Minimum passing distance law

Together we can introduce minimum passing distance law (MPDL) across Australia.

#TOGETHERWECAN

The problem

People who ride bikes aren’t given enough space on our roads. Victoria is the only state without specific Minimum Passing Distance Laws or a trial underway. 

In October 2020, Victoria’s Minister for Roads and Road Safety Ben Carroll MP announced that the Victoria would join the rest of Australia and introduce minimum passing distance law in early 2021. 

The law will improve bike rider safety and ensure passing distance rules are clear and consistent across state lines for all road users. 

The introduction of minimum passing distance law is an important win for people who ride bikes in Victoria and comes after decades of campaigning by the AGF, local advocates, Bicycle Network and the RACV.

Our campaigning isn’t finished until the law is introduced and we look forward to working with the Minister and his team to see it introduced as quickly and as smoothly as possible. 

What is minimum passing distance law (MPDL)? 

When overtaking a bicycle, drivers must allow a minimum distance of:

  • One metre, when the speed limit is 60km/h or less
  • 1.5 metres when the speed limit is 60km/h or above.
  • Currently, Victoria’s laws require drivers to give people who ride bikes sufficient distance when passing. The VicRoads website suggests “at least one metre, more if you’re traveling over 60km/h.”

    key milestones

    March 2016

    Bicycle Network announces public policy review into MPDL which included public submissions, a public debate and literature review. 

    April 2016

    Bicycle Network made a submission to the Victorian Parliament cross-party Economy and Infrastructure Committee inquiry into passing distance laws. 

    In the submission, Bicycle Network supported a five-year minimum passing distance trial in Victoria with six key conditions: 

    1. continue to focus on the safe systems approach
    2. make it clear that it’s a minimum distance
    3. the legislation should not apply to bikes in lanes in 50kmph or less zones
    4. supplement the law with a driver behaviour change program
    5. conduct a pre- and post-impact study
    6. instruct police to enforce the law.

    Previously, Bicycle Network had not campaigned for MPDL. The change in policy was the result of a public policy review which collected research and held public hearings. 

    September 2016

    The parlimentary inquiry makes the recommendation to change the road rules to include MPDL. 

    Read the Inquiry into the Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Overtaking Bicycles) Bill 2015 outcome.

    March 2017

    The government announces that it will not legislate MPDL in Victoria. See the government’s response.

    Instead, it outlined a two-stage approach to reduce the crash rate for bike riders:

    1. A year-long community education campaign designed to change motorists’ behaviours and attitudes towards cyclists. The campaign will be evaluated to examine the community’s response, its preparedness for a rule change and road safety outcomes, crash rates, road user behaviour and perceptions of safety.
    2. A trial of a minimum passing distance laws. However, the trial will only go forward if the community education campaign is ineffective. 

    Bicycle Network Chief Executive Officer Craig Richards spoke of his disappointment following the announcement. 

    “We are disappointed that the Victorian Government isn’t following the lead of other states turning MPDL into legislation,” Mr Richards said.

    “It’s clear that bike riders want a MPDL and today’s announcement is a huge missed opportunity to bring Victoria into line and further reduce to the risk to bike riders on our roads.”

    While Bicycle Network believes an education campaign is important, we’re also concerned that unless the education campaign incorporates strong behaviour change elements, it could be a wasteful use of limited government resources. 

    “At the end of the day, we want the best outcome for all road users and we hope that the government’s new education campaign is strongly tied to behaviour change methodology.” 

    “Studies show that in isolation, mass education/awareness campaign are not an effective way to create real behavioural change,” Mr Richards added. 

    Following the announcement, Bicycle Network has evolved its position, calling for the introduction of MPDL, without a trial. 

     

    May 2017

    Following a well-attended morning rally in support of cyclist safety, Greens MP Samantha Dunn’s MPDL bill was tabled in the Legislative Council. The bill passed by 21 votes to 17, with the Greens, Coalition and Sex Party voting for and Labor and S&F party opposed.

    By day’s end, the bill was put to the vote in the Legislative Assembly, with the Labor government and Independent MP Don Nardella used their majority to scuttle it. 

    September 2017

    Minimum passing distance laws were fully implemented in Tasmania on 27 September 2017.

    October 2017

    WA McGown Government fulfills an election commitment and introduces minimum passing distance legislation, leaving Victoria and NT as the only state and territory who have yet to implement the law. 

    November 2017

    TAC launches ‘Give the space to ride safe‘ campaign which includes TV, radio, online and outdoor advertising. 

    Bicycle Network alongside a number of other stakeholders including the Amy Gillet Foundation, were involved in the development of the campaign and was part of the group that advised the TAC and agency that created the ads. 

    Read more >

    November 2018

    Bicycle Network pushed for minimum passing distance law as part of their Victorian election campaign

    December 2018

    Bicycle Network is calling for the introduction of a special policing unit to enforce the safe passing of people who ride bikes on the road.

    A key ask of Bicycle Network’s pre-budget submission for 2019-20 in New South Wales and Victoria is not only the introduction of the law in Victoria but a program of active enforcement and widespread education.

    Bicycle Network would like to see state governments in both states invest in an enforcement program that mirrors the successful Operation Close Pass by West Midlands Police in the UK.

    Read more > 

    December 2019

    Bicycle Network renews calls for minimum passing distance law and enforcement unit as part of our Budget Submission 2020/21.

    See the submission.

    January 2020

    Motoring group RACV has joined the calls for minimum passing distance laws to be introduced in Victoria and have asked the state government to release results from the 2017 Share the Road campaign.

    Read more >

    May 2020

    Bicycle Network once again renewed calls for the introduction of minimum passing distance law as part of our six month stimulus plan, Pedalling to a better normal. The plan provides actions that can be implemented immediately in response to the economic and health challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    Read more > 

    October 2020

    On 7 October 2020 the Victorian state government announced that minimum passing distance laws would be introduced during 2021.

    The announcement was made at the same time as funding for pop-up bike lanes to encourage more people to ride during COVID-19.

    Read more > 

    The solution

    Introduce minimum passing distance legislation in Victoria

    It’s clear that bike riders want MPDL, with many telling us that they will feel safer on our roads.

    Without legislation, passing distance is entirely at the discretion of the driver. 

    Bicycle Network strongly encourages the Victorian Government to not only implement minimum passing distance laws but also support initiatives that help enforce and educate. 

    In multiple budget submissions, we’ve called on the state government to invest in a policing unit, like the award-winning Operation Close Pass implemented by the West Midlands Police in the UK. Read more > 

    We also do not want to see a repeat of police crackdowns on rider behaviour which have accompanied the introduction of minimum passing distance laws in other states such as NSW.  

    Bicycle Network campaign for minimum passing distance laws (MPDL)

    The facts: 

    • In Australia, 20% of bike-vehicle collisions involve a vehicle overtaking a bike rider.
    • In states and territories without legislation, the passing distance is entirely at the discretion of the driver, and most passing manoeuvres are made irrespective of vehicle speed, road width or shoulder width.
    • Following minimum passing distance legislation introduced in Queensland, only 12% of passes on roads at low speed sites were non-compliant.
    • However, driver non-compliance is associated with high speed roads, narrow roads, and curved road sections. This highlights the need for infrastructural changes to complement the laws.

    In the news

    Minimum passing distance laws and pop-up lanes coming to Victoria

    Minimum passing distance laws are set for Victoria and 100km of quick-build bike lanes will pop up in inner-Melbourne to help us reach COVID normal.

    Greens renew call for passing law

    Minimum passing distance laws will be on the agenda when the Victorian parliament sits tomorrow.

    RACV joins the call for passing laws

    Motoring group RACV has joined the calls for minimum passing distance laws to be introduced in Victoria.

    Calls for a special passing distance policing unit

    Bicycle Network is calling for the introduction of a special police unit to enforce the safe passing of people who ride bikes on the road.

    Reporting minimum passing distance breach

    Reporting drivers who breach the minimum passing distance laws isn’t a simple process, which is why we’ve produced a guide with Tasmania Police.

    Tracking passing distance in the ACT

    A four-week study is underway to evaluate and measure driver compliance with minimum passing distance law in the ACT.

    Passing campaign: give the space to ride safe

    New TV advertisements hit Victorian airwaves this week as the state government launched its safe passing distance campaign.

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