Minimum passing distance
ACT drivers are keeping their distance

ACT motorists are generally giving people who ride bikes enough distance when passing, however, compliance decreases on high-speed roads and highways.

The new University of Adelaide study revealed that people who drive in Canberra are generally compliant with the territory’s year-old minimum passing distance law.

After a two-year trial the ACT legislated minimum passing distance law in late 2017, requiring drivers to keep at least one-metre distance from cyclists when passing at speeds up to 60kmh and 1.5m at higher speeds.

Over August and September in 2018, the study used sensor boxes, GPS and a data logger on participating bikes to examine more than 272 hours and 6351 kilometres of data by gathered by 23 riding volunteers.

The study found that on roads with a 60km/h or lower speed limit, 97.3 per cent of ACT drivers kept the required distance. While the compliance is still high, it drops to 88.8 per cent at speeds above 60km/h.

However, many bike riders still feel that not enough is being done to enforce the laws. Between July 1, 2016 and March 25 2018, ACT Policing issued just seven traffic infringement notices and nine cautions for overtaking a bicycle too closely.

Bicycle Network has called for the introduction of a special policing unit to actively enforce the safe passing of people who ride bikes on the road.

Modelled on Operation Close Pass, by West Midlands Police in the UK, the award-winning program involves plainclothes police officers on bikes equipped with cameras that alert uniformed colleagues of close passes or other instances of poor driving. Drivers are then offered road-side education but repeat offenders, or dangerous drivers can be prosecuted.

Since the introduction of Operation Closs Pass in the UK, the number of bike riders killed or seriously hurt on the region’s roads has dropped by a fifth, with almost 200 drivers stopped, 13 prosecuted and an additional 350 fined through a review of helmet and dash-cam footage.

Implementing a similar program in the ACT would require the police to set up a special traffic policing unit to target driver behaviour towards bike riders. The unit would also be responsible for establishing an online portal and processing online reports of close pass drivers.

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