Motorists will be familiar with groups of cyclists which frequent local roads (and cafés) particularly on weekends. Mandatory minimum passing distances for motorists passing cyclists came into effect this week.

The updated rule makes it mandatory for motorists to give cyclists at least one metre clearance when overtaking on roads with speed limits up to 60km/h and 1.5 metres on roads with speed limits above 60km/h. The new law brings Victoria into line with other states.

The new laws are the result of a 10-year campaign by the Amy Gillet Foundation to reduce deaths of cyclists on Australian roads. Amy Gillett was an Australian track cyclist who was killed when a driver crashed into the Australian squad of cyclists when they were training in Germany in 2005. The AGF was established in order to fund road safety programs and provide scholarships for young female cyclists.

“After 10 long years, the Amy Gillett Foundation has finally achieved nationally consistent legislation on minimum overtaking distances” said AGF Director, Lisa Jacobs. Lisa, who is also the Mountain Bike Ambassador for the Great Dividing Trail Association, continued, “There’s a lot more work to be done to achieve our mission of zero cyclist fatalities, but this is a huge step forward in making cyclists safer on our roads.”

Under the updated rule, drivers and motorcyclists can briefly cross painted lines to give cyclists the space they need – including solid lines, double lines, painted tram lane lines and painted islands – but only when they have a clear view ahead and it’s safe to do so.

Cyclists need to follow the road rules too – including riding predictably, riding in bike lanes when they are provided and using hand signals to change direction.

Consultation with motoring and bicycling bodies and other key stakeholders to ensure the rule fits into practical, everyday situations has occurred. The law will attract maximum court penalties of up to $1,652 and on the spot infringements of $330. Improper overtaking or passing offences incur two demerit points.

Robyn Seymour, Deputy Secretary Network Planning, Department of Transport said, “The message is clear – when you see a cyclist slow down, if you have a clear view ahead, choose a safe gap in traffic to pass at a metre or more. It can make all the difference in everyone making it home.”