There is much fanfare around the introduction of the ‘minimum passing distance’ legislation dictating that a bike rider should be given at least a metre of space on the roads, but it only provides a false sense of security unless it’s properly policed.
– A blog and video by Rob Arnold
To be clear, the rant that you can watch by clicking the video link above came about after only a few rogue motorists – a plumber in his ute, and a couple of semi-trailers – came far too close to me on my morning ride. The rest of the time, I experienced considerable courtesy on a glorious day for cycling in Sydney.
There was even one truck driver on my way north this morning who deserves extra attention as he managed to give me so much space that it not only surprised me but prompted a ‘Thank You’ shout at the next intersection. He responded with a thumbs-up gesture, and we went our separate ways happy about our interaction.
Most of the time there is more courtesy than aggression on our roads, or else it’d be completely unmanageable. For all the close calls we – as cyclists – have, think about how many motorists do pass, giving the legally requisite space. There is cooperation, there is consideration, and there is generally goodwill amongst all road users.
The problem, however, is that there is a relatively new law in place that is rarely policed. And when these rogue drivers get too close, it’s rotten. It’s scary, and sometimes it’s very dangerous.
What prompted my post-ride rant after a fantastic morning on the bike, however, is the reality that those people who drove their vehicles far too close to me will never suffer any ramification for their actions. Maybe they were inattentive. Maybe they were in a hurry. Maybe they didn’t see me. Maybe they were toying with me, thinking it was a great game to scare the hell out of a bike rider.
I’ll never know the reasons why some motorists get so close, and I doubt they’ll ever receive even a warning from police, let alone a fine for their dangerous antics. And so, I ask (again): what is the point of making a fuss about legislation like the one we colloquially know as ‘a metre matters’ when there’s rarely any action taken by the authorities?
There is too much lip service for the minimum passing distance rule and not enough action being taken. And a big concern about the lack of policing of this rule is that it instils a false sense of security, usually to new bike riders who are led to believe that if someone gets too near to them, the perp will cop a fine.
It rarely happens, even when there is overwhelming evidence to back up a bike rider’s claim that a motorist got too close.
With the influx of new cyclists on our roads – and a clear mandate to encourage more people to ride bikes to reduce congestion in our cities (and all the other benefits that come as part of the deal) – it’s necessary for the minimum passing distance rule to be properly policed. But how can it happen?
The more obvious solution is for there to be better education for all road users and the hope that common decency will prevail. But there’ll always be the rogue element… and that’s what we all need to be aware of every time we ride.
Accidents do happen, but some incidents on our roads aren’t accidental. Some are caused by inattention, haste, or by a motorist thinking that it’s a good joke to frighten someone on a bike. It’s not funny. It is a crime, but no one seems to be getting punished for it.
– By Rob Arnold