South Australia introduces a minimum passing distance when overtaking cyclists

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South Australia has become the first state or territory of Australia to introduce a permanent, minimum passing distance when overtaking cyclists.

From October 25, 2015 South Australian road users will be required to leave at least one metre when overtaking cyclists on roads with speed limits up to and including 60km/h. On roads with higher speed limits, the minimum passing distance will be 1.5 metres.

The new law is part of a suite of cycling measures that will be implemented in South Australia following recommendations by a Citizens Jury earlier this year.

Amy Gillett Foundation chairman Mark Textor has welcomed the decision.

“Having commemorated ten years since Amy’s death earlier this year, we now have the first state to put ‘a metre matters’ into law,” Mr Textor said. “The Foundation has spearheaded the national effort on this because it will help save lives.

“The decision is a breakthrough for the Amy Gillett Foundation and marks a significant milestone in the foundation’s history.”

While South Australia is the first state or territory to pass a permanent minimum passing distance law, Queensland began a two-year trial of a similar law in late 2013. The ACT is set to commence its own trial in November. Mark Textor believes the introduction of the South Australian law and trials elsewhere in the country demonstrate a growing committment to cyclist safety in Australia.

“Amending the road rules to mandate a minimum overtaking distance will help reduce crashes between vehicles and bike riders by changing behaviour,” Mr Textor said. “We know that the ‘one-metre rule’ trial is working in Queensland and it will have an immediate impact on the safety of bike riders in South Australia,” Mr Textor said.

Since 2009, the Amy Gillett Foundation has used its “A Metre Matters” campaign to push for mandatory passing distances in Australia. As it stands, the road rules of most states mirror those found in the Australian Road Rules, rule 144 of which currently dictates that “A driver overtaking a vehicle … must pass the vehicle at a sufficient distance to avoid a collision with the vehicle”. The amendments to the South Australian law will remove any ambiguity around the phrase “sufficient distance” by replacing it with a discrete distance.

While the “A Metre Matters” campaign has attracted widespread support from Australian cyclists, there are those who debate its efficacy. In late 2013, Bicycle Network’s government & external relations officer Garry Brennan told CyclingTips that the organisation didn’t support minimum passing distances because there was no evidence to suggest they would improve rider safety.

“Giving cyclists more room is definitely better but … there’s no link between a law and giving cyclists more room,” Brennan said. “Where the law has been introduced and research has been done, the vehicles are not giving cyclists more room.”

“In this case it would be improper for us to pretend that a fixed one-metre law would be beneficial for bike riders when we know that it wouldn’t.”

Amy Gillett Foundation chairman Mark Textor believes South Australia’s new law will indeed be beneficial.

“A metre matters because it provides a practical measurement for drivers when overtaking bike riders,”Mr Textor said. “As Australia’s leading bike rider safety organisation, our mission is to achieve zero bike fatalities in Australia and this move will make a difference in achieving that goal.”

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