces from underlying tree roots, traffic light poles installed in the path, surfaces totally destroyed by ACT Government contractors driving heavy vehicles on surfaces not built for heavy vehicles, not to mention the threat posed by vehicles when tradies drive along shared paths so they can park 5m closer to their jobsite.

If a dog ever chased me on a bike I would turn around and chase it.

They soon get the message when that happens.

If a dog chases people on a bike it should have it’s bike confiscated.

In the video above, neither the cyclist or the ute-driver are sharing the road – it was always going to end badly having two such road-users encountering each other.

Capital Retro10:54 am 07 Dec 21

I saw a cyclist travelling at speed along a shared path adjacent to Athlon Drive, Farrer this morning.

He had both hands on a mobile device and his head down. What a great role model and law-breaker.

And no way of identifying him/her until they’re being scraped off the road…

Well said @David Connell…. I am a cyclist and many other cyclists on the road are rude, arrogant, and always lay blame on others – a bad name for all of us. A bit of self-preservation and self-consciousness would certainly not go astray and actually understanding the road rules for cyclists (eg: not being 2/3 abreast) should also be enforced and be a fineable offence.

“I am a cyclist and many other cyclists on the road are rude, arrogant, and always lay blame on others”
You are literally laying blame on others here.

“actually understanding the road rules for cyclists (eg: not being 2/3 abreast)”
You have referenced a law that you do not actually understand. It is legal for cyclists to ride 2 abreast.

You sound like one of them…. case rests your honour.

Ken, BP is correct, it is legal for cyclists to ride 2 abreast. I would rarely recommend it either but it is legal.

Apparently it is not illegal to ride two abreast. There is a law long overdue for an update.

David Connell10:23 pm 06 Dec 21

Motorist shouldn’t be solely responsible for looking out for cyclists. As motorcycle riders are aware how dangerous it is on the road as we have to do the training to make sure we are aware and are trained to be as safe as we can.

I see so many cyclists riding on the road with complete ignorance of the dangers. If cyclists wish to ride and stay alive there needs to be a huge change in attitude, and maybe mandating a ride to stay alive course would be the best thing for cyclists and motorists.

And yet motorcyclists are still killed on our roads through no fault of their own due to the negligence of other drivers. No one is arguing for cyclists to be able to do whatever they like on the road. Even if overnight all cyclists started riding in the safest possible way, there would still be accidents, and there would still be deaths because cyclists are vulnerable and not everyone drives in an equally safe way. These measures simply aim to protect vulnerable road users from negligent or reckless actions by drivers that could easily kill someone.

Did you see the video of the car and trailer taking out the cyclist? If so, do you think someone should be able to do that and walk away with a <$400 fine? Doesn't seem like a good disincentive to me.

Whitepointer8:14 pm 06 Dec 21

Here we go, cyclist and cars….

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