Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Overtaking Bicycles) Bill 2015 | Samantha Dunn

Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Overtaking Bicycles) Bill 2015

Firstly, I think it is important to talk to the foreshadowed amendments. Before I do that, I ask that they be circulated...
Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - 12:30pm
Samantha Dunn

Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) — I would like to thank members for their contributions today. Firstly, I think it is important to talk to the foreshadowed amendments. Before I do that, I ask that they be circulated.

Greens amendments circulated on motion of Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) pursuant to standing orders.

Ms DUNN — As a brief explanation, these amendments relate to the parliamentary committee’s inquiry into the Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Overtaking Bicycles) Bill 2015. They are a reflection of recommendation 1 of that inquiry. I would like to thank the committee that undertook that inquiry on its guidance on this particular matter. Evidence and submissions were provided that sought clarity around
overtaking and passing. The committee has recommended, in relation to making sure that the bill is very, very clear that it is about passing or overtaking bicycles, that the bill be amended to give absolute clarity in relation to that. These amendments are a reflection of the committee’s view word for word in terms of its recommendations and they flow through the bill.

There are a couple of things I want to touch on in summing up. First, I refer to Mr Leane’s contribution when he talked about crossing double lines. He probably also wanted to reflect on solid single lines. I just want to advise the house that it is in fact lawful to cross these lines if you are passing an obstacle. If there is an obstacle on the road, you can actually cross those lines now as the law stands. However, if you are passing a bicycle, you cannot legally cross those lines, so the bill seeks to address that anomaly and make sure that it is lawful to cross those double lines or solidsingle lines. Of course that is under the guise of overtaking or passing only when it is safe to do so, as reflected in our road rules on any matter in relation to overtaking or passing.

I want to touch briefly on the advice and the evidence that the committee received as part of its inquiry. I think it is particularly pertinent to look at the study published by the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety in Queensland in 2016, which in reviewing the implementation of ‘metre matters’ laws in that jurisdiction found that most riders, 73.2 per cent, and 59.5 per cent of drivers agreed or strongly agreed that they have observed motorists giving bicycle riders more room when overtaking than they used to. Two-thirds of riders and one-third of drivers said the rule has made it safer for cyclists. Observational studies showed that compliance with the passing distance rules at low speeds was 88 per cent and compliance at high speeds was 79 per cent. There were fewer serious — and with that, fatal or hospitalising — bicycle crashes in the first 18 months after the laws were introduced.

Furthermore, evidence provided at the inquiry into the bill from the researchers found that police officers said that their observation was that driver behaviour had changed. Drivers were leaving more room when passing cyclists, and police officers were supportive of the rule staying in place. In general there was a reasonably good community acceptance and a reasonably good level of compliance with that rule. It was heartening to hear that Assistant Commissioner Keating from Queensland Police stated:

We are certainly seeing a good reporting back from motorists that they understand there is a new rule. In my personal observation I see people trying to give more room.

He went on to say:

I believe overall that the program has encouraged cyclists to be aware of their own safety, but it has certainly given motorists more information and a greater understanding of their requirement to make sure that they provide a safe environment for bicycle riders that they are near.

He also said:

… we believe there is a reduction in incidents between cyclists and motorists which result in injury.

The positive experience with minimum passing distance laws has been shared by all stakeholders: cyclists and cycling advocates, drivers, the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland, Queensland Police and the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads.

It is also worth noting in relation to the implementation across the country that in fact every jurisdiction in this country, setting aside the Northern Territory and Victoria, has either some ‘metre matters’ legislation or trials in place. In the case of Western Australia we see the Labor government there of course committing to implement minimum passing distance laws.

I also want to touch briefly on a comment Mr Finn made. He stated that motorists are vile. I just wanted to clarify for the record that the bill in no way reflects that motorists are vile. It is certainly not the intent in any way to describe motorists as vile.

Mr Finn — There is a clear inference.

Ms DUNN — However, although we may not agree on that, Mr Finn, what we do agree on is that, yes, every road user should respect the law. It does not matter if you are on a bicycle or a motorcycle or in a bus, a truck or a car; you should be respecting the laws at hand.

I want to make a few brief points on why this this legislation is so important. We actually teach learner drivers to leave 1 metre. It is part of the learner driver program. As I have stated, we already know that cars can cross white lines to pass obstacles and hazards. In the learner driver guide there are even diagrams of what 1 metre clearance looks like when you are overtaking cyclists or motorcycles. I remind members that there was a federal inquiry held by the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee. The committee recommended that the National Transport Commission amend the model Australian rules to mandate a safe passing distance across the country.

The bill seeks to clarify what a safe distance is because at the moment it is unclear, as the road rules stand, what that actually means. I am sure I do not really have to spend time telling members what the bill says, but it provides that you should leave a distance of 1 metre if you are driving at 60 kilometres an hour or less and if you are going above that, make sure you leave a safe passing distance of 1.5 metres. There has been some speculation on it being difficult to gauge measurements, but I remind members that our road rules are in fact littered with laws that have distances in them that motorists must comply with as part of those rules. There are a range of different rules in place where motorists need to determine distances and sometimes at very short notice. The reality is that when driving or cycling it is a very dynamic environment, and you do need to make split-second decisions. Road rules are based on there being an ability of drivers to gauge distances at very short notice. The one important thing about this is that we know laws guide behaviour.

I wanted to touch on enforcement because I think it is probably quite erroneous to suggest that every single road rule is enforced to the letter of the law. I make the point in relation to mobile phones and texting. There is not a police officer looking at every single car and every single person texting in their car. We do not have an expectation that that law is enforced to the letter of the law in every vehicle, so it is an incredibly high benchmark to expect that a law that will keep cyclists safe needs to be enforced in every single case.

What is important is that if you breach that law, there is in fact something in place for cyclists in terms of having an enforcement mechanism and an evidence basis for them.

I just wanted to briefly mention the inquiry report because I was pleased to submit to the committee, and I thank the members of it for their questions. I think it is notable that that committee is made up of government members, opposition members, the Greens and crossbenchers and in fact there was no minority report in relation to the report that was handed down. I think we have even heard in contributions today that there was a general acceptance that providing a 1-metre clearance is in fact the safest way to treat cyclists on our roads.

In summing up I will say that if there are specific questions about the amendments that have been circulated, I will be happy to answer them in the committee of the whole. I will need to move the amendments as part of that committee process. And finally I say cyclists are somebody’s family members. They belong to somebody’s family, they are somebody’s friend. They are incredibly vulnerable road users. To do anything less than enshrine this protection in law risks their lives. It is very important that we look after these most vulnerable road users, and I would like to think that all members support this bill and all members support these incredibly vulnerable road users, because a metre really does matter. Motion agreed to.