New TV advertisements hit Victorian airwaves this week as the state government launched its safe passing distance campaign.
The ads show a cross section of bike riders on different streets and roads asking for drivers to give them enough space to make them safe.
Riders explain why they need safe space to ride and give visual representations of what that distance is.
The ads are designed to show the human face of riders and to engage the empathy of drivers, encouraging them to take responsibility for giving riders the space to be safe.
It is the first time a such a well-funded and well-researched campaign has been used to address troublesome driver behaviours.
The aim is to encourage drivers to pass riders at a distance of 1 metre or more in 60kmh or less speed zones, and at 1.5 metres or more in 60kmh and above speed zones.
These minimums are law in other Australian states and accepted as the standard recommended minimum passing distances.
It is the result of a state government decision to launch a public behaviour change program to encourage safe passing of bike riders, rather than introduce minimum passing distance laws.
If the campaign is unsuccessful in changing driver behaviour, the government has said it will consider a trial of a minimum distance law.
While Bicycle Network preferred that laws were introduced from the beginning, it is confident that the campaign will influence driver behaviour to give safe space to the most vulnerable road users.
It will show people that riding is a safe and normal activity and encourage more people to get on a bike.
TAC Road Safety Lead Director Samantha Cockfield said that the campaign will create awareness.
“This public education campaign is designed to help drivers of cars and heavy vehicles to understand the minimum space to leave when passing a person riding a push bike,” Ms Cockfield said.
“The vast majority of drivers do willingly give space when they pass a cyclist, but people can be unsure of the guidelines on just how much distance they should leave between their vehicle and a rider.”
Bicycle Network has been involved in the development of the campaign and was part of the group that advised the TAC and agency that created the ads.
The ads do not have a high shock factor like other TAC campaigns that focus on speeding or drink driving, however as the TAC explain the key aim is to help drivers appreciate the importance of ensuring a safe gap when passing a bike rider.
There were extensive trials and consultations with focus groups before the campaign was finalised and it is thought that it will be more effective to show drivers how to give riders space, rather than simply tell them.