ACT News

Cyclists welcome tighter rules for motorists overtaking bikes

Cycling safety advocates have welcomed a planned trial of new minimum passing distances for drivers overtaking bike riders on ACT roads.

Attorney-General Simon Corbell announced the trial of mandated minimum distances, requiring drivers to leave one metre when passing in speed zones of up to 60 km/h and 1½ metres in speed zones faster than 60km/h.

The government agreed to 18 committee recommendations on Thursday, agreed in principle to five and noted a further five.
The government agreed to 18 committee recommendations on Thursday, agreed in principle to five and noted a further five.  

No start date or duration for the trial has been finalised. 

The moves, along with plans to allow cyclists to ride across pedestrian crossings at slow speeds, came in response to a Legislative Assembly report into improving safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. 

The government agreed to 18 committee recommendations on Thursday, agreed in principle to five and noted a further five. 

Amy Gillett Foundation research and policy manager Marilyn Johnson said a similar two-year trial under way in Queensland had led to improved safety and respect between road users regardless of vehicle. 

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"Trialling it in a second jurisdiction in Australia is a real step forward for cycling safety," she said. 

"Already we have spoken to the Queensland Police Service and they are reporting that observationally there has been a wide increase in the number of people giving cyclists greater distance in their overtaking. People who are riding bikes are also reporting much more space." 

The foundation, named for the Australian track cyclist killed in a road collision in Germany in 2005, has long advocated minimum passing distances as part of Australian road rules. 

Dr Johnson said an effective driver education program was needed before the trial began. 

She welcomed improved road safety education for primary school students, updated resources for drivers as part of car registrations in the ACT, and changes to driver licensing. 

"It is one thing to start with children and young people, but we also need to make sure these messages about safety are getting out there to existing road users," she said. 

Last year territory roads recorded 7863 crashes, resulting in seven deaths and 792 casualties. Three of the deaths and 236 injuries involved cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists.

The same passing distances were incorporated into Queensland road rules earlier this year and are in place in Europe and 21 US states. 

Queensland drivers face penalties of three demerit points and fines of $341 for passing inside the minimum distance, plus a maximum fine of $4554 if the matter goes to court.

ACT Policing, the Justice and Community Safety Directorate and Territory and Municipal Services will be involved in implementation of the trial. 

A recommended review of the speed limit hierarchy for road users, as well as study of territory crash data and a safety audit of shared paths and all pedestrian crossings won't result in action from the government.  

"The government's response to this inquiry demonstrates [it] is prepared to accept the challenges we face on our roads and pursue action which will make our roads safer for the many Canberrans who choose the two wheels of a motorcycle or bicycle or their own two feet for walking," Mr Corbell said.

"The government believes that a minimum passing rule will play an important role in educating the general community about the vulnerability of cyclists in relation to other more powerful vehicles."

Territory and Municipal Services Minister Shane Rattenbury welcomed the trial and other measures, including planning and design reforms to prioritise safety, rules allowing cyclists to ride across pedestrian crossings, changes to driver license requirements and community consultation on slower speed environments.

"I'm optimistic that this signals a turning point that will lead to improved safety and a growth of sustainable transport and from that grows a variety of related benefits such as an increasingly welcoming and vibrant urban environment," Mr Rattenbury said. 

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