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Minimum ACT distances for overtaking cyclists to stay as Minister takes aim at ‘keyboard commentators’

By Glynis Quinlan 25 October 2018 21
Hardly a 1.5 metre gap - it's the law. Cycling in the Bega Valley. Photo: Kate Smith.

Hardly a 1.5-metre gap. Minimum passing distances for motorists overtaking cyclists are to become permanent in the ACT. Photo: Kate Smith.

Minimum passing distances for motorists overtaking cyclists are to become permanent in the ACT after a reduction in bicycle-related crashes during a two-year trial.

However, road rule changes to allow cyclists to remain on their bikes while riding across pedestrian crossings will also become permanent despite a marked increase in crashes with motor vehicles on crossings during the trial.

In tabling an evaluation report of the safer cycling reforms trial in the ACT Legislative Assembly today (October 25), ACT Road Safety Minister Shane Rattenbury highlighted the importance of improving cyclist safety in Canberra and took aim at “keyboard commentators” who are trying to further the feud between motorists and cyclists.

He said that some motorists are “disproportionately obsessed with cyclists”, with some people making “extremely disparaging and insensitive comments about cyclists, including about cyclists being injured and killed”.

“In the very least, I would ask these keyboard commentators to remember that every cyclist is a person, who is someone’s son or daughter, brother, sister, mother or father. It is not okay to endanger them, or to make light of their injuries or death,” Mr Rattenbury said.

The two-year safer cycling reforms trial began in November 2015 with the conditions of the trial remaining in place while an independent evaluation was undertaken by the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Automotive Safety Research.

The trial required motorists to provide a minimum overtaking distance when passing cyclists of 1 metre in speed zones of 60 kilometres per hour or less, and 1.5 metres in speed zones greater than that.

The road rules were also amended to allow motorists to cross, straddle or drive on centre-lines and painted islands when overtaking cyclists, provided the passing manoeuvre is safe to undertake, with a clear view of any approaching traffic.

The trial also allowed for riders to remain on their bicycles when crossing at pedestrian crossings as long as they met certain conditions, such as slowing and crossing at a speed no greater than 10 kilometres per hour (the ‘pedestrian crossing allowance’).

Below is an ACT Policing video about safely overtaking cyclists shared from Facebook.

Share the Road

Do you know how to safely overtake a cyclist?Be patient and leave at least 1 metre distance when passing at 60km/h or less or 1.5 meters for speeds over 60km/h. Remember if you’re unsure, leave more!To learn more about your responsibilities on the road visit: goo.gl/VTSUqN#ShareTheRoad #UnsureLeaveMore

Posted by ACT Policing on Thursday, 23 August 2018

Crash data shows fewer bicycle crashes but more on crossings

The evaluation of the trial looked at crash data for two years before and two years after it started. It found that:

  • the total number of reported bicycle-related crashes reduced from 401 to 386
  • the number of minimum passing distance related crashes also reduced slightly from 20 to 18
  • the number of crashes between cyclists and motor vehicles at pedestrian crossings rose from 22 to 35

The latter finding seems to back up some community concerns about riding across crossings with the evaluation report stating that “during both the pre- and post-trial surveys, some participants expressed concerns that some cyclists may suddenly ride across pedestrian crossings from footpaths without giving enough time for motorists to react”.

In his tabling statement, Mr Rattenbury said the increased number of crashes on pedestrian crossings “may indicate that cyclists riding on these paths may not be slowing adequately to the required speed of 10 km/h when approaching pedestrian crossings, or motorists are not looking out for cyclists approaching”.

“Interestingly, there was a small decrease in the number of collisions between cyclists and motor vehicles on pedestrian crossings at locations where there were no shared paths and no crashes reported between pedestrians and cyclists while riding across pedestrian crossings during the trial period,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“I’d also like to point out that the evaluation notes four crossings where the most crashes occurred. Three of these crossings have had recent traffic calming upgrades, such as speed humps, which I hope and expect will mitigate the potential for collisions between cyclists and motor vehicles.”

The reforms aim to make cycling safer in the ACT. File photo.

Only 11 infringements issued in two years

The level of enforcement during the trial was low, with only 11 motorists issued with a traffic infringement notice or caution for not obeying the minimum passing distance rule, and only one cyclist issued with a traffic infringement notice for non-compliance with pedestrian crossing allowances.

Given the limited number of crashes and infringements during the trial, the evaluation said that it wasn’t able to make “statistically significant conclusions”.

Mr Rattenbury said that he is discussing better ways to enforce the new road rules with ACT Police Minister Mick Gentleman.

“Some of the interesting possibilities include police using a ‘lateral measuring device’ as a tool to enforce and educate road users on the laws,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“Police could also deploy an officer on a bicycle, who notes vehicles that pass closely and radios ahead to another officer.

“Another opportunity is for police to open a user-friendly portal through which cyclists (or other road users) could submit recorded footage of incidents.”

Increased community support for reforms

The evaluation did show that there was an improvement in community sentiment about the reforms – with awareness of the reforms doubling over the course of the trial (from 36 per cent to 70 per cent).

Support for both the minimum passing distance and pedestrian crossing allowance reforms also increased. By the end of the trial, 91 per cent of residents were at least ‘somewhat supportive’ of a minimum overtaking distance for motorists passing cyclists (47 per cent of which were ‘very supportive’).

Sixty-seven per cent of residents were at least ‘somewhat supportive’ of cyclists being allowed to slowly ride across pedestrian crossings, rather than having to stop and dismount to cross, which is also perceived as a significant increase in support compared to 2015.

The Government’s announcement that it will permanently retain minimum distance passing rules has been welcomed by Pedal Power ACT and the Amy Gillet Foundation.

Pedal Power ACT CEO Ian Ross said that making the rules permanent sends a signal to drivers that they need to share the road with other users.

“Anecdotally Pedal Power members are telling us they’ve seen the behaviour of motorist improve in the three years since the laws first came in, and this is backed up by the reports which shows a reduction in crashes,“ said Mr Ross.

Do you agree that the trialled road rule changes affecting cyclists should be permanent? Do you think the ‘feud’ between motorists and cyclists has gotten out-of-hand in the ACT? Let us know in the comments below.


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21 Responses to
Minimum ACT distances for overtaking cyclists to stay as Minister takes aim at ‘keyboard commentators’
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TimboinOz 5:20 pm 22 Nov 18

Yes, Shane, they are people, and lots more of them, who are now endangered by you!

Get your head around risk, and plain simple physics aka Newtonian mechanics.

They do NOT belong on pedestrian crossings whole on their bikes. IF they are going to use roads. Test them, register them and their bikes.

Anyone who walks on our shared path network will tell you how arrogant and dangerous committed cyclists on those paths are.

Peter Tilbrook 3:22 pm 28 Oct 18

However, road rule changes to allow cyclists to remain on their bikes while riding across pedestrian crossings will also become permanent despite a marked increase in crashes with motor vehicles on crossings during the trial.

>> Wow that makes perfect sense eh?

gooterz 6:54 pm 27 Oct 18

Ratt and barr only care about their own self interest groups. We have a trial based on evidence we do it anyway. We have light rail with no busiess case we do it anyway.

Schools are going down the drain we pump up the private schools.

There is a system of government that starts with C that comes to mind

mrwoz 11:10 pm 26 Oct 18

Waiting at a crossing for a cyclist while they got off their bike and walked across was ridiculous. So glad this rul. was changed.

    Capital Retro 12:19 pm 27 Oct 18

    You must be one of the very few Canberra motorists to witness such an event.

    In the 40 years I have driven around Canberra I have never seen a cyclist dismount for a pedestrian crossing. I knocked one over once – he remounted, abused me and took off before I could call the police.

rfc 11:32 am 26 Oct 18

Dear Mr Rattenbury,

It is clear to me that the evaluation of the trial shows that the passing law does not significantly contribute to cyclist safety as “the number of minimum passing distance related crashes also reduced slightly from 20 to 18” shows only an improvement of two. This is a marginal result and too close to call.

I’m shocked that the rule is being changed to allow cyclists to cross without dismount despite the finding of “the number of crashes between cyclists and motor vehicles at pedestrian crossings rose from 22 to 35”. So the increase of 13 comprising “someone’s son or daughter, brother, sister, mother or father” is acceptable to you?

Clearly you are not thinking across the whole issue and have selected what suits your needs as a cyclist. You are there to represent ALL constituents therefore please take your cycle hat off and put on your Road Safety Minister hat.

    turtle 2:28 pm 26 Oct 18

    It says “Given the limited number of crashes and infringements during the trial, the evaluation said that it wasn’t able to make “statistically significant conclusions”.”

g210 11:22 am 26 Oct 18

Mr Rattenbury said the increased number of crashes on pedestrian crossings “may indicate that cyclists riding on these paths may not be slowing adequately to the required speed of 10 km/h when approaching pedestrian crossings, or motorists are not looking out for cyclists approaching”.
No kidding. Hands up any cyclists slowing to 10km/h at crossings?

“Three of these crossings have had recent traffic calming upgrades, such as speed humps, which I hope and expect will mitigate the potential for collisions between cyclists and motor vehicles.”
Maybe need some speed humps on the cycling approaches as well?

BlowMeDown 11:19 am 26 Oct 18

If you look beyond the language, there is no feud between motorists and cyclists. There is a feud between those who rely on common sense when it comes to safety on the roads, a habit built over a lifetime, and a government and lobby groups that have abandoned common sense in the dogmatic pursuit of an agenda.

    Grail 1:19 pm 26 Oct 18

    You must be new here. In any discussion about cyclists here on Riot-ACT there is a voice which seems to equate all cyclists with the few idiots that have no sense, yet willingly labels idiots in cars as the exception rather than the rule.

    BlowMeDown 6:01 pm 01 Nov 18

    I’ve been here a while and have read almost all of the discussions over the years. But it’s common to attack the man rather than the ball as Rattenburys “keyboard commentators” phrase attests.

    I don’t share your assessment. There are exceptions on both sides but the point about common sense is that we usually engineer systems to account for the inevitable unavoidable situations. The government appears to be doing precisely the reverse in so many ways.

    While on the subject of common sense, take a look at the first photo in the article and tell me that the cyclist riding the white line is using common sense road safety. He is protruding at least 300mm into the traffic lane and still expecting motorists to give him clearance. The fact that the author chose that image shows that she can’t see the problem with it either.

Spiral 7:47 am 26 Oct 18

This shows that Rattenbury and his mates are just as bad as the rest of the politicians.

When the evidence supports their causes and other politicians don’t support their view, they demand that their opponents take action based on the evidence. Yet when the evidence goes against them, they are just as quick as their opponents to ignore it and do what they want to do.

If a law had been changed giving cars more rights and it resulted in 59% more accidents (of a particular type) occurring between cars and bikes it would seem a safe bet that the change would be backed out.

Yet the change to bikes riding across pedestrian crossings has predictably had that effect and Rattenbury is continuing to support it.

It just shows that he really isn’t interested in safety, but just in advancing cyclists “rights” even if it risks their safety.

It would be nice to think the Canberra cycling groups would take him aside and talk some sense into him, but most likely they have a similar agenda.

It just demonstrates again that Rattenbury and Co have given up any pretence of moral High Ground in the ACT.

David Bourke 7:59 pm 25 Oct 18

This one paragraph destroys all credibility of the ‘trial’

“However, road rule changes to allow cyclists to remain on their bikes while riding across pedestrian crossings will also become permanent despite a marked increase in crashes with motor vehicles on crossings during the trial.”

In real trials they don’t proceed when the outcome is negative.

    Grail 1:24 pm 26 Oct 18

    Measures have been taken to address the cause of the accidents, especially as noted in the case of the three worst crossings where speed humps have been installed.

    One of the worst crossings is on Challis Street, Dickson where the problem is streetside furniture and a tree obscuring vision of the shared path immediately before pedestrian traffic enters the road.

    There is more work to be done there, such as combining a number of signs into a single post, removing a tree, and perhaps putting up hoarding to reduce visual noise from the vegetation, building and carpark behind one of the approaches.

    One crossing being particularly unsafe doesn’t mean the rule shouldn’t be left in place. It’s the crossing that is terrible, and that can be remedied.

Narcobear 6:49 pm 25 Oct 18

I have an issue with the educational videos and still images showing a safe distance at which to pass cyclists … none of them realistically show 1m or 1.5 gaps.

There is no feud between motorists and cyclists, just a minority of vocal, inconsiderate and dangerous road users on both sides of the argument.

    Grimm 9:14 am 26 Oct 18

    Well the image at the top of the article shows a cyclist not even riding in the cycle lane and making a nuisance of himself. There is an easy 1m+ gap between the car and all the other bikes, apart from the clown that decides not to ride in the cycle lane. Apparently the car is at fault for that….

    RocketRodd 2:01 pm 26 Oct 18

    It’s not a cycle lane G, it’s a narrow road shoulder which cyclists are not obliged to use, especially if it’s poorly constructed, blocked or unsafe. Cyclists do try to use road shoulders whenever possible and this rider is riding right on the line and still keeping out of the main traffic – so no nuisance to anyone except inconsiderate eggheads.

    Felix the Cat 1:23 pm 27 Oct 18

    And the image shows the car illegally driving closer than 1m to the cyclist, while the cyclist is riding legally. He (cyclist) may be overtaking the other riders in front of him or he might be trying to avoid some debris such as broken glass – no doubt left there by a motorist as nothing on a bicycle is made from glass.
    There is no law saying he has to ride in the “cycle lane” (that’s not actually a cycle lane, as RocketRodd points out) at all times. There doesn’t appear to be any oncoming traffic stopping the car from going into the other lane, so I wonder what the car driver’s excuse is for breaking the law and endangering the rider’s life? But somehow, this is all the cyclist’s fault, even though he is just going about his business and riding legally, while the car driver is the one driving illegally and endagering the life of another road user and fellow human being.

    carnardly 5:18 pm 28 Oct 18

    making a nuisance of himself? pfffft.

    what percentage of roads have lanes on them in this city?

    You pass any other vehicle by changing lanes. that effectively what it is now with cyclists. If you can’t do that safely perhaps YOU”re the nuisance…

    justin heywood 10:56 am 26 Oct 18

    Absolutely correct Narco.

    If BOTH sides show respect and consideration, there is no problem.

    RocketRodd 2:02 pm 26 Oct 18

    The first video shows an almost three metre gap, so I agree.

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