Aussie state introduces controversial new cyclist road rule

A long-awaited road rule is set to come into force in Victoria following immense pressure from a charity group which spent a decade lobbying for the change.

Drivers travelling faster than 60km/h will, from 2021, need to keep 1.5 metres from a cyclist, while one metre will need to be kept when travelling slower than 60km/h.

The “A Metre Matters” rule - part of a campaign launched by The Amy Gillett Foundation in 2009 - was announced by the charity on Wednesday to be going ahead for Victoria.

The state government is expected to announce that from next year, it will join every other Australian state and territory in enforcing the rule, according to the national cycling safety charity.

Photo shows a cyclist on a Melbourne road wearing a face mask.
Cars going faster than 60km/h will need to be 1.5 metres from cyclists in a new rule for Victoria. Source: Getty Images

“Today’s announcement is a huge step forward for cycling in Victoria. 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,” Amy Gillett Foundation (AGF) CEO Dan Kneipp said.

Queensland introduced the law in April 2016, NSW in May 2018, the ACT in October 2018, Tasmania in September 2017, Western Australia in November 2017, South Australia in October 2015 and the Northern Territory in August 2019.

A NSW rider recently showed video to police suggesting a car had travelled to close to him but it was the cyclist who was fined for not riding near enough to the left.

The Victorian government in 2017 opted against legislating the minimum passing distance in favour of rolling out an education campaign named “Give the Space to Bike Riders” which lasted two years.

The one-metre rule has been listed as a general guideline on VicRoads, but this was described as inadequate by Dr Marilyn Johnson, AGF Research and Policy Manager and Senior Researcher at the Monash University Institute of Transport Studies.

“The original road rule was vague and didn’t provide drivers with any guidance. With today’s announcement, the road rule is clear, now we know the minimum space to give when we drive past a cyclist, it’s consistent nationally and will provide a safe space around everyone riding every kind of bike on every road,” Dr Johnson said.

In a survey conducted by AGF with Victorians in 2016, nine out of 10 people supported the introduction of the “A Metre Matters” rule.

The implementation of legislation benefitting cyclists however, is never usually short of controversy.

A reminder from VicRoads for drivers to be mindful of keeping distance between their vehicles and cyclists attracted hundreds of responses from peeved motorists.

“Make them (cyclists) pay rego and insurance and have one bike in the lane not two or three or more. It’s a joke they get this,” one irate social media wrote in a comment.

Photo shows cyclists in Melbourne riding on the road.
Drivers will legally have to keep at least one metre between their vehicle and cyclists from next year. Source: Getty Images

“They forget that giving them more room put's my wheels over the centre line creating a possible head-on for me,” someone else said.

“Safety is the responsibility of cyclists as well as motorists. I regularly see idiots in cars and on bikes,” a third wrote.

To ease congestion caused by increasing numbers of cyclists on the roads, the Victorian government is also expected to announce a $13 million investment in 100km of new cycling routes.

The channels, while only temporary, are expected to be installed throughout key inner-Melbourne suburbs to make it safer for people cycling to and from the CBD.

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