BENDIGO cycling groups have thrown their support behind a proposal to legislate a minimum one metre gap between cars and bicycles on Victorian roads, but police remain unconvinced.
A number of groups made submissions to a public hearing examining the potential law change, put forward by the Victorian Greens.
Bike Bendigo president Geoff O’Sullivan was among those to make a submission to the parliamentary hearing, believing the change would reduce the fear of collision among cyclists.
He cited a Queensland study which found 60 per cent of Australians are interested in cycling, but are concerned about their safety on the road due to “frequent” near collisions.
“These near collisions discourage people in the ‘interested by concerned’ cohort from taking up regular cycling for everyday travel and recreation,” Mr O’Sullivan wrote.
“It is our experience that the overwhelming majority of drivers consider safety of people on bikes when passing, however the proposed changes will provide clear direction to drivers who are unsure what a safe passing distance is.”
Victorian road rules state drivers must leave a “sufficient” gap when passing bicycles, but there is no legislated distance.
Queensland and South Australia already have minimum safe distances legislated, and New South Wales, Tasmania and the ACT are trialing the law.
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A survey from Bike SA found 70 per cent of cyclists said their experience had been “better” since the introduction of the law.
RoadSafe Central Victoria also supported the law change, believing the current laws are too vague.
Chairperson John Dingle said the law change would provide “much needed clarity”.
“We believe it will improve the safety of cyclists because it can be easily understood, provides a measurable safety buffer zone and it is capable of enforcement given the uptake of mobile camera usage by cyclists,” he wrote in his submission.
Police were wary of the proposal, fearing it could be difficult to enforce and could increase danger of the roads.
Speaking at the public hearing, Acting Senior Sergeant Ryan Burns said the law could force drivers into the path of other vehicles.
He said the law would be “difficult to detect and easy to contest”.
The Transport Accident Commission was also yet to be convinced of the benefits of the possible law change, with concerns it could increase tension between cyclists and motorists.
TAC senior manager of road safety Samantha Cockfield said cyclists were already concerned about being hit by angry motorists.
“The biggest concern for us all is that introducing a law where people can't always easily comply may bring about more tension in a system where there is a lot of tension already between motorists and cyclists," she said.
The TAC and VicRoads could support the change if evidence from other states showed an increase in safety, the hearing was told.
VicRoads director of vehicle and road use policy Robyn Seymour told the public hearing there was not enough evidence from interstate to change the law.
The body had previously recommended making the law change.
The Macedon Ranges Cycling Club and Bike Safe Macedon Ranges also made submissions supporting the law change.
Cycling club president Brett Ellis said the law change could be policed by making use of mounted cameras on bicycles.
“As cyclists are arming themselves these days with rear mounted video cameras, one option for a narrow miss may be that if it is recorded and demonstrable… that a formal warning of the narrow miss is issued to the driver,” he said.