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Share the road

Victoria to focus on safety priorities

26 March 2015. The rejection by the State Government and the Victorian Opposition of the latest push for mandated one metre passing laws has cleared the way for renewed focus on the top priorities for improving the road environment for Victorian riders.

The Victorian Greens have revived their failed 2014 campaign for one-metre laws, and introduced the Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Overtaking Bicycles) Bill 2015 into Parliament recently.

But it found no favour with the major political parties, both of who have again rejected the proposed laws as unwarranted and unenforceable. Nor have the proposals won endorsement from VicRoads or Victoria Police.

With one metre laws off the table, now is the time to concentrate on the much more serious risk to riders' welfare—intersection collisions, and doorings.

Victoria already has safe passing laws, and recommends that drivers leave a metre or more leeway for bikes.

Bicycle Network has maintained that one-metre laws should not be automatically rejected out of hand: rather they should be considered only if there was evidence that they were effective and reduced the risk to riders on the road.

Although such laws have been in place in jurisdictions around the world for an extended time, they have not been proved to work.

On the other hand, Victoria’s recent record on reducing bike rider risk has been impressive. It has never been safer to ride a bike in Victoria than it is today, despite the massive increase in the number of bikes in the street.

But there are still some areas of serious concern where their needs to be renewed focus on addressing the real risks facing riders.

These issues need to be prioritised for action and addressed professionally with the Safe Systems approach to road safety adopted by the Federal Government and all states governments.

According to official crash statistics, the big risks to riders are from intersections and doorings.

VicRoads collects and analyses this data and makes it available to the community so that interested individuals and groups can make informed judgments regarding road safety priorities, and where investment to reduce risks should be directed.

The data

The standard Australian scheme for classifying crashes is called DCA - definitions for classifying accidents. There is a DCA chart here from the City of Port Phillip that shows how the crashes are recorded. (The entire Port Phillip Road Safety Strategy can be downloaded.)

This graph shows the nature of the problem with intersection crashes and doorings dominant. The infamous "right through" (where a vehicle turns right across the path of a bike going straight ahead) has regained its position at the top of the ladder. "Cross traffic" and "Left turn side swipe".

There are various methods of analysing crash data, but no matter the method or the location, intersections loom as the largest contributor to crashes.

The heat mapping of crashes types to locations is also revealing. These show that environmental factors are a powerful influence over risk.

Similarly, crash types charted to municipality also show that generalising from crash stats is not always straight forward as the style of riding and the road environment differs from area to area.

Doorings mapped to locations reveals that the extent of the problem is concentrated on a finite number of streets, confirming that if those streets are prioritised for improvement, doorings can be significantly reduced.

The time of day of crashes has remained constant over the years for bike riders, although these charts clearly show a difference with other travel modes.

And the crash pattern at weekends shows that recreational riders obviously are more spread through the day compared to commuters. And in this graph the lower total numbers in the weekend graph shows us that when you model crash data with low numbers, year to year random variability reduces the clarity of the information.

This data is only as recent as 2012, but as rider numbers and infrastructure development rapidly expand, figures for more recent years will likely be different.

And as these figures don’t directly allow for exposure, (that is total numbers of riders), caution is advised. For example, the simple fact that the numbers of riders in the city of Melbourne is so high means that there will likely be more crashes than where numbers are lower.

Lets hook up!

15 October 2014. More bike riders should be making hook turns in order to reduce the risk of crashes at intersections, according to VicRoads and Victoria’s Roads Minister, Terry Mulder.

The recent VicRoads survey of bike related road rules, taken by 11,000 road users, has demonstrated that many riders did not know that bikes are permitted to do hook turns at nearly all intersections.

The hook turn is convenient and easy to execute once learned, and riders practiced in the manoeuvre find it far less harrowing than doing a right turn from the middle of the road.

“Initial findings from the VicRoads Cycling Road Rules Survey indicate a knowledge gap about some road rules,” Mr Mulder said. “Bike riders have the option to use a hook turn to turn right at any intersection, unless signed otherwise.

“Turning right at intersections means manouvering across one or more lanes of traffic into a left of centre location and waiting in the middle of the road for a space in the oncoming traffic.

“By performing a hook turn, cyclists are able to remain to the left of the through traffic and wait with the halted traffic on the far side of the road the cyclist is entering, in order to proceed right when the lights change to green.”

Hook turns have the added advantage of placing turning riders out ahead of traffic when the lights turn green, and making them conspicuous to other road users.

And riders who hook turn don’t find themselves illegally riding across pedestrian crossings in order to avoid a conventional right turn.

The Minister made the call for more hook turns in the lead up to Ride2Work Day, and in conjunction with Safe Cycle Month, the annual Victoria Police bike safety initiative.

“October is Safe Cycle month so it’s timely for us to remind road users of these rules and encourage all Victorians to reacquaint themselves with the road rules on a regular basis. Let’s all take extra care on our roads and shared paths, learn the road rules and abide by them to improve each other’s safety.”

On-road bike lanes

The survey also indicated a rider knowledge gap regarding on-road bike lanes. The road rules say bike riders must use an on-road bike lane when one is available, unless of course it is obstructed or there is a hazard in the way.

“On-road bike lanes provide separation between cyclists and motor vehicles and give cyclists the opportunity to cycle in their own on-road space. This improves their safety and provides a visual cue to other road users to allow space for cyclists,” Mr Mulder said.

The survey also raised concerns about the rule to give way to pedestrians on shared paths.

“Bike riders generally move a lot faster than pedestrians, and should forewarn, slow down and give way to pedestrians so that shared paths continue to be a safe and pleasant option for both cyclists and pedestrians,” the Minister said.

“These rules are in place to ensure the safety of all road users and to enable road users to share the road and shared paths with ease.”

The VicRoads Cycling Road Rules survey forms part of a larger project to review the cycling related road rules, and was undertaken to gauge people’s knowledge and understanding of the road rules and seek opinions on a range of issues related to cycling.

VicRoads will use the results of the survey, along with the latest research, cycling crash statistics and feedback from stakeholders to review the current cycling-related road rules. It is expected that a final report with recommendations will be completed in early 2015.

VicRoads sets survey straight

25 September 2104. VicRoads has hosed down media speculation that Victoria’s road rules could be changed to permit bike riders to run red lights.

The Herald-Sun claimed such changes were under consideration by VicRoads as a result of the survey recently conducted into community understanding of bike-related road rules.

The online survey, which closed on Sunday 27 July, forms part of a larger project to review the cycling related road rules.  

However, the submissions are still being collated, a process that will take months, and won’t be completed until the end of the year. Any proposed changes to the rules won’t be considered until 2015.

The Herald-Sun story turns out to be completely baseless and misleading, and seemed calculated to damage the otherwise good relationships between bike riders and drivers in Victoria.

According to VicRoads, almost 11,000 Victorians participated in the public survey. 

"This remarkable response has highlighted the passionate views shared by cyclists, drivers, pedestrians and motorcyclists in relation to cycling”, VicRoads said.

"VicRoads has now commenced its analysis of the survey data. Until the results of the review are known there is no plan to make any changes to current cycling road rules (including changes to traffic signal road rules).

"VicRoads will also be considering cycling crash statistics, feedback from a range of stakeholder and community interest groups, and the latest research alongside the survey data.  

"If, as part of the review, there is strong justification for a road rule change, further consultation would be undertaken to help fully understand the impact of any proposed change."

VicRoads expects to provide the Cycling Road Rules review to Government in early 2015.

Survey smashes it

30 July 2014. Close to ten thousand people, including large numbers of bike riders, have given the government feedback on the the state of  bike-related road rules—about 20 times more responses than expected.

The massive participation reflects the burgeoning interest in bike riding in Victoria. A count released this week shows that some 15,000 riders enter the Melbourne CBD each morning.

And riders are concerned that the road rules need to be up to the task of managing the contemporary road environment rather than that of 20 years ago.

Minister for Roads Terry Mulder said the number of responses confirmed the level of public interest in safety and road rules and how they impact on cycling.

“VicRoads had anticipated a few hundred people to participate in the survey however, the response has been overwhelming.

“This remarkable response just goes to show that riders, drivers, pedestrians and motorcyclists are keen to put forward their views on issues related to cycling.

“We want to give as many Victorians as possible the opportunity to have their say. “We know there are issues on our roads between cyclists and drivers because people are not sure who is in the right. 

"We believe this is partly caused by a lack of understanding and knowledge, by both groups, of the rules that apply.

“We want to capture the community’s views and understanding of the road rules to ensure any gaps are identified so we can then work towards addressing these as part of this process.”

Mr Mulder said the Victorian Coalition Government had committed to undertake a review of the cycling-related road rules and legislation as part of Victoria’s Road Safety Action Plan 2013-2016 and Victoria’s cycling strategy, Cycling into the Future 2013-23.

The survey is the final component of a larger project being undertaken to review the cycling related road rules. The complete project was to report at the end of 2014, but the size of the survey response will likely delay finalization until early next year.

Road rules and safety review

30 June 2014. The surge in riders on Victoria’s roads has prompted the State Government to launch a major review into bike-related road rules and safety issues.

The government is concerned that a lack of knowledge, and possible omissions or errors in the road rules, could lead to unnecessary conflict between bike riders and other road users.

Rider numbers are up all over the state, particularly in Melbourne’s bike-friendly inner and middle suburbs, and are expected to double again in five years or so, leading to a dramatically different traffic mix.

Bikes already outnumber motor vehicles on some roads at certain times of the week.

VicRoads has called for input from riders via an online survey that canvasses a number of rules and contentious issues.

VicRoads states that the aim of this review is to identify opportunities to make it easier for people to take up riding and to better protect the safety of bike riders and other road users. 

Bicycle Network CEO, Craig Richards encourages all riders complete the survey to ensure that the views of Victoria's cyclists are heard.

"It's vital that riders have their say on Victoria's road rules. Please take the time to fill in this survey and ultimately help encourage more people to take up bike riding."

Minister for Roads Terry Mulder said the Victorian Coalition Government was taking this important step to highlight the need for everyone on our roads to understand the laws which apply to cycling.

“We know cyclists and drivers often don’t see eye to eye and there have been a number of incidents where cars and bikes come into conflict because people are not sure who is in the right,” Mr Mulder said.

“We believe this is partly caused by a lack of understanding and knowledge, by both groups, of the rules that apply.

“We want to hear from riders, drivers, pedestrians and motorcyclists. I encourage everyone to be involved and give their views.

“We want to understand where there are gaps in the knowledge of current rules and hear about the issues which drivers, cyclists and pedestrians believe need to be addressed.

“We also want to hear from all Victorians about their ideas to help ensure the safety of cyclists and drivers and make people feel safer on our roads.”

VicRoads will use the results from this survey, research and cycling crash statistics and feedback from stakeholders and community interest groups as part of its review of the current cycling-related road rules.

Mr Mulder said the Coalition Government had committed to undertaking a review of the cycling-related road rules and legislation as part of Victoria’s Road Safety Action Plan and Victoria’s cycling strategy, Cycling into the Future 2013-23.

“Cycling is becoming increasingly popular so we need to make sure that when cyclists use our roads, they are safe and do not put themselves or others at risk,” Mr Mulder said.

The survey takes about 20 minutes to complete, according to VicRoads. Probably longer. 

A code to share the road

17 July 2013. There is a new code of conduct for bike riders, motorists and pedestrians who use and share Victorian roads and paths.

It was launched by Charlie Pickering, Ambassador of the Amy Gillett Foundation, while the Victorian Government and 14 of Victoria’s major transport stakeholders including Bicycle Network, gathered to show their support.

The Shared Roads and Paths code of conduct aims to reduce the number of crashes between bike riders and other road users.

Over 25 guidelines and behaviours specific to sharing roads and paths with bike riders are included.

The initiative also aims to raise awareness of the key road rules that impact bike riders in shared spaces.

Victorian Roads Minister Terry Mulder highlighted the importance of the Shared Roads and Paths guide as a tool in promoting consistency and mutual respect between all Victorian road users.

“Not only is it a handy reference tool but it is a reminder to us all as road users, whether it be as cyclists, drivers, motor bike riders or pedestrians, that we all have a role to play in respecting each other,” Mr. Mulder said.

Funded by the Victorian Statewide Community Road Safety Partnership and facilitated by the Amy Gillett Foundation, the code of conduct is the result of a major collaborative effort between fourteen of Victoria’s major transport, cycling, motoring and pedestrian groups.

Bicycle Network provided feedback and input to the guide over a series of workshops.

Download the Shared Road and Paths code of conduct.

Read more on the code of conduct here.