Bicycles are an obvious solution for many transport issues. They’re cheap to run, good for the environment, good for your health, low impact on infrastructure and reduce traffic congestion. Sadly many motorists don’t practice safe driving around cyclists and engage in behaviour that puts them at risk of permanent injury or death.
For example, how many motorists know the safe distance between cyclist and motorist to keep while overtaking? If the speed limit is under 60km/h it needs to be at least one metre. If the speed limit is over 60km/h, at least 1.5 metres.
Observing these rules regarding the safe distance to overtake cyclists is one of many things drivers can do in order to make the road safer for everyone.
Safe Distance Laws
In May 2018, New South Wales moved to address the state’s increase in cycling fatalities by introducing a minimum passing distance for surrounding vehicles.
Motorists will now be fined $330 plus two demerit points if they don’t leave a one-metre gap while overtaking a cyclist at 60km/h an hour or less. The same applies to drivers who don’t leave a 1.5 metre gap when passing a cyclist at 60km/h.
Steve Drake, CEO Cycling Australia said that “Cycling Australia firmly believes that anything which helps keep vulnerable road users safe is a good thing and the minimum passing laws is definitely one of those.”
Similar laws exist in most other states and territories.
According to Bicycle Network, Victoria is now the only Australian state without minimum passing distance laws or a trial in progress. To learn about their campaign to introduce Australia-wide legislation visit https://www.bicyclenetwork.com.au/our-campaigns/minimum-passing-distance.
Transport for NSW has a helpful list of frequently asked questions when it comes to understanding and abiding by safe distance laws: https://roadsafety.transport.nsw.gov.au/campaigns/go-together/faqs.html#faq42.
Your Negligence Could Kill (Matthew and Cameron’s Stories)
Shine Lawyers are currently representing Matthew Eaton, a Caloundra man who suffered injuries after being hit by a car earlier in 2018 while cycling in Little Mountain. Eaton was turning right from Ivadale Boulevard when he was hit by a driver who said he was not paying attention.
Mellissa Chesire, the Shine Lawyers solicitor representing Mr. Eaton, said he was far from the only cyclist Shine Lawyers represented that had been injured by a negligent or inattentive driver.
Cameron Frewer, a father-of-three and advocate for cyclist safety, was tragically killed on November 5 while cycling on Caloundra Road – close to where Matthew Eaton was hit. Before his death, Mr. Frewer repeatedly expressed his concern that Queensland police were not doing enough to address dangerous driving around cyclists.
In January he had visited ABC’s Sunshine Coast studios to speak about his concerns while riding on Queensland’s roads. He also penned an open letter to various Government and cycling figures and ran the Facebook page Drive Safe, Pass Wide on which he would share videos of near misses.
In the wake of his untimely passing, his message is clear: your negligence can kill.
Drake of Cycling Australia also commented that “…for many riders, it is unfortunately all too common for riders to be clipped by car side mirrors. Even at low speeds, this is extremely dangerous for riders. As an organisation, we feel concerted and urgent action is required to address the alarming increase in serious injuries and deaths of cyclists over the last nine years in Australia.”
Queensland Police crack down on close drivers
Following consultation with Bicycle Queensland, Queensland Police has developed a new online tool aimed at helping police catch close drivers.
The tool will help officers to gather evidence and to effectively enforce the safe passing laws.
A trial program was launched in Bundaberg in August 2018 with an aim to roll the program out across the state.
If you tend to drive too close to cyclists while overtaking, your days of getting away with it could be about to end.
As a trusted legal partner of Cycling Australia, Shine Lawyers is committed to providing the highest standard of legal support to Cycling Australia members. If you have been in a cycling-related incident, you are entitled to a free legal consultation. For more information visit https://www.shine.com.au/cyclingaustralia.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: February 1, 2019.