New minimum passing distance laws (MPDL) came into force in Tasmania today.
From now on, motorists must be at least one metre from a bike rider when passing on roads up to 60 kilometres an hour, and one-and-a-half metres on roads over 60.
Greater protection for cyclists has been a key element in the State Government’s reforms under its Towards Zero road safety strategy.
The new laws have been several years in the making, with the Government waiting on the result of the two-year trial in Queensland.
However, it rolled out a comprehensive public education campaign a year ago in anticipation of the changes.
There will be a new advertising campaign, beginning on Sunday, to highlight the laws.
Premier Will Hodgman and Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding outlined the new laws and the penalties at Evandale in Northern Tasmania under the shadow of a penny farthing sculpture. The historic town hosts the annual penny farthing bike races, which have become a national event.
Mr Hodgman said most road users do act responsibly and share the roads – now there is no excuse of not taking care around vulnerable road users.
“Cyclists will always come off second best against a car, truck or motorcycle and these passing distances are the least motorists can, and now must, give,” the Premier said.
“The introduction of these new laws build on road rules that allow motorists to cross centre lines, straddle lane-lines and drive on painted islands to safely overtake a cyclist, provided the driver has a clear view of any approaching traffic and that it is safe to do so.
“Penalties of up to $159 apply and will be enforced by Tasmania Police.
“But, it is important to recognise that cyclists must also obey all road rules to ensure their own safety.
“This includes stopping at stop signs and traffic lights, riding on the left side of the road and giving way to pedestrians on crossings and at intersections.”
Mr Hodgman said that to smooth the flow of on-road traffic, improve the safe flow of cycle traffic on footpaths and reduce confusion at intersections we are now also allowing cyclists to ride across pedestrian and children’s crossings.
When cyclists ride across pedestrian crossings they must always proceed slowly and safely, give way to pedestrians on the crossing and keep to the left of oncoming pedestrians or cyclists.
A revamped 'Distance makes the Difference' campaign will kick off around the state on Sunday.
Distance makes a Difference will air on TV and radio as well as featuring prominently on bus backs across the network and in cafes and public spaces state-wide.
The Distance makes the Difference television commercial will also be on the Road Safety Advisory Council website.
Riders report that the first education campaign appeared to have a significant effect on driver behaviour towards cyclists.