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.


  • Robert says:

    It is a big country, protected bike lanes are not possible everywhere, particularly from country town to country town. This is where “a metre matters” really is important for ‘sports’ cyclists and those that commute over greater distances.
    In suburban areas a lower speed limit along corridors would be beneficial for all, reduce rat running and is a simple inexpensive change to make life better for those that live along those corridors and make cycling on roads safer.

  • Thanks for the comment. Here’s an article by Dr Stephen Fleming on country roads in AU vs NL.

  • Bryce Telfer says:

    The title should use Metre, not Meter (unless you’re in the US). It’s spelled correctly on the side of the truck in the photo.

  • Paul says:

    I have been riding constantly cycling since 1979, I got rid of my car in 1996 just to cycle full time. I did love to live in country areas because the motorists in those areas were more aware and considerate of the cyclists and gave them right of way.
    Now I have moved back to the city, I am terrified of riding on the roads in the area I am in, 99% of motorist take no notice of you being on the side of the road, most roads have no allocation what so ever for cyclists. The government bodies will not attempt to correct or remedy to any great extent as the costs of implementing proper cyclist lanes, more clear and precise marking of roads and sign awareness far out weigh the monitory value that people buying push bikes would generate. To even get any sort of satisfactory system going the health departments and media Australia wide need to drive home to the citizens a health benefit and monitory factor to move from vehicles to cycling. If all these things were put in place a matter of having cycle helmets could be addressed, but right now because of the dangers involved with cycling its the only really safe alternative.

  • Frank Reinthaler says:

    “meter”? Uh-uh. Should be “metre”.

  • In the meantime, while advocacy groups lobby for safe passing laws and better infrastructure, riding defensively by claiming the lane when necessary and being seen on the road is the best course of action for those who currently ride a bike on the road or are thinking of doing it.

    That is, to make the most of the current situation and push on for better changes. If there are no bicycles on the road, then challengers and authorities will perceive no problem to their own interests.


    • Nik Dow says:

      Re Claim the Lane – personally I agree with you and I do mostly ride in the middle of the lane. I’d like to get a T-shirt that says “sorry – no bike lane” so the motorists waiting behind me will instantly become lobbyists for more bike lanes.
      However the average person is too scared of motor vehicle violence to take the lane. It’s not a strategy that will get the masses riding. But for us strong/brave cyclists who can do it, we should do it as much as possible.

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