The Premier should be starting to worry. Last month, his government quietly decided a metre doesn’t matter, and that they wouldn’t be embracing legislation for a minimum passing distance. Instead, they’re proposing an education campaign - a good step, but not a complete solution.
We're lagging behind other states who have either implemented, or are trialling, a minimum passing distance. WA’s Road Safety Minister, for example, is “committed to the trial of the one-metre rule” and Queensland's Roads Minister has "found it's increased the awareness of cyclists by motorists considerably".
We’re seeing this important safety measure implemented internationally, too, with the US state of Ohio recently implementing a 3ft safe passing distance.
Back home, the debate rages on about how we can improve our roads, and the Premier has taken a clear side. As one piece puts it, “the Premier is making a calculation that he has a better chance of winning the next election if he appears tough on cycling”. Exemplifying this attitude is his meddling in the City of Port Phillip’s effort to construct protected cycling lanes and his response on the issue - “I see some stuff today about more bike lanes. We won't be having any of that,” he told 3AW.
Is this anti-cycling stance a miscalculation on Dan’s part, though?
Based on recent news, perhaps it is. For once, it seems like we’re getting extensive media coverage of an often overlooked issue - cycling safety in Victoria. From groups in Bendigo and Wangaratta to councils in the inner city, there’s a renewed focus on cycling safety.
Sadly, there have been multiple deaths of cyclists in the past 6 weeks - four have died, 3 of whom were hit by motor vehicles. My heart goes out to the families and friends of cyclists who have lost their lives on our roads. As one friend puts it, “We’ll never know if a metre matters would have saved Jim, but you can bet that if Victoria had safe cycling legislation, more drivers would leave a wider berth and the road would be safer for people who pedal.”
Cyclists’ lives should matter to the Premier.
Greens MP Samantha Dunn said the Government's response was disappointing.
"What the Government [has] done is block legislation to protect some of the most vulnerable users on our roads, cyclists, by not agreeing to implement the metre matters laws," she said.
While all other Australian jurisdictions (except the Northern Territory) have either introduced or are trialling minimum passing distance laws, the Victorian Government rejected minimum one-metre passing distances for motorists overtaking cyclists - preferring instead to test a public education campaign aimed at driver attitudes.
March 28 — A metre does not matter for bikes yet after Victorian government delays cyclist passing law
[RoadSafe North East member Robbie Allen] said motorists were more likely to pay attention to a law, rather than just a warning. “I think ‘a metre matters’ just gives the police a little bit more power to warn or to book people who do the wrong thing.”
“Ironically, Jim’s death occurred in the same week that the Andrews government refused to legislate the minimum passing distance (a metre matters) law,” Mr Bittner said. “We’ll never know if a metre matters would have saved Jim, but you can bet that if Victoria had safe cycling legislation, more drivers would leave a wider berth and the road would be safer for people who pedal.”
Premier Daniel Andrews has intervened in a squabble between VicRoads and a local council over bike lanes along St Kilda Road, pouring cold water over a project to make cycling safer along the boulevard.
The Premier is making a calculation that he has a better chance of winning the next election if he appears tough on cycling and sensitive to the frustrations of voters trying to navigate a single-occupant motor vehicle in an increasingly dense city in which many other people are also forced into car use through a lack of viable alternatives.
April 18 — WA to push ahead with new laws for cyclists
WA’s Road Safety Minister Michelle Roberts said yesterday the Government would act on its pre-election commitment to require drivers to leave a gap of one metre when overtaking cyclists.
“We are committed to the trial of the one-metre rule,” Mrs Roberts said.”
April 18 — A metre matters, just not in Victoria: Government rejects legislation for one-metre gap to cyclists
[Bike Bendigo] president Geoff O’Sullivan said cyclists needed more protection than ever, particularly in rural areas.
“Introducing safe passing legislation would bring Victoria into line with other states and territories, so I don’t know why we’re being left behind like this,” he said.
Keen to show the Premier that cycling safety matters? Come along for our Ride and Rally at Parliament on March 10th.