2014 February

Hierarchy of Controls

The Hierarchy of Controls is a “system used in industry to minimize or eliminate exposure to hazards“.

Bicycle helmets come at the bottom, or least effective end of the pyramid, as they are “personal protective equipment”.

What would this diagram translate to if applied to safety for cyclists?


How can we eliminate cars? Actually it’s already been done, in certain places.  Think, pedestrian malls, off-road bike paths, parks and gardens. No deaths due to motor vehicles where they are eliminated.  Expanding such areas is therefore the most effective way of improving safety for cyclists (and pedestrians). More car-free areas in our cities, for example.  Banning cars from outside schools would help get more children walking and cycling to school.


More use of walking, cycling and public transport substitutes for car use. How is this achieved? By making these modes more attractive than driving a car.


For bicycles, this covers physical separation, e.g. by a kerb or a barrier. Also underpasses or bridges that avoid crossing roads at grade. In other words, what we call “infrastructure”.


For bicycles, this covers white lines painted on the road, speed limits, bicycle symbols painted on the road and all rules such as “a meter matters“.


Advertising campaigns and education efforts, such as those promoted by the Amy Gillett Foundation.

Personal Protective Equipment

The least effective measure. Helmets.

A Meter Matters

Update December 22nd 2015

The recent announcement of cyclist registration in NSW, plus increasing fines, including $319 for not wearing a helmet and other higher fines is anti-cyclist legislation by the notoriously anti-cyclist NSW state government. This is the price they have levied for introducing a one-meter rule, and the higher fines and cyclist registration is believed to be supported by Cycling [sport] NSW and the Amy Gillett Foundation.  These sport-cycling organisations have no idea how much they are setting back the all-too-gradual increase in everyday use of the bicycle for transport. Sports cyclists ride on the road with cars and feel that they benefit from a one-meter rule, fair enough – but not at the price of laws that make cycling less convenient and attractive to the majority.

Update June 3rd 2014

It appears that the Queensland Police do not like the one meter law and are not enforcing it, even refusing to take action when a breach was filmed. They have instead made a point of singling out cyclists for enforcement – and of course there are now higher fines to hit cyclists with.  So if you were in favour of a safe passing distance law, make sure the police are on board first.

Original article published 4/2/2014

The recent Queensland Parliamentary enquiry into cycling recommended a law for a minimum passing distance when a motor vehicle overtakes a bicycle.  The minister was quick to announce that this measure would be implemented, while at the same time saying he opposed the committee’s recommended reform to helmet law.

On the surface, a passing distance law looks like a good thing. Most of us would welcome a decent distance between ourselves and a car that overtakes us.  Others criticize the law as “unenforcable” or not evidence-based (i.e. it won’t reduce collisions). Freestyle Cyclists’ view is that the law is at best an interim measure for arterial roads, but more importantly we should be working to get safe, protected bike lanes, and action on local streets to remove rat-running through traffic and reduce speeds. The problem with interim measures is that they take the pressure off government to do the harder but more effective things that are needed.

A more fundamental problem with a passing distance law is that it relies on motorists to see cyclists and act appropriately. Any safety system that primarily relies on vigilance by motor vehicle operators has failure built in. Of course the need for care and attention by drivers can’t be dispensed with (self-driven cars aside), but the less the road system relies on drivers to pay attention, the better for safety. This is the principle behind the Dutch system of “sustainable safety” by the way.  Hi-viz clothing is a flawed strategy for the same reason.

Sport cyclists ride on the road, often in large bunches, at high speed.  They don’t see protected bike lanes as part of the solution, because such lanes aren’t suitable for their needs. Sports Cycling organisations who promote measures that suit sport cyclists, are not helping to promote cycling by everyday people for their daily transport needs.

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