Currently bike riders aren’t given enough space on our roads. Victoria is the only state without specific Minimum Passing Distance Laws or a trial underway.
States across Australia have either legislated or begun trials of MPDL and Victoria is being left behind.
Despite recommendations from a parliamentary inquiry, the Victorian State Government announced in March 2017 that it would not legislate MPDL.
The Andrews Government’s stance is based on a belief that the law will be difficult to enforce.
Bicycle Network is supportive of minimum passing distance legislation.
What is minimum passing distance law (MPDL)?
When overtaking a bicycle, drivers must allow a minimum distance of:
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.”
Bicycle Network announces public policy review into MPDL which included public submissions, a public debate and literature review.
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:
- continue to focus on the safe systems approach
- make it clear that it’s a minimum distance
- the legislation should not apply to bikes in lanes in 50kmph or less zones
- supplement the law with a driver behaviour change program
- conduct a pre- and post-impact study
- 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.
The parlimentary inquiry makes the recommendation to change the road rules to include MPDL.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Minimum passing distance laws were fully implemented in Tasmania on 27 September 2017.
Introduce minimum passing distance legislation Australia-wide
It’s clear that bike riders want MPDL, with many telling us that they will feel safer on our roads.
While better infrastructure is key to reducing risks for bike riders, it’s important that we also look at all other facets of road safety, such as supportive legislation.
Bicycle Network looks forward to the campaign due later in 2017, with the expectation that MPDL will be introduced.
It’s also important that when, not if, MPDL is introduced, it’s enforced.
However, we 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.
Awaiting the TAC public awareness campaign in Victoria due in November 2017.
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