As A Meter Matters legislation is set to come into effect in Victoria this year, The Courier takes a close look at why it matters so much.
The successful A Metre Matters campaign that began with the death of Buninyong cyclist Amy Gillett has friends, family and advocates hoping for a new era in road sharing.
This is part one in a three-part online series.
IF YOU are uncertain how much one metre matters, imagine standing with your toes right on that yellow line near the edge of the station platform when a train goes roaring past.
Cyclist and physiotherapist Michael Pierce says this is how it feels out riding on the road when a motorist passed too close. "Horrible".
Recreational, competitive and commuter cycling leader across Ballarat make clear road safety is just as much riders' responsibility as it is motorists in what is a shared space.
New one-metre passing laws - extended to 1.5m on roads exceeding 60kmh - are set to be enforced on Victorian roads early this year. The rule was introduced into Victorian Parliament on October 7.
This follows a decade-and-a-half long road safety campaign led by the Amy Gillett Foundation.
Victoria is the final state in Australia to adopt the road rule, having instead opted for a greater push on cycling awareness.
Ballarat cyclists were more confident a clear rule for motorists will better raise awareness and legitimise their right to ride on the road.
Saxons cyclist Brian Harrison still gets nervous at times when other riders call out a car is coming up behind them.
Mr Harrison was hit by a woman driving a campervan on Clunes-Creswick Road, near Gillies Street last year. He was riding with five others from his social riding club in single file when she moved to overtake, with on-coming traffic ahead. The woman side-swiped three of his group and did not stop.
A couple of seconds wait for oncoming traffic to pass and the woman could have safely cleared them.
Nearby motorists followed the woman only to get a response along the lines of "not my problem, they should not be on the road."
Mr Harrison was left with a broken pelvis and vertebrae.
I just ask everyone be patient - and that same rule goes for cyclists, too...Everyone looking and everyone being kind.Brian Harrison
"I just ask everyone be patient - and that same rule goes for cyclists, too," Mr Harrison says. "Cars are getting better at understanding bike riders are entitled to use the road too, but riders need to be doing the right thing - no riding through red lights or riding four abreast...We are allowed to ride two abreast and Bicycle Network advises we ride two abreast, where possible, because cyclists are much more noticeable.
"Roads require cooperation - everyone looking and everyone being kind."
Mr Harrison now helps teach older riders road skills. He says most are terrified about the prospect of getting on the road, particularly females. In a trend for more inexperienced riders getting on their bikes in the pandemic, Mr Harrison says greater awareness is needed to keep people safe and happy riding.
The crash did not deter Mr Harrison, despite his wife urging him to switch to popular virtual platform Zwift. He enjoys being in the country side with the social side of riding.
Lake Health Group director and physiotherapist Michael Pierce is well-versed in guiding clients' recovery from cycling injuries and has had a fair share of his own.
Only now, Mr Pierce is worked his way back from a shattered hip that has left him debilitated. The injury was from a "freak accident" and did not involve any cars but it was a sharp reminder for how quickly things can go bad for anyone on the road - and the importance a buffer could make.
Mr Pierce was thrown from his bike while riding with trusted friends in October. It was his turn to lead out in front along Gillies Street near the turn to the Clunes road. He landed in the middle of the road, one frequented by big trucks.
Out riding, Mr Pierce has experienced verbal tirades, golf balls thrown at him and motorists veering close to "give you a fright". Near Haddon, when riding in a single file and waving the driver to pass, his group has been repeatedly cut off. That was all when doing the right thing on the road.
"I remember being in Queensland last year, up there they have the metre rule, and I was thinking 'why do we not have this in Victoria'," Mr Pierce says. "...I don't think cars understand if I see a cyclist, it's actually a big deal."
Mr Pierce has long been careful and smart in planning his rides: picking quieter routes; not riding into the run, because the glare might make it harder for a passing motorist to see him; and never going out by himself. Mr Pierce is also particular about who he goes with on long rides.
"When you're riding at 50 or 60kmh you need to trust the riders because you get close. I'd rather know who I am riding with compared to people who have no idea," Mr Pierce says. "The roads are really horrible at the moment - there are big lumps missing and potholes - we need to be pointing that stuff out to each other, the same way we do gravel...it's those extra little tips that matter."
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Mr Pierce says riders who do the wrong things, lacking awareness, were just as much at fault when it came to issues in safe road use. But he too, was aware of riders, predominantly females, who were reluctant to trust other drivers and their own skill sets.
It took Mr Pierce 10 weeks' rehabilitation to get back riding on the road, drawing on his experience in sports physiotherapy. Normally one to ride-on with injury and broken bones, nothing has stopped Mr Pierce like this injury. He rides for his mental health and the social benefits that cycling offers and wants others to enjoy these benefits and feel safe.
The pandemic trend has been in hybrid bikes (a cross between a road and mountain bike) and e-bikes that help power people of all fitness abilities along. Both are popular commuter options and neither needs petrol.
Ballarat-Sebastopol Cycling Club president Tim Canny says people - adults and children - still need bike skills to be able to safely ride these bikes. Mr Canny says his club can assist in training and programs but, as a volunteer organisation, this needed help from areas like City of Ballarat to step up and make this a sustainable focus.
With bicycle education programs now limited or non-existent in most primary schools, Ballarat-Sebastopol has launched a junior cycling program this summer to help build skills and safety awareness.
We need more people on bikes, riding to school or work, or else our roads will get more congestion. To do that, we need more kids on bikes and adults learning.Tim Canny, Ballarat-Sebastopol Cycling Club president
"We're not just a race club, we foster cycling for everyone...A big part of the learning experience is in helping people to ride bikes safely," Mr Canny says. "We need more people on bikes, riding to school or work, or else our roads will get more congestion. To do that, we need more kids on bikes and adults learning. There needs to be driver education too, that the roads are there to be shared."
Ballarat-Sebastopol is working with council to develop a dedicated criterium circuit. The club gets permits to race in Victoria Park but is keen to have a safe, standalone space in Marty Busch Reserve where there is a BMX track and velodrome.
The club has long-championed road safety for all riders and Mr Canny welcomes the one-metre passing rule as a step towards greater protection.
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