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There’s been a lot of talk about the the government’s recent road rule changes.  Bike SA’s CEO Christian Haag provides some clarity on what it all means. 

From October 25, 2015 South Australian road users will be required to leave at least one metre when overtaking cyclists on roads with speed limits up to and including 60km/h. On roads with higher speed limits, the minimum passing distance will be 1.5 metres. The new law is part of a suite of cycling measures that will be implemented in South Australia following recommendations by a Citizens Jury earlier this year – including the ability to allow cyclists of all ages to ride on footpaths.

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Footpaths

The experience is Queensland shows that the changes are working effectively and respectfully – with pedestrians and riders quickly being accustomed to sharing footpaths safely. The laws at the moment allow for someone over 18 years to ride with a child under the age of 12 years, so the new rules simply extend what is already allowed.

We know that 60% of Australians say they would ride their bike more if they felt it was safe to do so and the ability to ride on a footpath will be a great incentive to get the bike out of the shed to gain some experience and confidence. And of course they will also have the option to leave the car in the garage every now and then. For these people, taking the opportunity to ride on a footpath tends to be for a short period of time or for only a part of their total journey.

We see this change of rule encouraging more women to get riding. Those experienced riders that ride with confidence on the road itself are unlikely to use a footpath, though they will of course be allowed to. There is no evidence that riding on the footpath increases the risk of collissions – this is supported by evidence in the year long trial now underway in Queensland. 

It should also be noted that Councils will still have the capacity to erect signs prohibiting riding on specific sections of footpaths that are considered unsuitable for shared use.

As always, riders must give warning (by bell, horn or other means) to other people using the footpath where necessary in order to avert danger.

Let’s not forget that more people riding their bikes means fewer cars on our roads, less congestion and a more physically active and healthy community. And that’s a win-win for everyone. 

One metre distance – 1m up to 60kmh and 1.5m above 60kmh

The reality is that the majority of motorists, truck and bus drivers etc. already leave this level of distance between themselves and a rider. There have been questions raised about ‘what do I do if I have stopped at a set of lights and a cyclist comes up next to me and stops within the minimum passing distance’. In this instance, the driver will not be committing an offence. When the traffic starts moving, the rider will likely move ahead and the driver can then pass when they are able to leave a one metre gap. 

Crossing Centre Lines. This is now legal to pass a cyclist (but only when safe to do so)

There is some concern that a motorist crossing a centre line to overtake a cyclist will place themselves in danger of a head-on collision. After all, isn’t that why centre lines exist – to highlight a danger zone?

Again the experience from Qld has shown that this new rule has alleviated much of the frustration that motorists experience when being stuck behind a slow moving rider. 

Realistically, cyclists travel at low speeds and the time required to overtake them is very short. Equally, a motorist will only need to cross over the centre line as far as is required to ensure the minimum passing distance is adhered to.

To sum it all up, these changes are a win-win for all road users. 

Support Bike SA’s advocacy work by becoming a member – or taking part in one of our mass rides such as Amy’s Ride SA – taking place on Sunday 1 November.