More people are riding bikes these days and, without dedicated bike tracks, have to share the roads with motor vehicles. This can be dangerous, as an average of 11 riders are killed and 1,500 seriously injured in NSW every year.
Minimum passing distance
Minister for Roads, Duncan Gay, has introduced Minimum Passing Distance legislation from 1 March 2016 to help make NSW roads safer.
From 1 March 2016, drivers who are passing a bicycle rider must allow a distance of at least:
- 1 metre when the speed limit is 60km per hour or less
- 1.5 metres when the speed limit is more than 60km per hour.
Phoebe Dunn, CEO of Amy Gillett Foundation (AGF), an organisation dedicated to making cycling safer says:
“It gives them [cyclists] a virtual space, a virtual safety zone. This is a very easy change to make for governments … it costs very little compared to other measures. That’s for every cyclist, not just the ‘lycra brigade’.”
Exemptions for motorists
Of course, there are times when giving a bicycle rider the minimum distance will put the motorist into danger or cause them to break another law, such as crossing a solid white line.
From 1 March 2016, if you need to pass a bicycle rider – if safe to do so – you no longer need to:
- Keep left on a two-way road with no dividing line
- Stay left of a broken or unbroken centre line
- Keep off a dividing strip or painted island
- Drive within a single marked lane or line of traffic
- Move from one marked lane to another across a continuous line separating lanes.
Penalties for motorists and cyclists
Motorists who do not give bicycle riders the minimum passing distance will be fined $319 and lose two demerit points.
Cyclists will also receive heavy fines for high-risk behaviour, which puts them on a par with fines for motorists. From 1 March 2016, all cyclist fines will rocket up from $71 to as much as $425:
- Running a red light $425
- Riding dangerously $425
- Not stopping at children’s or pedestrian crossings – $425
- Not wearing a helmet – $319
- Holding on to a moving vehicle – $319
- Riding at night without lights – $106.
ID for cyclists over 18
Just as motorists have to carry their driver licence, cyclists over 18 must from 1 March 2016 carry some photo ID. This could be a driver licence or a NSW photo card. A 5-year NSW photo card costs $51, unless you are pensioner or concession holder.
Bicycle NSW and AGF are pleased with the minimum passing legislation because it helps to make bike riders safer and catches up with Queensland, ACT and South Australia.
Even so, the cycling community is split over such huge increases in penalties when bike riders have a much smaller share of the road than motorists. Riding without a helmet is contentious too, given that so many European cities allow it.