Victoria is again considering legislation that would mandate a ‘minimum passing distance’ for cyclists, as the new state government enters its fourth month in office.
The laws would require drivers to leave a gap of at least one metre when overtaking cyclists. The issue is one of improving rider safety.
Drivers, however, may not be so keen on the proposed legislation.
There will likely be instances where the new laws, should they come into effect, will require cars to follow a cyclist at low speed for a considerable distance until they can safely and legally cross to the ‘wrong’ side of the road to overtake.
It’s this issue, among others, that sees Victoria’s RACV opposed to the idea, with the motoring group’s Brian Negus saying the laws will not improve safety.
“RACV encourages motorists to always maintain a safe clearance between their vehicle and bicycle riders, but we do not believe mandating a minimum passing distance of one metre will be effective,” Mr Negus said.
“The legislation does not take into account those riders that swerve from bicycle lanes to overtake another rider, which happens often in the inner-city. In cases like this, the new laws would unfairly shift the onus of responsibility for avoiding a crash squarely on the motorist."
Mr Negus said that as the new legislation would allow motorists to cross double white lines while overtaking a cyclist, drivers would be disregarding a road rule that was designed to improve safety.
On hilly roads such as those in the Dandenong Ranges, Mr Negus said, drivers would be crossing double white lines on blind corners and crests in order to overtake cyclists.
"A cyclist slowly riding up a steep road in the Dandenongs will effectively block the road, with all following vehicles unable to safely pass them,” Mr Negus said.
“This new law would put motorists and their passengers at risk of a head-on crash with an oncoming car, truck, coach or motorcycle, if a driver chose to cross a double white line.”
Instead, the RACV is calling on the state government to embark on an education program to inform motorists of existing cyclist safety laws, and the dangers of ‘dooring’.
The RACV also supports more off-road cycleways, and of removing on-street parking rather than the loss of a traffic lane when new on-road cycle lanes are installed.
Cyclists of course, will have a contrary view. Especially given the growth in numbers of cyclists now sharing the roads in the morning and evening commute.
It is time for some smart government policy here and a closer look at some of the European jurisdictions where issues of road-sharing are much better managed.
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