Cyclists call for crackdown on little-known road rule
CYCLISTS are calling for NSW police to enforce a law put in place to keep bike riders safe, after it was revealed only a few dozen drivers were fined for breaking the rule in the past two years.
In May this year, the NSW government introduced Minimum Passing Distance law as a permanent road rule after a two-year trial.
The rule requires drivers passing a cyclist travelling in the same direction to leave a minimum gap one metre between the car and bike when the speed limit is 60km/h or less.
That distance bumps up to 1.5 metres when it is higher than 60km/h.
Drivers who break the rule can cop a $330 fine and two demerit points.
But there have been complaints that not enough is being done to punish drivers who disregard this road rule after new data revealed just 65 drivers had been fined in NSW for this offence in the past two years.
A freedom of information request by the Dulwich Hill Bicycle Club detailed where the fines were handed out in the state from March 2016 to when the trial began to May 2018.
The majority of the infringements were handed out in Sydney with 43 fines, there were seven given out on the North Coast, six in the Hunter Valley, four on the South Coast, two on the Central Coast and three in other parts of regional NSW.
Out of all the suburbs in Sydney, only five recorded more than one violation of the minimum passing law.
The CBD had the most with six infringements, then it dropped down to three at Frenchs Forrest and Surry Hills; Kensington and Northmead recorded two incidents each.
David Maywald of the Dulwich Hill Bicycle Club has now set up a change.org petition calling for police to crack down on drivers.
"Every day, the lives of decent, hardworking cyclists are being threatened by a small minority of reckless drivers," Mr Maywald wrote.
"There have been thousands of victims of dangerous close passes since the law was changed, but only a handful of fines gave been issued.
"How would you feel after an unsafe pass from a ute or van, to take the video evidence to your local police station, and be told by the officer that they wont even make a record of your incident (let alone start an investigation)?
"Stunned, angry, victimised, ignored, alone … This has happened to hundreds of cyclists across Australia."
The petition was only created two weeks ago but it already has more than 3600 signatures.
It states that only 33 drivers were fined for breaking the Minimum Passing Distance law during the first year it was introduced, while more than 8500 fines were issued to cyclists over helmet, footpath, light and bell breaches.
"You are four times more likely to win Lotto in NSW than to get fined for a dangerous close pass," the petition claims.
Bicycle NSW public affairs general manager Bastien Wallace said many drivers weren't aware of the importance of safe passing distances.
"Bicycle NSW was a bit disappointed to hear about the low number of infringements being given out for unsafe passing but we understand that there also isn't a good general knowledge about safe passing distances," Ms Wallace told news.com.au.
"We know members struggle with the consequences of this, whether it is being scared on the road, side swiped or injured but also know that motorists aren't out there to kill cyclists."
Ms Wallace said they would like to see police doing more to enforce the law, possibly by bringing in initiative similar to Operation Pedro but for drivers.
Operation Pedro has seen police cracking down hard on cyclist and pedestrians, with more than 350 people fined in Sydney's CBD last week for breaking basic road rules such as jaywalking and riding on the footpath.
Along with a similar operation for motorists, Bicycle NSW wants better education surrounding safe passing laws and safer infrastructure for bike riders.
"We would love to see safe and separate infrastructure put in place for cyclists with a safety standard that would make it suitable for an eight-year-old to ride to school independently," Ms Wallace said.
"If you wouldn't feel comfortable with a child using the infrastructure to ride to school on their own then we need to take a look at our road safety standards for cyclists."
The NSW Police Force told news.com.au they were committed to ensuring the roads were safe for everyone.
"We would encourage anyone who believes an offence has been committed to make a formal report to police so that it may be investigated," a police spokesperson said.
"Anyone who seeks a review is encouraged to refer matters to the relevant police area commander or police district commander."