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Does a metre matter on ACT roads?

By Anne Treasure - 20 February 2017 20

Cyclist photo

People who ride bicycles on ACT roads are concerned that police are not properly enforcing the minimum overtaking distance rule.

A report has shown that just two drivers have been ticketed and three drivers cautioned for breach of the law since its introduction.

But cycling advocacy organisation Pedal Power ACT has said that its members are reporting a positive change in driver behaviour since the law was introduced in November 2015.

In fact, Pedal Power ACT Executive Officer John Armstrong wants the minimum overtaking distance legislation to be made permanent when the trial ends in November.

“Making the legislation permanent is important to change the behaviour of drivers on ACT roads,” said Mr Armstrong.

“Anecdotally, we are hearing from our members that they have seen growing awareness among drivers of maintaining a safe distance from riders using on-road bike lanes since the introduction of the legislation in late 2015.”

The minimum overtaking distance law requires cars give cyclists a one metre clearance when overtaking them 60km/h and under zones. In 60km/h and over zones, drivers must give cyclists a 1.5 metre berth.

“We’ll be looking to the release of the 2016 Crash Report later this year to provide solid evidence that the minimum overtaking distance trial is having the desired effect, and reducing the risk to vulnerable roads users on ACT roads,” said Mr Armstrong.

“Legislation and enforcement are just two of the elements required to make roads safer for people who ride bikes. The ACT community needs to work together to address this problem and save lives on our roads.”

Pedal Power ACT is working with the Amy Gillett Foundation to raise awareness of the ‘A Metre Matters’ campaign, and ACT residents are invited to show their support for the minimum overtaking distance law at the Big Canberra Bike Ride, an event that celebrates safe cycling on ACT roads.

What do you think? Is riding a bike on Canberra roads safer since November 2015, or are drivers able to get away with bad behaviour around bike riders because police aren’t enforcing the law?

What’s Your opinion?


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20 Responses to
Does a metre matter on ACT roads?
Ezy 11:23 am 27 Feb 17

Holden Caulfield said :

Just about enough said :

Just a thought but if the bike rider rode his or her bike on the left hand side of the bike lane and contributed to their own safety, would this not help the situation? I noticed the rider is riding in the middle of the lane, but even cars drivers ride to the left of their lanes. Yes I am aware the rider is entitled to use all of the lane but riding or driving defensively is probably a wiser move.

I tend to ride to the left of the lane where possible. However, when nearing an exit for motorised traffic (as shown in the featured pic) I will tend to move to the right of the bike lane to ensure I am in the driver’s eye. Not sure if others would agree with this theory, but it makes sense to me.

As a cyclist, you need to give yourself some room for evasive riding – be it some glass, a stick, a car door (when riding with cars parked on the side of the road). You don’t want the only option to dodge danger being a gutter or some sort of barrier.

Holden Caulfield 9:31 am 27 Feb 17

Just about enough said :

Just a thought but if the bike rider rode his or her bike on the left hand side of the bike lane and contributed to their own safety, would this not help the situation? I noticed the rider is riding in the middle of the lane, but even cars drivers ride to the left of their lanes. Yes I am aware the rider is entitled to use all of the lane but riding or driving defensively is probably a wiser move.

I tend to ride to the left of the lane where possible. However, when nearing an exit for motorised traffic (as shown in the featured pic) I will tend to move to the right of the bike lane to ensure I am in the driver’s eye. Not sure if others would agree with this theory, but it makes sense to me.

bryansworld 3:52 am 27 Feb 17

Just about enough said :

Just a thought but if the bike rider rode his or her bike on the left hand side of the bike lane and contributed to their own safety, would this not help the situation? I noticed the rider is riding in the middle of the lane, but even cars drivers ride to the left of their lanes. Yes I am aware the rider is entitled to use all of the lane but riding or driving defensively is probably a wiser move.

The problem with this is that too many motorists will try to overtake and stay in the lane, passing too close to the cyclist. If the cyclist takes over the lane then motorists will allow more room when they overtake. And yes, I get annoyed by cyclists on the road if there is a decent shared path two metres away. And I’m a regular cyclist.

Just about enough 10:40 am 26 Feb 17

Just a thought but if the bike rider rode his or her bike on the left hand side of the bike lane and contributed to their own safety, would this not help the situation? I noticed the rider is riding in the middle of the lane, but even cars drivers ride to the left of their lanes. Yes I am aware the rider is entitled to use all of the lane but riding or driving defensively is probably a wiser move.

Anne Treasure 1:03 pm 21 Feb 17

crackerpants said :

Anne Treasure said :

Tren said :

The question presented is a false dichotomy (since the answer is probably yes to both propositions), but lets roll with it.

Is road riding safer than before… well the stats say it is, so that’s pretty hard to argue with. Whats more debatable is individual road users who before may have been lazy/complacent, now being outright aggressive. these are an absolute minority, but there ability to cause harm is significantly compounded.

I think the law is a good one, in so far as (like murder) the only people that should be penalised are the ones doing harm anyway. What then is lacking and upsetting to many is that it doesn’t get evenly enforced, and no outdated laws are removed from the system, making the legal process more expensive for the government, and allowing for more loopholes.

It’d be great (easier to follow and easier to enforce) if we could get to a point where we could just say “the shortest distance between any 2 road vehicles is 1m at speeds greater than 5km/h, 1.5m >60, but I think that’s a long way off.
Similarly, the act of killing someone by accident, whether with a car or with a chainsaw, IMHO, both are manslaughter, and there should be a single set of rules for that. This seems even further off.

I’d like to see articles like this one not contain jabs at either cyclists or other road users… perhaps that is the most impossible goal of all I’ve described.

My apologies if I’ve made disparaging comments about either people who ride bikes, or people who drive cars – that was certainly not my intention!

I drive far more than I ride a bike, so I tend to see things from a driver’s point of view. But I can certainly understand how it must be terrifying to be at the mercy of bigger, more powerful machines when you’re riding a bike in a cycle-lane on the road.

Well now you mention it, I wasn’t exactly enamoured of your previous comments:

“let alone expecting young children, dogs and ute drivers to obey the rules of polite society”

and

“keep control of children and dogs”

Perhaps, in “polite society”, we could remember that children are people too, and not describe them as inconveniences needing to be controlled. Children can be annoying and unpredictable – I am living that life – but they need guidance as well as the opportunity to learn how to get on in the big wide world. Not to be restrained, or kept from venturing out altogether (as wonderful as that might sound to some).

I am the mother of a very active 20 month old, so I speak from experience. She definitely doesn’t notice others on shared paths.

I unreservedly apologise for making it sound like I regard children as inconveniences – while I don’t want to start every opinion piece with “As a mother…”, perhaps sometimes it would help?

HenryBG 12:39 pm 21 Feb 17

The issue is lack of driver training. People with almost no idea on how to drive safely are issued licences every day of the week.
Having said that, at 80km/h the speed differential between motor vehicles and cyclists enters the realms of danger. Cyclists should not be permitted on roads that have speed limits any higher than 60km/h.

crackerpants 10:55 am 21 Feb 17

Anne Treasure said :

Tren said :

The question presented is a false dichotomy (since the answer is probably yes to both propositions), but lets roll with it.

Is road riding safer than before… well the stats say it is, so that’s pretty hard to argue with. Whats more debatable is individual road users who before may have been lazy/complacent, now being outright aggressive. these are an absolute minority, but there ability to cause harm is significantly compounded.

I think the law is a good one, in so far as (like murder) the only people that should be penalised are the ones doing harm anyway. What then is lacking and upsetting to many is that it doesn’t get evenly enforced, and no outdated laws are removed from the system, making the legal process more expensive for the government, and allowing for more loopholes.

It’d be great (easier to follow and easier to enforce) if we could get to a point where we could just say “the shortest distance between any 2 road vehicles is 1m at speeds greater than 5km/h, 1.5m >60, but I think that’s a long way off.
Similarly, the act of killing someone by accident, whether with a car or with a chainsaw, IMHO, both are manslaughter, and there should be a single set of rules for that. This seems even further off.

I’d like to see articles like this one not contain jabs at either cyclists or other road users… perhaps that is the most impossible goal of all I’ve described.

My apologies if I’ve made disparaging comments about either people who ride bikes, or people who drive cars – that was certainly not my intention!

I drive far more than I ride a bike, so I tend to see things from a driver’s point of view. But I can certainly understand how it must be terrifying to be at the mercy of bigger, more powerful machines when you’re riding a bike in a cycle-lane on the road.

Well now you mention it, I wasn’t exactly enamoured of your previous comments:

“let alone expecting young children, dogs and ute drivers to obey the rules of polite society”

and

“keep control of children and dogs”

Perhaps, in “polite society”, we could remember that children are people too, and not describe them as inconveniences needing to be controlled. Children can be annoying and unpredictable – I am living that life – but they need guidance as well as the opportunity to learn how to get on in the big wide world. Not to be restrained, or kept from venturing out altogether (as wonderful as that might sound to some).

G-Fresh 10:52 am 21 Feb 17

Would just like to reiterate that it’s the minority who do not adhere to the rules, but how do you influence the minority? You don’t do it by letting everyone off on warnings, as those who would heed a warning arguably are those who already give heaps of space and aren’t aggressive. There needs to be far more squad cars on the roads especially in peak-hour to curb aggressive behaviour and speeding in peak hour. It seems ACT Policing believe that peak-hour traffic is self-regulating. Lazy.

mattapalooza 9:00 am 21 Feb 17

I’m what would be called the definition of ‘recreational but wannabe cyclist’.

I have a nice road bike, I wear the lycra, I try from time to time to better my PB on Strava and I ride because it’s a great recreational activity to enjoy with your friends and probably the single best way to see Canberra.

I read the comments in the CT about how dangerous cyclists are riding around Lake Burley Griffin and I get angry and shake my fists at how ignorant people are walking three across in a line on their ipads but they still choose to abuse those of us who simply can’t walk more than 5km so need to find their fitness by alternative means.

So – with that in mind – I’ve never really had a problem with people in Canberra and the way they treat cyclists. I think it’s probably one of the most bike friendly cities in Australia and it’s highly likely that every person in Canberra knows someone that rides a bike for fitness or as a commuter.

We do have brilliant bike paths, I still find myself seeing someone riding along the road during peak hour traffic and wondering aloud why they aren’t using the perfect shared path that sits a few metres away as a much safer option – but it’s their right, and for the most part, it seems most people are okay with it.

I’ve been abused once when riding on the road. It happened about 4 years ago along Hopetoun Circuit in Yarralumla where the roads are so wide you can sail the Titanic down them. I was on the far left side of the road doing my best, and a poor old ditty in her 1960’s Mercedes decided to honk her horn and carry on despite the fact she was giving me about 9 metres gap.

Apart from that – nothing. Fine. There’s been a few arguments along a cycle path with some woman who’s obviously had a bad day yelling out “cyclists shouldn’t be on a footpath” but apart from that, zero issue.

Whilst the law is a great one and anything that creates awareness of road sharing etc, I’m not overly concerned about the fact the Police aren’t booking a lot of people.

There does need to be some onus on the bike rider to take adequate care – and provided that happens, for the most part the ACT is a great place to ride but kudos to Pedal Power for continuing to promote such a great activity!

Frunkensteen 7:43 am 21 Feb 17

I’ll believe the stats. However anecdotally it also looks to me like drivers are generally attempting to keep more distance. Not so much on Northbourne in heavy traffic, where there isn’t much room to manoeuvre, a car but I have seen it on other smaller roads.

wildturkeycanoe 6:45 am 21 Feb 17

Rollersk8r said :

As a regular cyclist who spends at least part of my commute on the road my answer is no, the rule/law has made no difference to driver behaviour. Most people are too impatient to even give it a second thought.

It depends on the circumstances, because most bicycle commuting paths in Canberra are on multi lane roads and there is plenty of space to pass. On narrower 80km/h roads I have definitely witnessed cars abide by this law, when the first vehicle slams on their brakes and slows to 30km/h resulting in a lot of people behind almost running up the back of the vehicles in front of them. A lot of times there is plenty of space for the car to pass safely but some overcautious nervous Nelly decides to wait for the double white lines to end before they go around. Either people don’t have the spacial awareness to judge distance [which judging by parking efforts seems to be a very real possibility] or they don’t understand the rules.

An interesting issue with this law is what happens on a road such as Northbourne Avenue, where there is barely any room to leave a gap between cars, especially for buses traveling in the left lane. The road is so narrow that a bus can not possibly get past a cyclist without changing lanes altogether. Does this mean a bus is now legally required to travel behind a cyclist for the entire length of that journey, considering that lane changes are pretty much impossible during peak periods? How does Action maintain their timetable with this scenario in place?
Enforcement of this new rule is totally irrelevant because there are seldom any police around to issue fines. I can drive around Canberra for weeks on end without seeing a single marked police car.

Anne Treasure 6:32 am 21 Feb 17

Tren said :

The question presented is a false dichotomy (since the answer is probably yes to both propositions), but lets roll with it.

Is road riding safer than before… well the stats say it is, so that’s pretty hard to argue with. Whats more debatable is individual road users who before may have been lazy/complacent, now being outright aggressive. these are an absolute minority, but there ability to cause harm is significantly compounded.

I think the law is a good one, in so far as (like murder) the only people that should be penalised are the ones doing harm anyway. What then is lacking and upsetting to many is that it doesn’t get evenly enforced, and no outdated laws are removed from the system, making the legal process more expensive for the government, and allowing for more loopholes.

It’d be great (easier to follow and easier to enforce) if we could get to a point where we could just say “the shortest distance between any 2 road vehicles is 1m at speeds greater than 5km/h, 1.5m >60, but I think that’s a long way off.
Similarly, the act of killing someone by accident, whether with a car or with a chainsaw, IMHO, both are manslaughter, and there should be a single set of rules for that. This seems even further off.

I’d like to see articles like this one not contain jabs at either cyclists or other road users… perhaps that is the most impossible goal of all I’ve described.

My apologies if I’ve made disparaging comments about either people who ride bikes, or people who drive cars – that was certainly not my intention!

I drive far more than I ride a bike, so I tend to see things from a driver’s point of view. But I can certainly understand how it must be terrifying to be at the mercy of bigger, more powerful machines when you’re riding a bike in a cycle-lane on the road.

Krisko 7:55 pm 20 Feb 17

ACT Policing have made their point clearly, they do not care!
As a mixed road user I appreciate both sides. However the ‘system’ is geared toward $$$ over safety.
Dont beleive statistics that the Authority provides you, instead travel along Northbourne Av and witness first hand the Police, Ambulance, Bus drivers and general motorists not oney the 1 meter law.
Add the fact that when reported ACT Policing reply with ‘No one was hurt what do you want us to do about it!’
Try it for yourself the answer will not surprise you.
The answer is strict rules for Authorities on this and all other road rules. (To practice what they preach and lead by example) double demerit fines and penalties. Video evidence is everywhere!

The sad truth is ACT Policing and the Authority will blame the driver when a death occurs. Not themselves for failing in its approach.

Sad truth, sad system!

Tren 5:04 pm 20 Feb 17

The question presented is a false dichotomy (since the answer is probably yes to both propositions), but lets roll with it.

Is road riding safer than before… well the stats say it is, so that’s pretty hard to argue with. Whats more debatable is individual road users who before may have been lazy/complacent, now being outright aggressive. these are an absolute minority, but there ability to cause harm is significantly compounded.

I think the law is a good one, in so far as (like murder) the only people that should be penalised are the ones doing harm anyway. What then is lacking and upsetting to many is that it doesn’t get evenly enforced, and no outdated laws are removed from the system, making the legal process more expensive for the government, and allowing for more loopholes.

It’d be great (easier to follow and easier to enforce) if we could get to a point where we could just say “the shortest distance between any 2 road vehicles is 1m at speeds greater than 5km/h, 1.5m >60, but I think that’s a long way off.
Similarly, the act of killing someone by accident, whether with a car or with a chainsaw, IMHO, both are manslaughter, and there should be a single set of rules for that. This seems even further off.

I’d like to see articles like this one not contain jabs at either cyclists or other road users… perhaps that is the most impossible goal of all I’ve described.

Rollersk8r 4:15 pm 20 Feb 17

As a regular cyclist who spends at least part of my commute on the road my answer is no, the rule/law has made no difference to driver behaviour. Most people are too impatient to even give it a second thought.

But let’s be serious – this is an education campaign. I’m sure its success was never meant to be based on the number of fines handed out. It’s in the same category as littering or smoking with kids in the car.

I’m sure those in the motorist camp would have a fair point on the general lack of fines handed out to cyclists for breaking road rules…

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