NSW Minimum Passing Distance – Two Year Trial Announced

 Dear Members and Friends,

We are delighted that the NSW Government announced yesterday that a two year trial of Minimum Passing Distance Legislation (MPDL) would commence in NSW in March 2016.  Bicycle NSW has campaigned hard for this for many years.  We believe this will produce a marked benefit to rider safety in NSW.   It will bring NSW into line with Queensland, ACT and South Australia.

An adjunct to this legislation which was not mentioned in the Minister’s Press Release, is that car drivers will be able to cross double lines to overtake riders when safe to do so.  This helps allay the concerns of some drivers.

Bicycle NSW believes that MPDL is not a silver bullet for rider safety.  We will advocate for an effective education campaign from the NSW Government, combined with further measures including cycling infrastructure.

However, the MPDL has been coupled with two items of major concern:

1/  A massive increase in some cycling fines, to bring them to equivalence with vehicle fines.   Let us be very frank on this matter – Bicycle NSW have consistently, both in committee and publicly, voiced our opposition to this measure, and will continue to do so.

We have always said that any review of fines should be balanced and take into account the relative consequence of the offence.  We have also encouraged riders and road users to obey the rules at all times.

There has been no cost-benefit analysis on the increase in fines, and no evidence to justify the level of fines or that they will be effective.   Big fines are not the best way of producing compliance with rules – education is the best answer.

While MPDL is a significant step, we will continue to advocate to the Government on how we can increase active transport in an already congested city, and the safety of all road users.

Bicycle NSW will be further presenting these views to the NSW Government and calling for an evidence based approach.

2/  Bicycle riders must compulsorily carry photo ID.  At Bicycle NSW we recognise that many riders already carry ID.  We encourage this.

However, we see that making it mandatory for those over 18 years old to carry photo ID (Drivers Licence or NSW Photo Card) as unnecessary and a possible disincentive for some people to ride.

This measure has little to do with increasing rider safety.   There has been no hard evidence put forward that Police have issues in identifying riders.  We believe that there are far more important bicycle safety issues that the NSW Government should be looking at.

Fortunately, this ID proposal will not be enforced until March 2017, ie there will be a 12 month “grace” period.  This period will be required to sort out the practical issues – which even now are appearing, eg will a photo of your Drivers Licence suffice as Premier Baird has suggested?   How will Police determine the age of a rider?  Why should riders without a Drivers Licence be forced to buy an NSW Photo Card for $51?  What about interstate and overseas visitors?

During this period, Bicycle NSW will be working to have this measure reversed.

At Bicycle NSW we will continue to help build a better environment for cycling and fairer treatment of bike riders.  One of our top priorities must now be to have active transport “friendly” traffic signals.  For too long these signals have prioritised vehicles at the expense of pedestrians and bicycle riders.

I will keep you posted on our efforts and priorities into 2016.  We wish everyone safe riding over the Christmas period knowing that Minimum Passing Distance Legislation will be introduced in the New Year.

Ray Rice
CEO, Bicycle NSW
Creating a Better Environment for Cycling