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The ACT becomes latest region to introduce 'metre matters' laws

Alia Parker's picture
Share the road with cyclists. Cycle Traveller

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has become the latest region of Australia to introduce a minimum safe passing distance for cyclists in an effort to reduce cycling fatalities and injuries on our roads.

From November 1, 2015, the ACT will begin a two-year trial of what has become known as the 'metre matters' laws.

Under the trial, all motorists driving at speeds of up to 60km/h will be required to leave a space of one metre when overtaking cyclists, or a space of 1.5 metres when driving above that speed.

ACT Minister for Justice, Shane Rattenbury said the ‘metre matters’ laws have already achieved success in Queensland, where the trial is working well, and also in South Australia, where the laws will be introduced soon.

He said to support the new laws, the road rules will be amended to allow drivers overtaking cyclists to cross centre lines, straddle lines and drive on painted islands, provided the driver has a clear view of any approaching traffic and that it is safe to do so.

The move follows recommendations made as a result of last year's ACT Legislative Assembly inquiry into vulnerable road users. In addition to the minimum passing distance legislation, the Territory government has also agreed to develop a community awareness campaign and education strategy to trial and establish a Cyclist Code of Conduct.

“An awareness campaign will commence in mid-October to educate road users about these changes and ensure everyone understands the new rules,” said Mr Rattenbury.

The meter matters rule was developed by cyclist safety lobby group the Amy Gillett Foundation, which aims to eradicate cycling fatalities by educating all road users about safety.

“Amending the road rules to mandate a minimum overtaking distance will help reduce crashes between vehicles and bike riders by changing behaviour,” said Belinda Clark of the Amy Gillett Foundation.

“A metre matters because it provides a practical measurement for drivers when overtaking bike riders.”

Ms Clark said 33 cyclists had been hit by vehicles in the ACT in 2014.

The trial follows in the footsteps of Queensland, which introduced the minimum passing distance legislation in April 2014.

Ms Clark said figures show the trial is working well in Queensland, with three-quarters of Queenslanders supporting the new rule. Research by the foundation has shown that almost two-thirds of cyclists in the state have noticed an increase in the amount of space drivers now give them since the law change.


Image: Cyclists share the road sign. Source: Shutterstock.

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