High time a road rule based on awareness saved lives

The recovery of Luke Taylor after a horrific accident on Cuthberts Road again shines the spotlight on the vulnerability of cyclists on regional roads and the need for the Victorian Government to act on appropriate protective laws. On the weekend, West Australia became the latest to sign up to critical passing laws; ensuring motorists leave minimum gaps when passing cyclists.

The new rules require drivers passing a cyclist to do so at a minimum distance of one metre when the speed limit is 60km/h or less and 1.5 metres when it is higher than 60km/h. Drivers are also allowed to cross centre lane markings on roads, including double white lines, to ensure the appropriate passing distance. Victoria is alone among Australian states to be dragging its heals on this change despite having one of the highest numbers of cyclist and far too many horror stories like Luke Taylor’s.

The city that called champion cyclist Amy Gillett home before her premature death being hit by a car and the many others working tirelessly to implement her “one metre matters” rule has every reason to demand the state government cease the procrastinating.

Objectors quibble about motorists crossing the centre line but after three years in place in Queensland this has not been an issue. While the real objection is likely to be the fear of having to slow down, the fundamental law remains unchanged; a driver should only pass or only cross the centre line when it is safe to do so. Far more important in the law than any issue of enforcement however is the law’s capacity to raise awareness of shared road use. This is a crucial first step in addressing a broader problem of recognising bicycle riders as legitimate road users, with an accompanying right to ride safely on roads.  With that right naturally comes the mutual obligation of obeying road rules but this law is about raising the level of awareness and knowledge of those rules and how they can make everyone safer.

It has nothing to do with the cost paid by road users; registration does not pay for roads, and most cyclists are both taxpayers and motorists as well - making nonsense of a diminished right through diminished payment argument.  Many motorists are simply not aware of the rights of bicycle riders and the challenges they face in navigating a road system designed primarily for motor vehicles, underpinning a stubborn prejudice that bicycle riders are “rogue” road users.

For safety’s sake, it is time to think about a new way of seeing other road users.