This is the bit where we tell you why we're doing this
The aim for us was always to get a minimum safe passing distance when being overtaken by motorists. Initially we didn't ask for 1.5m It seemed simple at the time. I felt that road infrastructure in our cities was unable to comfortably provide cyclists with such a buffer zone without inconveniencing drivers. I'm embarrassed to say that I made the mistake of thinking that until driver attitude's change, we would have a difficult time asking for more than a metre without tension increasing on our roads, and the other major cities were no different.
Motorists already had always had the ability to overtake by one metre or more depending on the road, but research over the last ten years has repeatedly shown that many drivers openly admit to refusing to allow cyclists enough room when passing. This is concerning when you consider that safety is a prime concern for existing and potential cyclists.
According to Wave 3 research conducted in September 1998 by the Queensland Government, an 'unsafe riding environment' was one of the top four reasons why cyclists had stopped riding. Queensland Transport market research provided specific data about driver interaction with cyclists. They found that 20% of motorists surveyed admitted to failing to move over for cyclists, with males aged under 30 years the least likely to move over. 21% of motorists said they would not move over for a cyclist if there was lots of traffic in the next lane preventing them from moving over. In addition to this, 15% of motorists would fail to move over if they thought the road wasn’t wide enough.
Queensland Transport’s SafeST research in July 1999 also surveyed motorists’ attitudes towards cyclists. The survey found one in five motorists did not regard cyclists as legitimate road users.
Ten years on and these results Are from market research conducted by AAMI early in 2010...
AAMI Corporate Affairs Manager Yves Noldus: “Our research indicates that the interaction between cars and bicycles, particularly in urban areas, continues to be a source of conflict for riders and drivers alike. Many of the responses we received highlight that motorists tend to see cyclists as a nuisance and are not always willing to share the road. . Two in three drivers (66%) say they find cyclists hard to see and a similar proportion (65%) qualify them as a road hazard outright. One-in-four (26%) say they have had an accident or a near miss with a cyclist."
We now believe that with driver attitudes not changing in the last decade, and in many parts of the country, actually deteriorating, the cycling community needs to do all it can in order to increase our legal rights and maintain our presence on Australian roads. To that we've been proposing that these two measures be introduced into the Australian Road Rules:
1) We lobby for a Minimum Safe Passing Distance Rule of one point five (1.5) metres - up until 2011 it was still only 1m - to be introduced by lobbying our respective State Transport Ministers as well as the Federal Minister. According to successive Queensland Transport Ministers beginning with Rachel Nolan in response to the '09 Queensland Minimum Safe Passing Distance petition and through until early in 2013, the State's are unlikely to incorporate the rule into State law codes until is recommendation is made by the National Transport Commission.
2)We also push for the introduction of signage such as that shown on this page, to be made the standard nationally to further highlight the existance of such a rule, and which will serve to remind motorists of their responsability to pass by cyclists safely.
Signage like this should be made the national standard in Australia. Thanks to the support of everyone in Queensland, we saw "Share The Road" signage rolled out around Brisbane in 2010, the first city in Australia to do so. As with many advocates worldwide today, we now feel that this message has only served to further disadvantage and marginalise cyclists.
How We Started
I first heard about safe passing distances after my parents returned from spending two weeks in New Zealand over Christmas 2009/10 with family. After hearing of the change in the last few years of drivers attitudes towards cyclists, I began to wonder how much of a difference such a measure could have here in Queensland.
Over the three months that the petition ran up here I was impressed by the support given and the publicity it received. Radio and print interviews, the support of many of Queensland's BUG's, some of Brisbane's largest bike retailers, and the notable backing of professional cyclist's Robbie McEwen and Rachel Neylan. Please don't confuse this talented and generous athlete with Queensland's Transport Minister Rachel Nolan, they each do different stuff. For a start, Rachel Neylan is a committed and passionate cyclist who also happens to be the AGF's Scholarship winner for 2010. While the Transport Minister views the same issue in a slightly different way.
After throwing the idea around with a few die hard Brisbane riders on the Roadgrime forum, I decided to try and do something to make cycling safer and enable more people to participate in and enjoy in the way I always have. At this point I was unaware of the Amy Gillet Foundation's long-standing Campaign.
This was the Queensland Government's response to the petition:
"I refer to petition numbers 1407-10 and 1504-10 lodged with the Legislative Assembly by Mrs Julie Attwood MP on 4 August 2010, about the minimum safe passing distance between cyclists and motorists. In 1999 Queensland adopted the Australian Road Rides (ARR) into state legislation. This means that the road rules in all jurisdictions of Australia, including rules about the distance between cyclists and vehicles, are essentially uniform. The road traffic authorities in each state or territory must agree to any significant changes to the ARR in order to preserve that uniformity. Once the ARR have been amended, these changes are then incorporated in the legislation of each state and territory. In the case of Queensland, this is the Queensland Road Rules (QRR).
The Department of Transport and Main Roads advises that leaving a minimum of one metre clearance when passing a bicycle is a recommendation, not a rule. The QRR currently provide that a driver must not overtake a vehicle unless the driver can do so safely and that an overtaking driver must leave sufficient distance from another vehicle, including a bicycle, to avoid a collision. The Bligh Government is passionately committed to getting more people cycling, We actively promote cycle safety through the Share the Road campaign and last year spend $100m constructing bike paths around the state.
The introduction of a specific rule to restrict vehicles to keeping one metre from cyclists would be, in many cases, detrimental to cyclists. The safe distance between a cyclist and a vehicle varies considerably depending on the speed the vehicles are travelling. For example, where a vehicle is travelling at 100km/h a distance of one metre is dangerously close, but at very low speeds distances of less than one meter may be safe. To provide a law making a one metre distance mandatory would make it illegal for cyclists to move slowly and closely past queued vehicles. This is not a desired outcome for cyclists."The reply that had been given was, in my opinion, unacceptable and lacking in any forethought, given the Queensland Governments understanding of our State's driver attitudes, our rapidly increasing congestion and the sudden escalation in Road Rage incidents towards cyclists.
Cycling has always been a passion for me. When I decided to get back on a bike after eighteen years however, I found the roads to be a far more daunting proposition than ever. I am alarmed by the frequency of serious accidents and fatalities on our roads involving cyclists, and my wife has become increasingly concerned about my decision to ride again rather than take up golf.
We rolled Bruce II out in May at the request of Patricia Pollett on the day that the man charged with taking her son Richard's life - Luke Stevens - was found not guilty of causing his death thanks to the catastrophic failure of RR144.
We all know that thanks to Bruce II, the 6198 signatures and international support it recieved, the Pollett family's support, and the incredible efforts of Dr Bruce Flegg - the Hon. Member for Moggil and his staff, we raised enough support to convince the Transport Minister Scott Emerson to launch the 2013 Parliamentary Inquiry into Cycling Issues.
I don't want to lose my right as a cyclist to share the roads and participate in something that I truly love. I had hoped that this petition, or Bruce as it has now been affectionately called, would help us to gain the respect and courtesy that my parents were so fortunate to witness.
I'm off for a ride.
Dave Sharp - Director, Safe Cycling Australia