Victorian cyclists are finally getting a minimum distance overtaking rule

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It’s been a long road for cyclists in Victoria but finally, after more than a decade of campaigning, the state is set to get a minimum distance passing law (MDPL) for drivers overtaking riders.

The Victorian government today announced that the so-called “metre matters” legislation will be introduced in 2021, “improving cyclist safety and ensuring passing distance rules [are] clear and consistent across state lines for all road users.”

Victoria’s existing overtaking law is vague, saying that “A driver overtaking a vehicle must pass the vehicle at a sufficient distance to avoid a collision with the vehicle or obstructing the path of the vehicle.” With the law change, “sufficient distance” will be replaced with defined minimums of 1 metre when passing a cyclist in speed zones of 60 km/h or lower, and 1.5 metres in speed zones over 60 km/h.

Victoria is the final Australian state or territory to introduce an MDPL. Advocacy body the Amy Gillett Foundation started its national “A Metre Matters” campaign back in 2009 but it wasn’t until 2014 that Queensland became the first state to trial the proposed law. Since then all states and territories bar Victoria have introduced an MDPL of some kind.

Victoria looked close to introducing an overtaking law on several occasions in recent years, but in each case the campaign didn’t attract enough support within the state’s Labor government.

In January 2020 Victoria’s peak motoring body, the RACV, joined renewed calls for the state to introduce an MDPL. In April, the Greens party reintroduced ‘metre matters’ legislation to the Victorian parliament for a third time. The Labor government now appears to be in support of such legislation.

Amy Gillett Foundation CEO Dan Kneipp hailed the introduction of the new law.

“Today’s announcement is a huge step forward for cycling in Victoria,” he said. “We’ve advocated tirelessly for A Metre Matters in Victoria and today the cycling community celebrates the hard work of all of our partners and supporters who understand this update makes it safer for both cyclists and drivers sharing the road.”

RACV Senior Manager Transport, Peter Kartsidimas said the new law was “a win for Victorian motorists and cyclists alike”.

“Many more Victorians have taken up cycling and we expect these numbers to continue to soar as people choose private vehicles instead of public transport as a result of COVID-19,” he said. “Now, more than ever, we need both cyclists and motorists to feel safe on our transport network and a minimum passing distance can play a significant part in ensuring everyone gets home safely. RACV would welcome the opportunity to work with government in implementing this rule and addressing the unique issues on Victorian roads.”

The new passing distance legislation was announced as part of a government package which also includes a $13 million investment in 100 km of temporary separated bike lanes across inner-city Melbourne, including the suburbs of Footscray, St. Kilda and Northcote. The goal: “to make it easier and safer for people cycling to and from the CBD”, while easing congestion on public transport as the city starts to return to normality post-COVID-19.

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