A Metre Matters for Bike Safety | Samantha Dunn

A Metre Matters for Bike Safety

The current law for motor vehicles overtaking bicycles is unclear and almost unenforceable. It requires everyone to leave a sufficient passing distance, but it leaves drivers and police uncertain – what exactly is a sufficient distance? Is it a centimetre or a metre? The current road rules also don’t allow drivers to move out of their lane or cross different types of white lines to pass a bike safely, even when it is safe to do so. Drivers have more flexibility to move around a spilled rubbish bin on the street than a bicycle. This bill fixes both of those problems. It defines a safe passing distance, it provides certainty for drivers and police officers and it allows drivers more flexibility to overtake.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - 4:15pm
Speaker:
Samantha Dunn

ROAD SAFETY ROAD RULES 2009 (OVERTAKING BICYCLES) BILL 2015

SECOND READING SPEECH

SAMANTHA DUNN

Click here to learn more about A Metre Matters


I MOVE that the bill now be read a second time.

The Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Overtaking Bicycles) Bill honours the Greens’ pre-election commitment to the Metre Matters campaign.


Need for the new laws

The current law for motor vehicles overtaking bicycles is unclear and almost unenforceable. 

It requires everyone to leave a sufficient passing distance, but it leaves drivers and police uncertain – what exactly is a sufficient distance?  Is it a centimetre or a metre? 

The current road rules also don’t allow drivers to move out of their lane or cross different types of white lines to pass a bike safely, even when it is safe to do so. Drivers have more flexibility to move around a spilled rubbish bin on the street than a bicycle.

This bill fixes both of those problems.  It defines a safe passing distance, it provides certainty for drivers and police officers and it allows drivers more flexibility to overtake.


Queensland trial research supports the passing laws

Most bike riders are also car drivers. We all want to drive safely.

So it is hardly surprising that the early results from the trial of a minimum passing distance in Queensland have been so positive.  Hardly surprising, but very heartening.

The Queensland trial started in April last year. 

At the six-month mark, independent research commissioned by Amy Gillett Foundation showed that it is working. 

Bike riders were reporting that drivers were leaving a bigger gap when overtaking. 

Drivers and riders alike were happy with the change.  

We could have guessed that already, because it was not an election issue in the recent Queensland election.  If any political party thought they could gain votes by reversing the road rule changes, they would have announced it.  But the election passed and the government changed hands without any disagreement about the road rules trial.


Road safety education campaign

Some of that success story is due to the former Queensland government’s road safety campaign “Stay Wider of the Rider”

So why not just have a road safety campaign here in Victoria and leave the road rules alone?

New road rules create the environment in which a road safety campaign succeeds.  

In Queensland, the six-month research shows an enormous 75% awareness of the new road rules as well as a high approval rate.

Whereas in New South Wales, where a very good road safety and awareness campaign for bicycles has been run without a change in legislation, the results are much less impressive.

We are lucky to have those two examples to guide us here in Victoria.

But we already know that road rules work. After all, when the evidence showed that people using mobile phones while driving were having collisions, we didn’t just run an awareness campaign.  We changed the road rules. 


Other states and territories

Across Australia, states and territories are adopting or trialling new road rules that are consistent with this bill.

In Queensland, a two-year trial of the new laws commenced in April 2014.  

Similar trials in South Australia and the ACT are forthcoming.

Tasmania recently introduced new road rules that reflect some of the provisions in this bill – drivers may move across a continuous centre line in order to pass a bicycle, where it is safe to do so. At the same time, the Tasmanian Government outlined that a safe overtaking distance is 1 metre, or 1.5 metres on faster roads, although it has not taken the step of reflecting that recommendation in the road rules.

In the Western Australian parliament, debate is continuing on the “Metre Matters” laws introduced by my Greens colleague Lynn MacLaren


Amy Gillett Foundation 

It is no co-incidence that the across the country and across party lines, states and territories are adopting the same new road rules for a minimum passing distance.

They all spring from the same source - the Amy Gillett Foundation campaign “A Metre Matters” and the evidence-based materials that they provide to governments. 

This year will be the tenth anniversary of Amy Gillett’s death.  She was killed by a car while she was training in Germany. The foundation set up in her name is saving lives by influencing governments and individuals to take action.

Amy Gillett Foundation isn’t just a campaign body. It produces the sort of high quality research that honours Amy Gillett’s own intellectual rigour – she was a PhD science candidate.

The body of evidence to support safe passing laws is growing. New research and evidence will be released this year, which will assist MPs in considering and debating this bill.


The Bill

I will now briefly describe the provisions of this bill.  

This bill is substantially the same as the one my Greens colleague Greg Barber introduced in the last parliament.

It creates road rules that reflect the Victorian Government’s education for learner drivers , which is that drivers have the responsibility to leave more than one metre of space when passing a bicycle. 

It will also bring Victoria’s overtaking laws into line with Queensland and the proposed South Australian trial.  This is important since Victorian roads cross the border with South Australia.  

The existing Victorian rule for safe overtaking of all vehicles in Victoria is Rule 144, which provides that all vehicles must leave a ‘sufficient distance’ when overtaking.  The penalty for failing to do so is 10 penalty units.

But Rule 144 lacks a definition of ‘sufficient distance’, which is the heart of the problem.  

Clause 4 of the bill creates a definition of ‘sufficient distance’, in relation to a driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a person who is riding a bicycle.

If the speed limit that applies to the road is not more than 60 km per hour, a sufficient distance for overtaking a bicycle rider is 1 metre.  On faster roads, a sufficient distance is 1.5 metres. 

In clause 4 you will also find the only difference between this bill and the one we introduced last year. The method of determining the space between the bicycle rider and the driver now effectively the same as Queensland and the forthcoming South Australian trial. 

Clauses 3 and 5 make minor consequential amendments to other existing road rules, so that drivers overtaking bicycle riders may move to the right, or move out of their marked lane, or cross a continuous line, if it is safe to do so.

This means drivers will be able to get around a bicycle in the same way that they can get around objects and obstructions on the road.  This will also be consistent with Queensland and South Australia and largely consistent with Tasmania.  Similar provisions are likely to be included in the ACT trial.

The legislative approach for this bill is to amend the Victorian Road Rules directly, rather than amend the Road Safety Act.  This means the new rules created by this bill may be altered or repealed in the same way as other road rules.  

So, when the national road rules are finally harmonised to create certainty for drivers and protect cyclists, the Minister will be able to treat those changes like any other, without returning to parliament.

The action taken in Queensland, South Australia, the ACT and Tasmania will help to bring about a national change.  Which is another reason for Victoria to act now.  There is no reason to delay when change is inevitable and acting sooner will cost nothing and save lives.


Interaction with other bike safety measures

Minimum distance passing rules interact well with other bike safety measures, like public education campaigns for the new dooring laws, infrastructure upgrades and an integrated bike lane network.

In areas where roads are congested, like Melbourne, separated bike lanes are a great way to reduce congestion on roads and public transport, but they can’t be everywhere.

In most roads in regional Victoria, bicycles must share the road with other road users without the benefit of infrastructure.  Regional shires have a lot of roads, a smaller rate base, enormous financial challenges which look to becoming more critical, so on many of our regional roads there aren’t even painted bike lanes. 

A minimum passing distance is a way to improve bike safety that regional community budgets can afford.

When we improve the safety of cycling, we encourage people to get on their bikes – this includes locals in regional Victoria as well as tourists.

Already, three hundred and eighty thousand tourists ride a bike as part of their trip in Victoria.   Safer cycling on our Victorian roads will unlock greater tourism benefits and potential for our regional cities and towns, as well as metropolitan Melbourne.


The environment

Like so many natural, healthy things, riding a bike is good for the environment.

Cycling is good for your heart, good for your mental health, good for the economy and good for the environment.  And it’s fun.  

I commend the bill to the House.