Statement from the Amy Gillett Foundation chairman Mark Textor
Dear cycling friends,
As you know The Amy Gillett Foundation has worked very hard to initiate and lead the push for minimum overtaking distance legislation to make bike riding safer across Australia. We are really pleased with the trials underway in Qld and the ACT, legislation in place in South Australia, new road rules in Tasmania, and a trial to commence in NSW this year, and I personally commend those governments for taking a stand on bike rider safety and setting in motion the necessary behavioural and cultural change on our roads.
The Foundation’s long-held Manifesto includes action to review, improve, and enforce rules for bike rider safety. The Manifesto also explicitly refers to A Metre Matters as “a great start to behaviour change; mutual respect and awareness are essential”. Minimum overtaking distance legislation provides drivers with a clear, identifiable minimum distance when overtaking bike riders, it reduces the risk of bike rider-driver crashes, it increases bike riders’ safety, it acknowledges bike riders are legitimate road users, and it recognises bike riders are physically vulnerable and need the protection of space.
Our position on bike riders and drivers doing the right thing beyond a minimum overtaking distance is equally clear and expressed through our It’s a Two Way Street campaign which aims to reduce bike rider-driver collisions and includes eight Drive Rules and eight Ride Rules. For example, the first of the eight Ride Rules is “follow road rules: everyone needs to stop on red, breaking the law reduces safety, breaking the law creates tension on our roads, set a good example by riding safely”. Another of our eight Ride Rules is “be identifiable” including “carry in case of emergency contact details”.
Much has been debated recently in NSW cycling circles about increased fines for cyclists who break the law and the requirement to carry photo identification, both of which are included in the package of measures to be introduced in NSW as part of that State’s trial. As Australia’s only bike rider safety organisation, the Amy Gillett Foundation participated, along with many cycling, motoring, and other stakeholders, in the round table discussions that helped inform the NSW Government’s policy development process. Our analysis of such proposals is viewed critically through the prism of safety, and where safety is relevant. For example, during those wide-ranging discussions we strongly opposed the suggestion that cyclists should be licenced, but accepted carriage of SOME FORM of ID as reasonable, in keeping with our long-held policy position (and what sensible bike rider doesn’t take some form of ID out with them already?).
At the end of the day, it is the NSW government’s prerogative to determine what its policies and legislation will be. While the Foundation campaigns hard across Australia for A Metre Matters, and participated in the NSW round tables, we, and presumably others, were not asked for input on the inclusions or specifics of the package as presented by the Minister on 21 December 2015, particularly the level of fines announced. Outrage directed at our Foundation and other earnest participants for somehow being complicit in the introduction of specific elements beyond 1MM that some see as ‘anti-cyclist’ is entirely misplaced.
I honestly feel that energy would be better spent on considering constructive ways to engage with the government during the trial period to negotiate those elements of the package that are less palatable for cyclists out of any legislation. Constructive engagement is a hallmark of the way we achieve our goals, and our success is testament to our focus.