New road rules to protect Vic cyclists

·3-min read

New rules will come into effect in Victoria next week requiring motorists to give cyclists a wide berth when passing them on roads.

From Monday, motorists must give riders at least one-metre clearance when overtaking on roads up to 60km/h, and 1.5 metres on roads with speed limits above 60km/h.

The new rules bring Victoria into line with all other states, which already have minimum passing distance laws in place.

Roads Minister Ben Carroll said 13 cyclists lost their lives on Victoria's roads in 2020, an increase on the five-year average of 10 deaths.

"Last year was a horrible year on our road for cyclists. These measures will ensure everyone has a safe place on our roads," he said in a statement on Friday.

"This new rule provides a clear direction on how much space motorists should give cyclists when passing. We all share the roads and need to look out for one another."

Under the updated rules, drivers and motorcyclists can briefly cross painted lines to give cyclists the space they need - including solid lines, double lines, painted tram lane lines and painted islands - but only when they have a clear view ahead and it's safe to do so.

Improper overtaking or passing offences will incur two demerit points and on-the-spot fines of $330. If the matter proceeds through court, the fine can increase to $1652.

Mr Carroll says cyclists will need to follow the road rules as well, including by riding predictably, in bike lanes when they are provided and using hand signals to change direction.

Cycling has surged in popularity in Melbourne due to COVID-19, with bike use in some areas increasing by as much as 300 per cent.

National cycling safety charity the Amy Gillett Foundation welcomed the new rules, having campaigned for more than a decade to make them happen.

"We've seen that this rule does make a difference, it does make it safer for cyclists, it actually saves lives," charity CEO Dan Kneipp told reporters.

"When you're having to deal with a cyclist being killed on the road, there's a very traumatised family, but there's often a very traumatised driver and the family of that driver. We wouldn't wish that on anyone.

"This simple law change provides clarity for drivers on how much space to provide."

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Libby Murphy conceded it would be a difficult rule to enforce.

"Obviously a metre is problematic to prove in particular circumstances, but we will work through it," she said.

"We will be running both covert and overt operations in relation to that and we will be able to know what a metre is in particular circumstances."

She said Victoria Police would employ measuring technology to enforce the new rules.

Earlier, Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said the rules were more about education than punishment.

"It's about sending a message to everyone," he told 3AW radio.

"We'll be using discretion where appropriate and trying to educate drivers."