A cyclist's close pass caught on camera.
A cyclist's close pass caught on camera.

Cyclists: time to get tough on safe passing laws

NEARLY one in four drivers who overtake cyclists on higher speed roads are breaking the law and passing too close, according to new research.

The study - by QUT's Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety - looked at nearly 2000 overtaking occasions at 15 sites across Queensland, and found an overall non-compliance rate of about 16 per cent, with a higher rate of non-compliance, of about 23 per cent on higher speed roads.

Bicycle Queensland chief executive Anne Savage said more needed to be done to enforce safe passing laws.

"The consequences of unsafe passing can be catastrophic, resulting in death or serious injury. Crashes involving motor vehicles passing bike riders are a major concern for road safety in Queensland," she said.

"Greater action on enforcement is urgently needed to ensure the safety of all road users in Queensland. Safe passing laws are not being adequately enforced and we are failing to provide sufficient protection for the hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders who ride bikes."

Ms Savage said side-swipe collisions between cyclists and drivers account for 14 per cent of all fatal bike crashes in Australia, and motorists are at fault in the majority of these, with passing too closely the most common incident type, accounting for about 41 per cent of all collisions.

She said many crashes between cars and bikes happen when both vehicles are travelling in the same direction and often involve rear-end and side-swipe collisions.

"Notably, the results of this investigation found that compliance levels are influenced by the characteristics of motorists and the roadway, but not the rider," she said.

"The likelihood of non-compliance was greater on roads with 70-80 km/h speed limits than 60 km/h roads, at curved road sections, and on roads with narrower traffic lanes. Larger overtaking vehicles were also found to be more commonly non-compliant than smaller vehicles."

Ms Savage said only 39 infringements of safe passing laws were issued in Queensland last year, according to the Department of Transport and Main Roads.

"These (research) findings suggest that efforts to improve road safety during overtaking events should focus on driver-related factors and improvements to roadway infrastructure, including stronger enforcement of the law by authorities."

The study, published in the journal of Accident and Analysis Prevention, was the first of its kind to examine overtaking behaviour without the knowledge of drivers or riders.



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