New cycling laws to be passed in Parliament in March 2016

PUBLISHED 18 Feb 2016

The new and widely promoted cycling laws and penalties in New South Wales were announced on 21 December 2015, with the passing of these laws expected to be due in Parliament on March 2016. The Government’s plan is to implement a new mandatory distance of one metre for motorists when attempting to overtake a cyclist at 60 kilometres or less and at least 1.5 metres when travelling at higher speeds. Although these laws appear to be pleasing to the eye for cyclists, these laws are far from inaugural and untested with controversy. Queensland, was one of the first states to trial the implementation of these laws and the practical issues that arose for motorists were surely unforeseen by the law makers. Such issues ranged from reports from motorists claiming that many roads were far too narrow to leave any decent space when overtaking cyclist and attempts of skimming past cyclists with centimetres to spare.

On the hand, The Amy Gillett Foundation, a safe cycling advocacy group campaigning for the introduction of safer overtaking laws to be introduced across Australia have welcomed the introduction of these mandatory cycling. It is advocated that such mandatory measures will first and foremost protect and improve the safety of cyclists and reduce the risk of cyclists being swiped by overtaking vehicles and trucks on roads. Likewise, requirements for motorist to provide at least 1.5m when travelling at higher speeds will contribute to the reduction of risks of fatal and tragic accidents occurring on rural roads and long distance highways. As we begin the new year, the states are progressively encouraging safer passing laws, with also South Australia and the ACT having enacted similar measures.

That being said, it is not merely good news for cyclists, with the Government introducing new significant fine increases for several cycling offences. The fine for disobeying a red light will rise from $71 to $425 to a level playing field with fines imposed on motor vehicles and fines for riding without a helmet will rise from $71 to $315, an increase of 150%. The increase in fines will almost always be met with discontent and angst amongst commuters and these changes do tend to raise questions as to whether better community awareness campaigns and promotions are better means of communication for cycling safety than outright punitive revenue raising measures.  

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