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Study looks at overtaking distances in Victoria

New Australian research has revealed that bike riders are dangerously passed by drivers at least three times on average during their daily commute.

The “PassBox” study conducted by local researchers also found that for every hour on the road, a person riding a bike can expect to be overtaken at a distance of less than one metre five times.

The research is the world's largest study of overtaking behaviour and involved fitting PassBox sensors to 150 bike riders in Melbourne, Geelong, Bendigo and Perth.

While researchers found that the vast majority of drivers pass people on bikes at a safe distance of more than one metre or 1.5 metres on higher speed roads, some of the data collected shows drivers getting as close at 32 centimetres.

The Princes Highway in Pakenham and Sydney Road in Brunswick were identified as the two most dangerous locations for bike riders when it comes to close passing by the drivers of vehicles.

In speaking about the Princes Highway, PassBox Project Coordinator James Sinclair told the ABC that “nearly two-thirds of cars pass within 1.5 metres on this 80km/h road.”

See a map of Melbourne that shows the risk of close pass.

The study also found that the only way to completely remove the risk of dangerous near misses is to build bicycle lanes protected from traffic.

It’s unacceptable that people who ride bikes are regularly put in danger by a close pass every time they ride a bike.

Victoria is lagging behind the rest of the country and remains the only state in Australia that doesn’t have specific minimum passing distance laws.

In 2017, the Victorian Government opted for a public awareness campaign to encourage safe passing of bike riders, rather than introduce minimum passing distance laws.

We now await the result of the campaign to see whether it had an impact on driver behaviour. If the campaign is unsuccessful in changing driver behaviour, the Victorian government has said it will consider a trial of a minimum distance law.

In addition to the introduction of minimum passing distance laws in Victoria, Bicycle Network has called for an enforcement program that mirrors the successful Operation Close Pass by West Midlands Police in the UK.

Last month, Bicycle Network also joined Banyule Council to renew the push for Minimum Passing Distance Law in Victoria and supported its inclusion as part of the Municipal Association of Victoria’s policy platform.

See our Victorian campaign page