ACT Police are stepping up their enforcement of minimum passing distance laws with the announcement of a crackdown on motorists who pass people on bikes too closely.
Over the coming months, ACT police will get on their bikes and even lycra to conduct proactive compliance checks on drivers.
Detective Acting Station Sergeant Marcus Boorman said that since the laws came into effect in 2015, ACT Policing had focused on an education approach but in the coming weeks and months, will ‘proactively enforce’ the law.
“Even a minor collision between a car and a cyclist can cause serious injuries or death. The upcoming activity will see police actively target the minority of motorists that are not doing the right thing,” Sergeant Boorman said.
“Canberra: you are on notice. The next cyclist you drive past could be a police officer, and fines and demerit points may be issued if you do not leave enough room.
“Officers will not be in police uniform, so they will look like any other cyclist.”
The enforcement campaign has been influenced by work from local bike group Pedal Power ACT.
"This enforcement campaign is a first for Australia. We are hopeful it will be as successful as similar campaigns in the UK which saw a 20% reduction in cycling deaths and serious injuries," said Pedal Power ACT CEO Ian Ross.
One extremely well regarded campaign from the UK is Operation Close Pass, an initiative by the West Midlands Police.
The award-winning Operation Close Pass program has now been adopted by police forces across the UK. The program involves plain clothes police officers on bikes equipped with cameras that alert uniformed colleagues of close passes or other instances of poor driving.
Drivers are then offered a road-side education but repeat offenders, or dangerous drivers can expect to be prosecuted and taken to court.
Since the launch of the close pass program in the UK, the number of cyclists killed or seriously hurt on the region’s roads has dropped by a fifth.
Bicycle Network called for similar special policing unit for the enforcement of minimum distance laws as part of our 2019/20 State budget submission for Victoria. Victoria remains the only state in Australia that currently doesn't have minimum passing distance laws or a trial of the laws.
A recent study also found that ACT motorists are generally giving people who ride bikes enough distance when passing, however, compliance decreases on high-speed roads and highways.
However, many bike riders still feel that not enough is being done to enforce the laws. Between July 1, 2016 and March 25 2018, ACT Policing issued just seven traffic infringement notices and nine cautions for overtaking a bicycle too closely.