Equipment and On Road Behaviour, Laws and Rules. Cycling Promotion and Advocacy
Where will the 1.5m be used?
or even will it be used? and what for? is it even necessary?
I can’t help feeling that the push for a 1.5m clearance is a misguided effort brought about by ignorance of the law. The ignorance being on the part of road users and law enforcement, a more effective approach would surely be better education, enforcement of existing laws and a push for minimum standards for bike lanes.
I will explain my reasoning, bear with me! I will base this on West Australian law as that is what I know best, the other States/Territories have very similar laws. BTW shouldn’t they be all the same as we are allowed to drive anywhere in Australia!
The law already states that a vehicle must overtake another vehicle safely, what does that mean?
Well based on all advice from DOT and motoring organisations etc. that means the vehicle must pull out before encroaching on their own stopping distance and not pull back in until clearing the other vehicles stopping distance, based on each vehicles relative speed.
That gives us a defined clearance front and rear but what about at the side, actually that is even better defined in law.
Lane splitting is only allowed in certain instances in law, (lane splitting means allowing one lane to be divided by more than one vehicle travelling in it)
Bicycles/motorcycles are allowed to split a lane alongside another bicycle/motorcycle, i.e. they are allowed to ride two abreast. , this exemption does not apply to three wheeled motorcycles or a motorcycle with a sidecar.
Motorcycles are not allowed to split a lane alongside any other vehicles e.g. cars, trucks etc.
There is no provision in law for motor vehicles with three wheels or more to split lanes.
Other vehicles are not allowed to split lanes, which means that, other than the exceptions listed above, to overtake a vehicle must pass into another lane before overtaking and stay there until safely passed the vehicle they are overtaking. Where this is not possible, they must wait!
So again where will the 1.5m clearance be used? When a cyclist is in a cycle lane? what is a cycle lane? how many are there?
The answer is defined in law, but it is a very loose definition but even then there are very few “cycle lanes” that conform. The lane has to be specifically marked beginning and end. In my local government area I have yet to find a cycle lane that conforms, and I believe that it will be the same throughout WA, with only small insignificant sections conforming.
The use of a cycle lane in WA is compulsory, but only when it is in a suitable condition.
What is needed is a required standard for cycle lanes that specifies marking, width, surface and separation from roads.
How wide does a cycle lane need to be, according to the law two cyclists can cycle alongside each other and a third one overtake! that may be asking too much, but a cyclist should be able to overtake another.
What is the width of a cyclist?.... we need to look at the widest example…..not of the cyclist but the type of bicycle they ride! that means we need to look at adult tricycles, recumbent trikes and child cycle trailers. These types of cycles and trailers are all roughly the same width 700mm to 850mm approx.
We also need to allow a safe passing distance, according to the law cyclist riding abreast must be a maximum of 1.5m apart. If we allow the 1.5m as the safe passing distance then the cycle lane needs to be a minimum of 850+850+1500=3200mm=3.2m. This cannot include any drainage grates, manhole covers etc. and shouldn’t include the uneven road edge.
If the cycle lane is in a suitable condition i.e. to a relative standard will there be a need to specify a minimum distance and when it is brought down to its simplest form if a motorist hits a cyclist did the motorist pass at a safe distance? The answer has to be a resounding no unless the cyclist can be proved to be suicidal or extremely reckless. In addition surely the penalties handed out should act as deterrent to others, if not cycling advocate groups should be appealing the decisions or petitioning politicians to increase penalties.
Sinner Mango Sport RE
That thinking didn't help with the Richard Pollett case. If it is true that lane splitting is illegal by cars and trucks and that one must only overtake safely then why did the truck driver get off the dangerous driving charge that killed a cyclist with the argument 'I though it was safe to overtake in the same lane'? He has used a subjective argument to get off what should be an objective charge.
I agree regarding education and that most places where there is more than one lane should have the car overtaking in the other lane.
In my mind the minimum 1.5m distance is just that - a minimum distance deemed safe for overtaking a cyclist. I have doubts about the actual ability of drivers to calculate this distance, but I think that if it is legislated, promoted and tested in driving tests that drivers will be more cautious and give more distance than 1.5m and all will benefit.
From a WA perspective I would suggest that you are looking at the wrong parts of the WA Road Traffic Code ... in my view the relevant regulations relate to overtaking. Currently the WA Road Traffic Code requires ... (my emphasis)
and more critically
I have submitted three videos that I can recall to the WA Police in respect to this "offence." In all instances the decision was no offence.
Incident No. 1: International Energy Services. The link takes you to the back story and video is below.
Incident No. 2: CTI Xpress. The link takes you to the back story and the video is below.
Incident No 3. Port Beach Road, North Fremantle
This matter was reported to the Western Australian Police. The response from Officer Armitage at the WA Police was that I should "take more care when turning on to Port Beach Road." Also no further action required.
I have now formed the view that any pass that does not result in the cyclist being hit is considered a safe pass.
And there is the reason, IMO, that there is a call for a minimum passing distance - to stop this subjective 'it was safe' belief from being used as a defence.
P.S. I hadn't seen that footage before Aushiker. I think I'll need new pants.
When has a defence based on this subjective belief been run successfully in court? The problem seems to be a reluctance to charge people with unsafe overtaking, and it's unclear that 1.5m will help there.
'Lane splitting' is not stated anywhere in the Victorian Road Rules (and probably not in any other state's rules). There is a misunderstanding of the rule here - sharing a lane subject to space and safety is entirely legal and feasible.
What is illegal is driving so that your vehicle is in two lanes ie. across the lane line. Many, many Australian drivers do this when overtaking a cyclist and seem to regard it as safe. They would not often do it when overtaking another car, a truck or a motorcyclist. My reading of the rule suggests that such an overtake may be illegal. Safe overtaking should consist of a full lane change when a driver is choosing to travel at the driving speed limit. If the driver slows to, say 40-50 kmh then a lane-splitting pass would probably be fairly safe. In Australia very few drivers do this sort of thing. Here in Italy such slow-speed passing is virtually the norm.
Riding bikes in traffic - what seems dangerous is usually safe; what seems safe is often more dangerous.
It's important to note that a breach of the Road Rules is neither necessary nor sufficient to found a charge of dangerous driving. Dangerous driving was the charge in the Pollett case, not unsafe overtaking.
Richard Pollett was the case I was referring to - truck driver charged with dangerous driving, IIRC. From what I can tell from the discussion on here and the news articles the truck driver's defence was 'I believed it was safe in the circumstances to overtake as and like I did' and the jury agreed. That is a subjective defence, IMO. But I guess you could say that it was an objective belief by the jury that it was safe in the circumstances for a reasonable person to pass the cyclist as the truck driver did. Or maybe the jury decided that the cyclist swerved into the truck.
Feel free to show me differently as I have no connection to that case.
Correct. I'm not solely talking about breach of the Road Rules. The question by the OP was 'where will the 1.5m passing distance be used?' and then went to talk about some specific Road Rules and how 'safe' is already included in the Rules so 1.5m isn't needed.
Last edited by Summernight on Wed Jul 03, 2013 5:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.
There's a rule against straddling lanes on multi-lane roads - r146 - but not, AFAIK, a general one.
My main point is that we already have laws to prevent these tragedies but the public are not aware of them and law enforcement (including judiciary) are either unaware also or reluctant to enforce the letter of the law. What difference will another law make if the public & law enforcement are not educated on its meaning and it is not enforced and punished accordingly!
Sinner Mango Sport RE
No. You show me where the jury was instructed that this subjective belief was sufficient to find the driver not guilty and then we'll have something to talk about. Statute or case law, please. Internet discussion doesn't count, nor media reports.
Yes, I understand the OP's point. I don't understand how you imagine that this 1.5m rule will make things better the next time such a case came to court.
One way in which a 1.5 m rule will make things better in a case such as Richard Pollett is that it is not physically possible for the truck to have been in the lane with Mr Pollett and given him 1.5m clearance in that the lane was 3.3 - 3.4 m including the gutter, while the truck was 2.5 m wide.
A high_tea correctly points out though, a breach of a road rule requiring 1.5 m clearance to overtake is not necessarily sufficient to establish dangerous driving, but that doesn't mean it is irrelevant.
. . . . . . .
There is no interpretation required for close shave incidents or contact. Driver failed to overtake while giving 1.5m clearance. AusHiker summed it up - no contact, no offence. This isn't an acceptable position given the extreme vulnerability of a cyclist on the road, and the law will remove that understanding. Will they pursue everything? Maybe not. But it makes for an important change. The current laws are subjective, 1.5m is not subjective at all.
Erm, the Pollett case.
The only good Cyclist is a Bicyclist
Huge fan of booted RGers who just can't help themselves
The current laws are not subjective. There is most certainly an enforcement problem. It's not clear that 1.5m will make it better.
high_tea, the Pollett jury was indeed instructed by the judge before retiring to deliberate to accept that Stevens' overtaking did indeed significantly contribute to his death. The jury still reached a not guilty verdict. Richard's mother Patricia spoke to me the day before the verdict and said that Stevens was likely to be acquitted based on her gut feeling and the way in which proceedings had unfolded. Given the weight of evidence at the trial it was clear that Stevens' overtaking was unsafe and contributed significantly to Pollett's death in 2010.
Patricia called me the following day immediately after the not guilty verdict and said that in her view it was the jury's empathy with Stevens' claim that he thought he'd given sufficient distance, and testimony from an eye witness that Pollett could have ridden down a side road to avoid being hit - something which none of us expect until it happens - that got Stevens over the line.
That's not justice, that's prejudice and ignorance allowing the guilty to get away with murder.
The only good Cyclist is a Bicyclist
Huge fan of booted RGers who just can't help themselves
IANAL but it seems to me that a definite number would be a lot easier to sell to a jury.
That sounds like surmise not evidence to me, how did it get through?
Who was this eyewitness anyway? Daniel Meers?
...whatever the road rules, self-preservation is the absolute priority for a cyclist when mixing it with motorised traffic.
London Boy 29/12/2011
Did not read any responses and did not look at any of the pointless videos.
I just wanted to make the point to the OP that in QLD there is in effect no such thing as a bicycle lane despite all of the supposed hard work our cycling lobby groups have done.
These supposed lanes for cyclists, whether signposted or not may be used by motor vehicles for basically anything other than driving in.
This means that cyclists can be forced out into traffic by parked cars etc at any point so long as there is no yellow line painted along the gutter.
Effectively our lives are not as important as parking space in QLD.
I guess the upside for us is that we are not 3 wheeled vehicles and so can lane share.
Plus a zillionty.
And on top an ONGOING driver education problem
I doubt very much, and correct me if I'm wrong, that the jury was instructed that if they found that the driver had a subjective belief that they were overtaking safely that they should therefore acquit.
Sure, it was a lousy verdict. We'll never know for sure why the jury decided as they did, but I suspect that the fact that killing someone with a motor vehicle is taken far, far too lightly had something to do with it. That's a problem, to be sure.
I sometimes wonder if the jury was looking for an excuse to acquit, any excuse. In that case, would they have found an excuse if there was a 1.5m law? I fear that they would.
All that said, I think that airing the issue is a very good thing and kudos to you and all those involved. I don't think the proposed change is a bad thing. I do harbour some doubts as to how much of a good thing it will be, that's all.
This is certain to offend, but 2nd womble has described one of the reasons for acquittal as "she was asking for it". She shouldn't have been there in that miniskirt, it's her own fault. Yep. If only Pollett was driving an Abrams tank then the truck wouldn't have hurt him. If only he had lived in a dungeon without access to natural light the truck wouldn't have hit him. If only he was in a truck where his EVIL disregard for other citizens of humanity would hurt other people instead of himself... We stopped this kind of victimisation of women, boys, the disabled, indigenous people, the list goes on. Civilised people don't try and excuse their crap behaviour with pathetic platitudes like those that killed Pollett.
If you disagree then search your heart. Would you like this done to your mum or daughter? "She shouldn't have been on the road, she was asking for it" - Saudi Arabia has some classy extensions of this argument too. It seems ridiculous but hey it's not like anyone died from it.. Hmmmmmmmm
so maybe just educating drivers that 1.5m is the minimum safe distance you can pass at would help. But when ourr licencing system is desgined to give everyone a licence and not properly train drivers, the education part falls down considerably.
Currently the answer, in a licence test, to the question (should it arise) how close can you pass someone is 'as long as its safe' giving no education to the drvier in real physical terms. Adding 1.5m into law enables the licence test to require the answer 1.5m, then on top of that you can add education around 1.5m means half a lane and you have to get over further etc.
While typing this it occurred to me what if it was 1.5m for all overtaking, not just bikes? Suddenly you cant pass a truck in your car on a dual lane carriageway, there isn't rule. It clearly should apply only to two wheeled vehicles.
bychosis (bahy-koh-sis): A mental disorder of delusions indicating impaired contact with a reality of no bicycles.
That is what I believe The 2nd Womble and his team were discussing with his relevant QLD politicians. 1.5m only applied to cyclists.
As to other people's posts, I agree regarding more driver education needed. A top up of knowledge of the road rules is always beneficial IMO so that I am not ignorant of the relevant laws and so don't fall foul of them without knowing before I do it that I am about to break a rule.
I also think that in terms of the rules mentioned above by Aushiker and Bartek in the opening post, a 'safe' distance could possibly be further defined in the rules/law as 'a minimum of 1.5m from a cyclist' (I believe more distance is required at higher speeds).
I've already mentioned in other threads on this and similar topics that I don't know how drivers will accurately calculate this 1.5m as they are driving (as opposed to working out speed which has a handy dial in front of the driver to check).
^ my assumption is that it would only apply to single lane roads including unmarked lanes, since these issues are principally lane sharing problems. It does set a scene for appropriate multilane culture as well though. Humans first, destination and prejudices second.
Point is, who gets tested on this sort of thing.
The other day I saw a thing on Facebook about all these "new" road rules that had been snuck in recently and a heap of carrying on about this being blatant revenue raising.
All of these supposed "new" road rules were existing rules that someone had "discovered".
A simple example is that it is illegal to do a U-turn at traffic lights unless there is a sign specifically saying that you can. The number of people that do not know this is amazing but I know that this has been the case since at least the early 80's when my mum got a ticket for it.
The point is unless there is ONGOING driver education about the rule being 1m, 1.5m, 2m, a city block, whatever, the general driving public is not going to know about it until/unless there is an accident and a cop gives them a ticket for breaking the law. If the cyclist is killed, lives are still devestated and the jury will take direction from the judge and arrive at an outcome (whatever that may be).
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