18 October 2019

Undercover cops to target motorists not giving space to cyclists

| Lachlan Roberts
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Pedal Power ACT CEO Ian Ross and Detective Acting Station Sergeant Marcus Boorman

Pedal Power ACT CEO Ian Ross with Detective Acting Station Sergeant Marcus Boorman. Photo: Michelle Kroll, Region Media.

ACT police officers will don lycra and get on their bikes to target motorists who aren’t obeying the minimum passing laws when overtaking cyclists.

In the ACT, drivers are required to keep a minimum passing distance of 1 metre when overtaking a cyclist at under 60 km/h, with a distance of 1.5 metres required if a driver is overtaking at more than 60 km/h. Drivers who fail to comply with the law can receive a $292 fine and a loss of two demerit points.

ACT Policing has announced they will conduct compliance activity targeting motorists who don’t obey the law when passing cyclists on ACT roads.

Detective Acting Station Sergeant Marcus Boorman said ACT Policing had focused on an educational approach since the laws came into effect but in the coming weeks they will “proactively enforce” the law.

“The upcoming activity will see police actively target the minority of motorists that are not doing the right thing,” Sergeant Boorman said.

“Canberra: you are on notice. The next cyclist you drive past could be a police officer, and fines and demerit points may be issued if you do not leave enough room.

“Officers will not be in police uniform, so they will look like any other cyclist.”

The ACT’s minimum passing laws were introduced in 2015 on a trial basis and were permanently implemented last year. During the two-year trial, only 11 motorists were issued with a traffic infringement notice or caution for not obeying the laws.

Hardly a 1.5 metre gap.

Pedal Power ACT CEO Ian Ross said it is a “truly terrifying experience” when cars pass too close. Photo: Kate Smith.

An ACT Government study, which was released in May, found that the majority of ACT drivers obey the minimum passing rules when overtaking cyclists on the road, with over 16,400 overtaking vehicles recorded during a four week period in 2018.

The study, which was undertaken by the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Automotive Safety Research, found 97.3 per cent of motorists kept a one-metre distance when the speed limit was below 60 km/h, while 88.8 per cent of drivers on roads with a speed limit above 60 km/h kept a distance of 1.5 metres.

Sergeant Boorman said more than one-in-ten motorists not obeying the 1.5-metre passing distance was not good enough.

“It is about everybody doing the best they can to promote road safety in the ACT,” he said. “If you are unsure, slow down, take those couple of seconds and leave plenty of room.”

Even though they will be dressed as cyclists, Sergeant Boorman also said his officers will not turn a blind eye to their fellow road users who do the wrong thing.

“I can assure you that while we are conducting this operation, if we see any cyclists that are not doing the right thing there will be consequences,” he said.

Pedal Power ACT chief Ian Ross welcomed the ACT Policing’s enforcement campaign, which is believed to be an Australian first. He said he hopes it will be as successful as similar campaigns in the UK which saw a 20 per cent reduction in cycling deaths and serious accidents.

“You can feel the wind and the suck of a car as it moves past you and you can get buffeted on the road,” Mr Ross shared. “It is a truly terrifying experience.

“Having police enforce the minimum passing distance laws is important not just for the people who are already riding, but to encourage more people to take up cycling for transport and recreation. We want everybody to feel safe and be safe when riding on our roads.”

To provide space 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.

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rationalobserver8:44 am 11 Feb 21

There are the laws of the road, and then there are the laws of physics.
Only a fool voluntarily puts themselves in harms way knowing the risks, and then complains about the outcome.

Rationally, then we should ban all motorised vehicles from the roads, since they account for unacceptably high mortality in Australia. Since 1987 at least 21,800 drivers, 11,876 passengers, 7,665 pedestrians, and 5,891 motorcyclists have been killed on the roads. Wholly foolish to ignore the laws of physics involved in motorised vehicle accidents and collisions. (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-25/every-road-death-in-australia-since-1989/9353794?nw=0)

I hope the police pushbike riders will have audible bells on their bikes and rear vision mirrors. They also should have identifiable number plates because they are on the road. It is the law that all vehicles have number plates. As pushbikes are classed as vehicles they should have numberplates also. They cannot be both a vehicle and a protected , unidentifiable species. Before self-government there were no bike paths on the road and we were a safer and happier community.

And more importantly, both third party and comprehensive insurance cover.

Actually, that’s not correct.

Vehicles include bicycles, animal driven vehicles (ie such as horse and carriage), a ridden animal and motorised wheelchair.

None of these vehicles are required to have number plates.

To everyone demanding that cyclists pay rego:

1. Your rego doesn’t pay for roads, your taxes do

2. The majority of cyclists own a car, so they do pay rego. The difference is that they’re not clogging up the roads and air by driving.

To be specific, the fuel excise pays for the roads, in which case if you’re not driving a vehicle that runs on petroleum then you aren’t paying for the roads. If your car or truck is at home in the garage then you aren’t paying for the roads.

The hate towards bike riders is ridiculous. I ride a bike to work. I also own a car. I pay taxes. I ride for exercise and to keep at least one car off the road and bc parking fees in Canberra are expensive. I have also had very little problem with car drivers. They have for the most part been very courteous. Let’s just get along people!

rationalobserver8:37 am 11 Feb 21

That “car at home” argument makes me laugh every time it gets trotted out.
I could say the same about my motorcycle, but I still need to register and CTP insure it.

Looking at the comments on here, what a load of nasty, angry people, I miss the days when your average Australian was chilled, they increasingly seem like uptight, whingers and busybodys.

rationalobserver7:48 pm 19 Oct 19

I agree, but I’m pretty sure that was before lycra became a thing.

Back when governments and bike riders had common sense rather than belligerent entitlement.

I will tell you the serious flaws with this law:
1) In the court, there is no ‘about’ when proving a distance of less than 1m (or 1.5m). The burden of prove is with the police, and there is currently not an accurate way of proving the actual distance, minus those cases when they are physical contact, i.e. 0m.
2) In cases when there are physical contact, police will need to prove that the cyclists were not the culprit for closing the distance. How many times when you pass a cyclist safely, and the cyclist would stop < 1m away from you at the next traffic light?

I wonder if they’ve changed the video in the government shopfronts that explains the passing laws. Last time i was in it clearly showed the distance from the centerline of the bike.

If its about safety, I demand all cyclists don high vis and ride single file with daytime running lights. Cyclists also need to be registered and be able to provide ID when they cause accidents.

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