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MINIMUM PASSING DISTANCE – THE BENEFITS

Today that State Government has announced the introduction of a minimum passing distance of 1m in 60km/hr or less areas and 1.5m in areas above will come into effect on the 30th November 2017. This announcement has been three years in the making for the cycling community and we are extremely pleased to see this commitment made.

The current law in Western Australia simply states that drivers must give ‘sufficient’ distance when overtaking cyclists. This measure is vague, ambiguous and subjective. A specified distance gives drivers a clear definition of what safe is.

WestCycle are incredibly pleased to hear the State Government confirm their election commitment to the introduction of a specified minimum passing distance from the 30th November 2017. It comes after successful trials around the country, Queensland leading the way with a trail commencing in 2014 and the first Bill Amendment being put to the Western Australian Parliament by Lynn MacLaren back in October 2014.

WestCycle have been strongly advocating for the introduction of minimum passing distance for over three years and have stood firm of the importance of the law change to the bike riding community. It has not been a simple process in getting the change but it has come and we are very proud to have driven this change in Western Australia with the support of all our Members.

The introduction of Minimum Passing Distance sends a clear message that cyclists have a right to be on the road, they are vulnerable and drivers must give them space when overtaking. This will make cycling in Western Australia a safer activity.

We’ve provided some background information below for you to help communicate the message to family and friends.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?  

  1. Reduce the number of cyclist fatalities and injuries

It will provide a buffer between motor vehicles and cyclists that should reduce the likelihood of fatalities and injuries to cyclists as a result of side-swipes and rear-ends by drivers overtaking or passing too close to cyclists.

  1. Clarify what a safe passing distance is

It will change driver behaviour by clarifying what a safe passing distance is.  Having a specified measurement is clear and objective. It is standard practice to use specified measurements in Western Australian road rules.

  1. Enable dangerous behaviour to be prosecuted

It will enable drivers to be prosecuted for dangerous behaviour by providing a measure for police and witnesses to evaluate a driver’s actions

  1. Increase recognition of cyclist vulnerability

Together with a publicity and education campaign, it will reinforce the message that drivers need to recognise the vulnerability of cyclists on the roads and to adjust their driving.

  1. Increase the perceived safety of cyclists

Feeling unsafe when cycling in proximity to motor vehicles is one of the major reasons why some people choose not to ride. Minimum passing distance will increase the perceived safety of cycling and therefore encourage more people to ride. As such, more people and communities will benefit from the economic, health, social and environmental benefits that cycling can bring.

  1. Give cyclists space to avoid road hazards

Whilst cyclists are advised to keep a straight line, sometimes it is necessary for them to move sideways to avoid hazards in the road, such as drains, debris and parked cars.  Minimum passing distance will give more room for manoeuvring around hazards.

  1. Where else has this been implemented?

Specified minimum passing distance rules have been introduced overseas.  Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Portugal and France, some parts of Canada and South Africa and 28 states in the USA all have specified minimum passing distance. It is also the standard across Australia

 

WAACTNSWQLDSATASVICNT
Overtaking/passing requires at least 1m where speed limits are 60km/h or less30th November 17××
Overtaking/passing requires at least 1.5m where speed limits are over 60km/h30th November 17××
Exemptions to other road rules allowed if overtaking/passing (e.g. crossing unbroken centre line)30th November 17××

 

COMMON QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

There is already a law in place to protect cyclists:

Yes. This is not a new law it’s an amendment to an existing one. The currently law states that a “sufficient” distance must be given when overtaking a cyclist. The problem with this is that this is subjective and we need an objective definition. How do you deem a “sufficient distance”? This law is inadequate and creates ambiguity for the driving public. This law will assist drivers to know what sufficient is.

You can’t police it:

There are currently 36 Australian Road Rules that use distance as a measure. For example you must turn off high beam lights within 200m of another vehicle. The way the current law is worded provides no definition making it even harder to police. There is currently technology internationally that allows Police to measure the distance and Queensland is also looking at this technology at present.

A Queensland police Sergeant said “The previous road rule was very difficult to enforce, there was no objective standard for what was ‘sufficient’. Now we have a clear cut definition”. The Queensland Police Commissioner believes it has made their job easier.

Why don’t cyclists just use the dedicated paths and get off the roads:

Bike riders have the same right to be on the road as other vehicles. It is also important to understand that there are different types of cyclists. For some riders the best place they can be is on shared paths, for others this creates a danger to other path users and the road is the most appropriate place for them.

Cyclists don’t pay road tax so they don’t deserve to be on the roads;

There is no such thing as a “Road Tax”. Roads are generally paid for from the revenue that the State generates from general taxes and local Government rates. Cyclists pay these taxes in the same way that non-riders do. They just choose to use a bike rather than a car. Motorists should be grateful for this as they are paying for the infrastructure yet the impact they have on it is far less than a car – they are actually subsidizing the roads for motorists. You’re welcome.

Cyclists should all be registered;

There are no countries in the world where this has been implemented and maintained and there is no evidence that it actually changes behaviour. The cost of administering such a scheme makes it prohibitive. The more people on bikes the better for Western Australia. For every kilometre a cyclist rides they saves $1.43 for the economy. We should be encouraging people to get on bikes, not putting in place barriers. Should pedestrians be licensed? Should kids be licensed?

Two abreast:

Riders are legally allowed to ride two-abreast as long as they are no more than 1.5 meters apart. Riders often use it as a safety measure so they are more visible and it reduces the distance a driver needs to travel to overtake a group. A group of riders is considered as a vehicle, therefore it is permitted that one group can overtake another.

Etiquette is important in this case though and we encourage large groups to consider traffic they may be holding up and move to single file to allow traffic to pass when it is safe and appropriate to do so.

What if there isn’t enough distance, do you want me to have a head on with an oncoming car:

This is no different to overtaking another vehicle. You have to wait for a time to be able to overtake safely.

Isn’t an education campaign enough?

Education is certainly a large part of changing behaviour but we believe that alone it will not create a change in behaviour that will lead to a safer environment for cyclists. By amending the road rules it sends a clear message from Government that the vulnerability of cyclists is something that they take seriously and riders are legitimate road users.

Labor Committed to the introduction in March. Why has it taken so long?

We appreciate that amending the Traffic Code is not a simple process and in addition to that there were many considerations to take into account. We only have one chance to implement this rule so it was vital that it was done in the right way, with a considered education campaign supporting it. WestCycle fully supports the time it has taken  to get it right and we support the implementation date of the 30th November 2017.

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