New South Wales motorists will face $330 fines if they are caught driving too close to cyclists, after a trial found a one-metre distance dropped the rate of crashes.
Roads Minister Melinda Pavey on Wednesday announced the minimum passing distance rule would be made permanent, after the two-year trial reduced the number of serious crashes between cyclists and vehicles by about 15 per cent.
Drivers will be required to leave at least one metre between them and cyclists when driving below 60km/h, or at least 1.5 metres where the speed limit is above 60.
Fines of up to $330 and a loss of two demerit points will apply.
“There has to be respect both ways, and there has to be common sense,” Ms Pavey said on Wednesday.
“We must respect that space that cyclists need.”
The law will allow drivers to cross the centre white line when passing a cyclist, if the road ahead is clear.
Amy Gillett Foundation CEO Phoebe Dunn said the legislation gave motorists clear expectations on what they are required to do.
“Cyclists have always been, and are, legitimate road users. What this helps to do is give that clear notice to motorists that cyclists have a right to be on the road,” Ms Dunn told The New Daily.
“It creates a virtual bike lane around cyclists, where there might not be a separated bike lane.”
Bicycle NSW said 70 motorists had been slapped with infringements since the safe passing rules trial began in 2016. But the cycling body said it received at least daily calls from members about drivers passing them unsafely.
Ms Dunn said she would be happy for there to be no fines doled out, but hoped it would be enforced.
“We’d prefer that no fines are issued if it means giving cyclists the right amount of space when they’re passing them.”
Ms Pavey said “common sense” drivers supported the rule, with 81 per cent of cyclists and 69 per cent of drivers supporting the trial.
Bicycle NSW said cyclists were the most vulnerable road users, and this would help to keep them safe – while encouraging more to get out on the roads.
“Motor vehicles at any speed can cause considerable damage, even death, to a rider,” the body said in a statement.
“Vehicles passing too close is a major concern and often scares people away from the benefits of bike riding.”
The Amy Gillett Foundation promoted the one-metre rule since former cycling champion Gillett was killed in a 2005 crash while training in Europe, with her home state of South Australia being the first state to make it law in 2015.
Similar laws also exist in Queensland, Tasmania, ACT and Western Australia. The Northern Territory has committed to introducing similar laws. Victoria remains the only state with no legislated safe passing distance.
“We’re looking to the Victorian government now to really encourage them to follow the rest of Australia in introducing these important cycling safety laws,” Ms Dunn said.
She said she also wanted to see education for young drivers, and for them to be taught cycle awareness before they get behind the wheel.