6 May 2019

Most ACT motorists obey minimum passing laws when overtaking cyclists, says new report

| Lachlan Roberts
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Blurry of Cyclists ride through lighted city.Background.

Nearly 90 per cent of drivers on roads with a speed limit above 60km/h kept the required 1.5 metres when passing a cyclist on the road. File photo.

A new report reveals the majority of ACT drivers obey the minimum passing rules when overtaking cyclists on the road after the passing distance between over 16,000 overtaking vehicles and cyclists was recorded during a four week period in 2018.

An ACT Government study into cyclists passing distances in the territory followed 23 volunteer cyclists across 6,531 kilometres and 272 hours of riding, recording the distance between cyclists and passing vehicles 16,476 times.

The study, which was undertaken by the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Automotive Safety Research, found that overall ACT drivers were generally compliant with the minimum passing rules, otherwise known as the metre matters, with 97.3 per cent of motorists keeping a one-metre distance when the speed limit was below 60 kilometres an hour.

According to ACT Minister for Road Safety Shane Rattenbury, 88.8 per cent of drivers on roads with a speed limit above 60 kilometres an hour obeyed the required 1.5 metres when passing a cyclist on the road.

The ACT’s minimum passing laws were introduced in 2015 on a trial basis and were permanently implemented last year, as a measure to increase protection of cyclists on our roads.

In the ACT, drivers are required to keep a minimum passing distance of one metre when overtaking a cyclist at under 60 kilometres an hour, with a distance of 1.5 metres required if a driver is overtaking at more than 60 kilometres an hour.

To provide this distance on narrow roads, motorists are allowed to cross or straddle the centre lines, provided the driver has a clear view of any approaching traffic and that it is safe to do so. If it is not safe to pass, drivers must wait behind the cyclist until the road conditions change.

Drivers who fail to comply with this rule can receive a $292 fine and two demerit points.

Mr Rattenbury said the study’s results showed the effectiveness of the new law.

“This has been a really important reform in the ACT for creating the space for cyclists,” Mr Rattenbury said. “I have been really encouraged as a cyclist on the road by how motorists have taken ‘the metre matters’ rule.

“I have a sense that people can relate to this rule and they understand what it is and get the idea of how much space you need to leave for a cyclist. The data has backed that up.

“The results from this study proves the value in ACT’s minimum passing rules, with the majority of motorists providing safe overtaking space to cyclists sharing our roads.

“However, there were occasions where passing events were detected at very close distances, of less than half a metre, which is incredibly dangerous. We all need to commit to making our roads a much safer place for all road users.”

According to the study, while most cyclists had indicated they felt safe when they ride their bike, they also acknowledged feeling unsafe at times, especially on narrow roads with no shoulder or verge, roads without bike lanes, roads with high traffic volumes, in situations where aggressive drivers are deliberately being intimidating, and when cars pass too closely.

When asked if there were particular types of vehicles that regularly pass too close, buses were regarded as most problematic, followed by trucks or large vehicles, and trade workers/utility drivers.

Mr Rattenbury said the ACT Government would continue to promote the minimum passing rules, including installing signage on our roads to remind motorists of the relevant passing distance for the location.

“I also want to remind drivers that on narrow roads or roads with narrow lanes, they are permitted to cross centre lines, straddle lane-lines and drive on painted islands, to provide the required passing distance,” he said.

“Please do obey these rules. They are really important and we need to lift our game a little bit more because we need 100 per cent compliance on this.

“All it takes is one small mistake and it can have very serious consequences.”

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