Minimum Overtaking Distance: AGF position, rationale and the evidence
The Amy Gillett Foundation exists with the sole purpose of creating a safer environment for bicycle riding in Australia.
Central to this purpose is our current push to change the road rules so that drivers would be legally required to allow a minimum overtaking distance when passing bicycle riders - a metre matters.
The Foundation has been working with key stakeholders across Australia to provide submissions, policy papers and research documents on many aspects of minimum overtaking laws, both the conceptual aspect in Australia and also the existing laws overseas.
The report Minimum Overtaking Distance: AGF position, rationale and the evidence draws together all these documents and provides an up-to-date reference document on every aspect of the minimum overtaking distance debate.
This comprehensive document is available to download in whole or below as individual sections.
Please note: this document is a continually evolving work. As laws, amendments or circumstances change, so will this document.
Minimum overtaking distance – it’s time
The Amy Gillett Foundation (AGF) is working towards amending the road rules across Australia to introduce a specified minimum overtaking distance when drivers pass bicycle riders.
Road rules are fundamental to a safe and efficient road environment. Road rules can contribute to a safe physical space and a safe legislative space. However, these safety gains are only realised if there is a high level of awareness and education about road rules, effective and efficient road transport for all road users is maintained and the safe behaviour underpinned by law becomes the practiced norm.
Legislative amendment, with appropriate education and enforcement, to mandate a minimum overtaking distance when drivers pass bicycle riders is currently the single most important action needed to reduce bicycle rider fatalities.
Current national, state and territory road rules require drivers to allow sufficient overtaking distance when passing a bicycle rider. Sufficient is an inadequate and unclear instruction that has repeatedly not protected bicycle riders.
It is the responsibility of all drivers to allow a safe distance when passing bicycle riders.
The most common bicycle rider fatality crash type is being hit from behind by a motor vehicle that was travelling in the same direction. In these crashes, responsibility is with the driver; the bicycle rider has no ability to protect themselves and often cannot take any evasive action to avoid the crash.
The a metre matters campaign is the longest running AGF campaign, launched in November 2009 by the then Federal Minister for Transport, the Honourable Anthony Albanese MP, on the steps of New Parliament House.
The message of the campaign is that when overtaking bicycle riders, drivers need to allow a minimum overtaking distance of one metre. The genesis of the campaign arose from the literature reviewed in an AGF-sponsored research project (Safe Family Research scholarship), in particular, a report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau that found being hit from behind was the crash type that resulted in the highest number of bicycle rider fatalities.
The campaign is based around a simple premise – drivers not hitting bicycle riders.
This is the fundamental change needed to improve bicycle rider safety.
Initially, a metre matters was an education and awareness raising campaign. In late 2012, the campaign graphics were revised and vehicle types were extended to include a bus and a truck. The message has been widely disseminated via AGF merchandise, AGF mass participation cycling event jerseys, stickers, wallet protectors, backpack covers, roadside billboards and outdoor advertising shells used in public transport stops. Through a corporate partnership with rental car company Europcar, the a metre matters message has been added to swing-tags hung on the rear vision mirror of 70,000 rental cars and a rear windscreen sticker was attached to the entire national Europcar fleet.
From 2009 to 2012, the focus of the campaign was on education and awareness, however, in early 2013 this shifted. The court finding following the death of Richard Pollett was the catalyst for us to extend our campaign and take direct action to push for legislative change.
In 2011, Richard Pollett aged 22 years was riding his bicycle on Moggill Road in Kenmore, Brisbane when he was killed after being hit by a cement truck that was travelling in the same direction. The driver thought he had enough space to safely overtake – he was wrong and the rear tyres of the truck struck Richard. The driver of the truck was accused of driving dangerously and causing the death of a cyclist. In May 2013, the Brisbane District Court jury returned a not guilty verdict and decided that it was reasonable that the driver presumed to have adequate space. The driver was freed without charge.
This outcome was clear evidence that the existing law and level of awareness of the need for a minimum safe passing distance are not enough to keep bicycle riders safe.
Our action this year to push for legislative change has been multi-pronged and included: coordinating an online forum to encourage people to send letters to their local members of government, raising the issue of minimum passing distance in Parliamentary inquiries and direct discussions with members of Parliament. Each time we created new documents to support our position and provide evidence for each audience – this document draws together those documents into one place.
This document is the AGF reference document which provides a single comprehensive report of evidence that supports our push for legislative amendment to introduce a minimum overtaking distance when drivers pass bicycle riders.
This document is presented to provide detailed information about the current actions being taken by the AGF. This living document will be updated as we progress, the current version will be available online, accessible to everyone.