Should Motorists Be Fined For Closely Passing Cyclists?

Should Motorists Be Fined For Closely Passing Cyclists?

Depending on who you ask, bicycles are either bona fide vehicles that deserve equal road rights, or a colossal pain in the arse that should be relegated to the footpath. Here’s some news that is sure to rile up people in the second camp: police in South Australia have started fining motorists who pass cyclists too closely. Under the new laws, a gap of one metre or less can result in a $347 fine and the loss of two demerit points. We’re keen to read your thoughts.

Bike image from Shutterstock

As reported by ABC News, motorists who pass cyclists by less than a metre are now being targeted by SA traffic authorities. The rules have been in effect since last October, but police have warned that the “three-month education phase” is now over. Instead of being issued a warning, motorists will now be slugged with an on-the-spot fine of $347 (this includes a $60 ‘victims of crime’ levy.)

Under the new rules, motorists are required to leave a minimum one-metre gap when overtaking cyclists at speeds of 60km/h or under. When travelling above 60km/h, the minimum gap widens to 1.5 metres.

We don’t want to come down too hard on a road safety law that could potentially save lives… but we can’t help but feel that this particular rule is poorly thought out.

For example, what happens when you’re on a narrow stretch of road, as are commonly found in most Australian neighbourhoods? Are you supposed to potter behind them until the road widens up? (Personally, I’d be more put off by a car rumbling at my backside than attempting to overtake, but that’s just me.)

Also, what happens when traffic slows to a crawl and the cyclist decides to lane filter? Technically, you’re not passing the bicycle in these situations, but what about when the traffic speeds up again? Are you supposed to remain stationary until the bicycle is in the distance? There seems to be a lot of grey areas here that could lead to unfair fines.

We’re interested in what you guys think about all this. Do you think this new law is fair to motorists? Would you like to see it introduced in other states? If you’re a cyclist, will it make you feel safer? Share your opinions in the comments section below.

[Via ABC]


  • well considering in QLD a bike is considered a vehicle on the roads, the cyclist should be liable to maintain the distance, and follow all the road rules, a few years back i had a cyclist try to run a red (dont walk) light, and rode out in front of me and i cleaned him up pretty well, his case got dismissed instantly because of the law of the cyclist is considered a vehicle and they must dismount to cross the road, etc. i have no time for cyclists and they should be liable for keeping the distance, or pay a rego. if it is not a safe place to ride, dont bloody ride there. dont ride there and then complain when its not safe and blame others.

    • It is interesting to see how some common road rules can be broken when it comes to passing cyclists. – of particular interst is the “tips for passing cyclists on the road” segment. This states it is OK to cross solid double white lines and overtake off a traffic island to pass a cyclist, things which I consider inherently dangerous. Mainly because segments of road with double white lines are areas where there are poor visibility or dangerous in the first place.

      • Crossing the lines to overtake a car is a lot more dangerous than crossing the lines to overtake a bike. Not only do you have to move further across (and likely to a point where an oncoming car would have no room to safely pass), but it takes longer to overtake another car as it’s longer than a bike and probably relatively faster. The new laws allow you to make a judgment call as the level of danger varies depending on what you are overtaking.

  • I try to pass cyclists with as wide a berth as possible when I’m driving. It’s not feasible in city traffic, though, when cyclists are the one passing you — I’d like to see better enforcement of road rules for cyclists at the same time as this.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lane where there’d even be a 1.5m gap between the left side of the car and the cyclist (maybe if there’s an explicit cycling lane). Are we always expected to overtake in the oncoming traffic lane?

    • 1 meters at slow speeds, and 1.5 meters at >80km/h.

      So yes, you’re stuck behind them until they show the common courtesy of pulling off to the left, or it’s safe for you to encroach on the right lane / opposite side of the road to overtake.

  • Yes, cars should have to give bikes 1m of space. That’s the law here in QLD too. People’s lives are at stake.

    However, since pushbikes are equal’s on the road they should be paying rego and displaying license plates, that way their traffic violations can be photographed like the rest of us and infringement notices issued. This extra funding can be used to install proper bike lanes.

    However, we should also have a law that forces people on/in vehicles incapable of doing the speed limit to pull off to the left of the road as soon as is safe, to allow traffic to pass.

    This is a common courtesy you will experience if you ever find yourself behind a tractor on a country road. Unfortunately, pushbike riders are as well known for their “common courtesy” as us SUV drivers.

      • Yes.

        You realize there’s no law that requires people stand in line at a counter either. It’s just incredibly rude to go to the front of the line and cut in.

        You know the feeling you get when I suggest that someone might do that to you? That’s exactly how you’re making everybody behind you feel when you choose to exercise your right to travel slower than the speed “LIMIT” (obviously unless there’s adverse weather conditions).

        Our speed limits are generally set at a speed which the vast majority of the traffic are in vehicles that can safely and comfortably travel at the limit. Thus, vehicles traveling slower than the limit are not only inconveniencing everybody behind them, but they are putting themselves at greater risk of being involved in an accident (google “Solomon curve”).

        I’m not saying you don’t have the right to tootle along at 60km/h in a 100km/h zone with a convoy of annoyed drivers trailing you, I’m saying you should have the common decency to pull over and let them past – You’re obviously not in a hurry, so it’ll only add a few seconds to your total trip time. You can’t know the circumstances of the people behind you that you are so joyously delaying – you might be costing someone their job, or the last moments with their dying relative.

        Furthermore, I’m saying that since that common decency is so uncommon, it should be enshrined in law.

      • You can be fined for going to slow. If you are doing 20 on a road with 60 for no good reason, Police can and will pull you over and instruct you to speed up and can fine you as it is a safety hazard

      • But you can be fined for going under the speed limit as well if you’re found to be obstructing traffic.

    • How would the cyclist make progress and wouldn’t that be far more dangerous? Either we are talking about a busy street whereby there is a constant stream of traffic, or we are talking about a very quiet street with very few cars. In a constant stream of traffic and relative to each driver the pushbike rider would have to perform his “common courtesy” of pulling over every 5 seconds (as the cars behind haven’t witnessed this “common courtesy” and will immediately expect it. This is impractical and incredible dangerous, as pulling back into a stream of traffic creates an unnecessary increased risk. For a quiet street … it’s hard to image such a place, by definition there should within a short time frame (5 seconds?) ample opportunity to pass (how many narrow, one lane, quiet roads are there… maybe don’t drive down them?). Cyclists reduce traffic, take up far less space, involved with far (statistics adjusted for population size) fewer accidents and are the future. Welcome to it!

  • This is the grey area of cyclists. They blur the line between pedestrians and motor vehicles, and have traits from both groups, so which one takes priority?

    Not sure how to word this, it doesnt quite come out right, but when they are on the road, cyclists are the weaker of the two groups using them, but if you push them onto the footpaths, THEY become the more damage capable when compared to pedestrians.

    Do you then bring in a bunch of new laws telling pedestrians how they must act?

    And at the middle of this is the problem. Where should they be? Finding a bike path isnt easy, they dont go up and down every street, so by default there is a time where they need to either be where cars are, or where pedestrians are.

  • To answer your question – in Qld we have had this law for a while now and yes, you are meant to drive at 10kph behind the bicycle up the hill.

    What shits me is now some cyclists seem to use the law to deliberately antagonise cars – like riding in the middle of peak hour traffic on major multilane roads.

  • You cater to the weakest link, protect the most vulnerable. It’s the social contract in action. Laws upon laws upon laws follow this reasoning and we champion these as evidence of being civilized.

    And make no mistake, we’re talking about some of the most vulnerable road-users, here.
    This is just sensible.

    We’re talking about risk of serious injury and death for cyclists versus minor irritation for motorists.

    If you seriously think there’s a contest between those interests, then there’s something incredibly fucked up about your values system.

    • Cyclists have been catered to, a hell of a lot this last decade or so, but they shouldn’t expect all that has been and is being done to be gratis. As has been mentioned above, they should have to pay for rego, like all those others who use the roads. This three and four abreast nonsense, for example, is a complete pain when you can’t get past at dawdling speed because there is too much oncoming traffic, I think that’s just bloody rude and obnoxious. There are a lot of things that the cyclist should be responsible for too.

  • As a cyclist I’d prefer that the police crack down on people who don’t use their blinkers to indicate, especially on left turns. This inability to use indicators has cause more accidents and close calls for me on the bike than any other issue.

  • Think of it this way. If you rear-end another car, there’s no discussion over who’s fault the accident is – you’re expected to leave room in front. If you tailgate and it goes pear-shaped then it’s your fault.

    When a car sideswipes a cyclist then without the 1 metre rule it’s a case of ‘he said/she said’ over who is to blame. With the 1 metre rule the blame is clear, doesn’t matter if the cyclist wobbled, it’s the cars fault. Drivers will have to adjust their behaviour.

    The reality of driving is that we are slowed down by many many things – traffic lights, stop signs, cars trying to turn right in traffic, cars slowing down to turn left, buses stopping to pick up passengers, etc etc etc – all of these legitimate things mean that we can’t get from A to B as fast as the car is capable of. For some people it seems cyclists don’t count a legitimate road users and get upset if they have to wait 5-10 seconds for a cyclist.

    I ride to work most days and to be honest getting sideswiped isn’t much of a worry. Cars who turn right across traffic without checking the bike lane and cars cutting into the bike lane from a side street do worry me (and I ride slower to anticipate these illegal but not uncommon actions).

  • As a motorcyclist I can see both sides of the “argument” – A high percentage of cagers are careless, they feel secure in their boxes and don’t care if they hit anything because the insurance will cover it.

    For cyclists, both motorized and human powered, we have to pay attention to everything, a collision with anything can cause a serious accident. I must say that I have seen many “unregistered” cyclists ignoring basic road laws.

  • In Victoria, drivers must leave ‘sufficient’ space to cyclists but there is no definition of what that is. Some states and territories are trialling minimum one-metre passing laws.
    Overtaking a vehicle that is turning left
    You must not overtake a vehicle on the left
    if it is turning left and indicating left.

    • What I see happen regularly is that cars overtake a cyclist, then turn left immediately. Technically the car isn’t overtaking, but it is turning in front of the cyclist and the cyclist is left with no where to go.

      Consider this, would you turn left from the right lane across other traffic?
      Would you change lanes to in front of a truck as you are approaching a red-light?

  • Jeez, the police must be inundated with all the photos of drivers failing to keep left on 80km/h+ roads everyday from people who want cyclists to display number plates so that offenders can be photographed. Or, people who fail to indicate when changing lanes, or fail to accelerate when joining traffic, or roll through stop signs, or, or, or. There’s nothing that we love more than getting on a good old hatred bandwagon, and since it’s hard to identify a group of drivers that annoy us (since we can’t single out women or Asians anymore) let’s focus on cyclists.

    I’ve posted over on Kotaku on this before, but consider every “almost” that we have out on the roads – you know, all those times where someone pulls out on you or starts to merge into you – most of us will curse and yell in the comfort of our steel boxes for a few seconds and move on; when you’re on a bike (motorised or otherwise), those “almosts” are “almost ended up in the hospital or morgue”. So, as frustrating as it is being stuck behind a cyclist opting to occupy an entire lane, consider that they are doing that to protect themselves from aggressive drivers (and that drives a feedback cyclists of drivers getting frustrated and driving more aggressively).

    • or or or as a pedestrian when I ‘almost’ end up in hospital with an injury because some cyclist decides that the red light that stopping car traffic at a pedestrian crossing doesn’t apply to him/her and decides to ride though the crossing almost hitting someone. Zebra crossing are also another prime example – apparently cyclists don’t think they need to yield to pedestrians at them either

      Then has the nerve to swear at the pedestrian

      So yeah. Pot, Kettle.

      • Yeah, it’s a good point mate. I suppose I’m commenting on the thoughtless and repetitive arguments that I often hear from motorists when it comes to bikes and cars existing in the same place. Cyclists not yielding to pedestrians are arseholes too, and trust me when I say that they frustrate me more than most since I see that their behaviour influences others to drive aggressively around me when I’m on my bike. As with all things, I suppose, if we could just exist away from the 5% that cause 95% of problems, we’d all by happier.

        • Thanks for the response mate, I wasn’t intending to be a jerk with my comment, so apologies if it came off that way. I agree, as you said its always the minority who seem to cause a bulk of the problems. Unless you understood what I was saying unlike the person below

          • On the same page here. It just boils down to protecting the most vulnerable among us , as @transientmind said above us, which are pedestrians, then cyclists, then motorbikes, then cars.
            I understand the logic behind calling for identifying marks (a rego plate/bib/whatever) on a cyclist, but we also need to balance that against the absolute need we have, as a society, to get more people active and to limit the number of cars on the road. I think I remember seeing some stats a couple of years ago, where something like 10% of people work within 10km of home and only a very small percentage ride – it’s a perfect target for reducing the costs associated with road maintenance and poor health.

      • Does every cyclist you see nearly kill you?

        People are happy to point out the time that a cyclist you saw break a law, but no one tends to mention all the times cars do, which happens far more per day.

        • Without hyperbole, does EVERY car you see try to kill you?

          And in fact, I am happy to point out anyone who breaks a road law – for example people using their mobiles are the worst, but this wasn’t a post/comment about people using their mobiles while driving

          • The stats are pretty shocking, though. As a motorist, the number of times you nearly die on the road due to someone else being a moron is probably pretty low, because in general, everyone else is going at roughly the same speed as you, so you likely only encounter a small cluster of fellow motorists.

            Cyclists, however, are being passed by dozens and dozens (if not hundreds) of cars every day, depending how far they have to travel, which increases their exposure to number of other road-users. And the number of those cars who carelessly (and sometimes deliberately) nearly KILL THEM is ridiculous.

            A couple of the guys at work who are pretty hardcore about it (which I define as ‘one of them offered a novice cyclist the use of their ‘cheap’ bike, which is ‘only’ five thousand dollars, instead of their $20k competition bike) have fitted go-pros to their bikes and helmets out of necessity, and the footage they’ve compiled of near-misses from careless idiots and deliberate assholes is pretty horrifying. It’s apparently a dozen attempts on your life every week? Even without exaggeration, let’s say a dozen attempts on your life per month? That’s too much.

            I can’t imagine anyone else putting up with that, but that’s apparently cycling in Brisbane for you.

  • I think they should legistate what kind of bikes are allowed on the road. Road bikes and flat bar road bikes – ok. Rigid commuters and tourers are a bit of a grey area. Anything with suspension or those upright vintage bikes women love – stick to the paths.

    Nothing more fun than being stuck behind someone on one of those upright vintage bikes going super slow when there is a perfectly good path right next to the road. And this is coming from a cyclist.

    • While thinking, how about considering the number of times, whereby the reason you were late, it was because a cyclist held you up. Civil engineers have modeled what would happen if everyone drove slower – the result was you would make more green lights and get were you were going faster. Cars speeding and running lights throw out complex timing for a route and slow the entire system down. This is generally why you are late, not because there was a cyclist. I would love to see you explain why you were late to your Boss, lets try “there was a cyclist on the road”, Boss says “your fired for such a lame excuse”.

  • There are far too many drivers on the roads with very poor attitudes towards cyclists. If you hit a cyclist you could quite easily kill one, so give them a wide berth when passing. Of course there are many cyclists who break the road rules just as there are many bad drivers who break the road rules. A cyclist who breaks the road rules is hardly a reason to drive in a manner which puts a life at risk.

    This should be law everywhere in the country and there should be a mandatory educational component to the offence to get through the thick skulls of anyone driving in an unsafe manner.

    • I’ve said it before, but if there is anyone who seriously believes that their few moments of inconvenience at the hands of a cyclist is somehow more important than cyclists’ lives being put at risk, then those people who believe that need to kept away from the rest of society and perhaps rehabilitated to not be complete psychopaths.

  • Cyclists suck. They are barely clothed (leaving nothing inspiring to the imagination,) slow, in the way most of the time, always whinging about others whinging about them and having more bike lanes built for them at the cost of the tax payer. The list goes on and on…

    But one thing will always remain. If you’re a cyclist. You suck.

    • Man complaining about whinging is whinging….
      I’m a cyclist not by choice. I’m visually impaired and can’t get my licence therefore I am FORCED to ride a bike everywhere. I ride in regular clothes. It’s my only means of getting to and from work. I take the bike paths whenever i can because it’s safer and faster. So what I am asking is could you go without your car or licence for a week? a year? a decade? I am simply playing the hand I was dealt. It wasn’t my choice to be born like this. Driving is a privilege and not a right. Soo i don’t suck I merely endure.

  • Is there a problem in the anti-cyclist camp from referring to cyclists as people first rather than some object? A cyclist is a person: someone’s daughter, son, sister, brother, mother or father. The 1 meter law is designed to provide a safe distance between two people, where only one of them is protected by a 2 tonne steel shell. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Both cyclists and motorists should respect and obey the law.

  • Comments like these make me super scared to get back on a bike. Out of all the countries I have visited, Australians motorists are definitely the most impatient and aggressive I have come across.

    • agreed! even Americans or more excepting of cyclists than Aussies who think they own the road

  • how about adding that cyclists need to move the fuck over… they should be riding close to the curb, not in the middle of the lane and not abreast of each other.

    Also better enforcement with people riding on the roads at night with no freaken lights.

    also more continuous bike lanes having a bike lane start and stop then start again is annoying for everyone. or better yet more bike paths. and roads that have a speed at or above 80km/h should not have bikes on them at all rather install bike paths or shared footpaths.

    • It’s actually quite dangerous to ride really close to the kerb, a lot of debris builds up and then there are also things like stormwater intakes that have modified road geography.

      • close as in within half a meter not some idiots riding in the middle of the freaken lane

        • Sometimes if it’s a narrow street I’ll ride in the middle of the lane to stop cars overtaking. I get out of the way as soon as safely possible. Even then, It’s not uncommon for cars to squeeze me out when coming to a tight section of road forcing me to suddenly stop because there’s no space.

          Also it’s hard to see in a car, but there’s a couple sections on my route where the asphalt has warped, making it difficult to ride.

          Sure, maybe some people are been annoying, but there’s many other explanations for why they’re in the middle of the lane as well.

    • Actually no, the middle of the lane is quite often the best place to be, as you can adjust your lane position from there to avoid any issues with the road surface, debris, etc. The entire lane is yours while you’re there, it is there to be used for you to safely move forward, and continually scanning the conditions and road ahead is an integral part of riding a two wheeled vehicle – including adjusting your lane position when required.

      Cars don’t understand lane position because the vehicle consumes most of the width of the lane in the first place.

  • Yep, as long as cyclists get fined for not keeping to the side of the road, and blocking cars by not riding single file.

    • agreed! As a cyclist i believe you should ALWAYS ride single file on a road! Furthermore.. if there is a parking lane on said road the RIDE IN IT! not only is it safer it’s courteous to drivers and they will love you for it!

  • TBH, first you have an awesome infrastructure for roads meant for vehicles.

    Then you decide to have the worst mode of transport suited to that a pedal bike run on it.

    Then you ask other vehicles to slow down for this dumbness.

    Honestly either your planning is stuffed or you just want to create chaos and road safety issues everywhere.

  • You suck, that is a huge generalisation all cyclists are not the same, sure some of them break the road rules, but I think you will find more car drivers break the road rules.

  • Interestingly one of the local councils in SA (Norwood, Payneham & St Peters) have found that motorists are tending to be over cautious in passing cyclists since the passing rule was introduced. The article should be available on News websites.

    The result is going to be that traffic in the left lane might be slower, particularly in peak-hour where clearways exist because traffic will need to merge into the right lane to move around cyclists. However a similar issue exists with buses stopping to drop off passengers, so I’m not sure it is a significant issue.

    If the result of the rule is that more people are cycling because they feel safer then this is a significant boost for public health and with less cars on the road commute times will fall.

  • If there’s no bike lane of the required width, or if you’re not comfortable on that particular stretch of road, then don’t bloody ride it!

  • Typically this law lacked the budget so the thought was as usual, lazy. In most cases in Adelaide the roads are very generous and where practical the existing bike lanes could be increased and the vehicle lane reduced. This way the cars will know where they belong instead of engaging slaloms with oncoming traffic. The bike’s lane extension should be a second line and this area is the buffer. The bike goes over, the bike rider gets fined. If the car goes into it, the driver gets fined. With the exception of overtaking or turning through. But of cause the painting of the second bike line and new vehicle lanes would be financially restrictive. Maybe we should be more creative in our revenue raising (where does all the revenue from speed and red light cameras go?)

    In the case of narrow roads and lanes the current method is applied.

    Instead of bitching about bike riders’ lack of consideration, or the arrogance of idiot drivers maybe we should all learn to use the road properly and appropriately. But of cause as long as morons cut across your drive line only to slow down to turn off while the road is empty behind you, or speedster cyclists overtake casual riders without looking over their shoulder… well that’s why it’s so hard to take all these comments seriously.

    My two bobs worth

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