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One of the most important goals for Bicycle NSW is to ‘create a better environment for all bicycle riders.’

In working towards this objective, rider safety on the roads has been a key focus for our team over many years.

Minimum Passing Distance (MPD) legislation was introduced in NSW in 2018 after a long advocacy campaign by Bicycle NSW and the leading Australian bicycle organisations. Head here for more about the rule and its implementation.

Transport for NSW’s excellent video ‘Go Together – Sharing the road with bicycle riders’ was part of a 2018 public education campaign that has since paused (Source: Transport for NSW)

Fast Forward 6 Years 

One metre still matters but awareness and enforcement of Minimum Passing Distance legislation has stalled.

Drivers must give bicycle riders at least one metre space in 60 km/h or under zones and 1.5 metres when the speed limit is above 60km/h. But we know this isn’t happening. 

In 2023, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that bike riders now represent about one in four (23%) of road crash hospitalisations. They are the only road user group to report increasing injury numbers.

And even Drive Magazine stated that, “dangerous behaviour from drivers is a major threat to cyclist safety”.

Frustratingly, “most cyclists' complaints to NSW police about aggressive driving are not investigated,” says John Hawkins, Chair of the Bicycle NSW Advocacy Committee.

By 2023, police had only issued 171 $362 fines to motorists for driving too close. 

“There’s a disconnect between the welcome support at senior levels of policing and the treatment received by riders from officers on the ground,” Says John. “In comparison, policing the source of the greatest harm to riders – poor driving – often seems like too much work.” 

An enduring theme is that complaints are dismissed as unprovable without any effort to properly examine the evidence.

A new commitment from NSW Police 

As we recently reported, Bicycle NSW CEO Peter McLean met with NSW Police Assistant Commissioner, Brett McFadden PSM, to discuss Minimum Passing Distance prosecution, and other safety issues.

“Commissioner McFadden committed to getting his team to investigate and follow up internally to ensure appropriate action is taken,” says Peter McLean. 

Thanks for your help!

Our article New Push for Minimum Passing Distance Compliance explained how to report a breach. We asked our friends and Members to email us if a case is not investigated so we can communicate directly with Assistant Commissioner McFadden's team. 

Bicycle NSW is very grateful that so many of you have sent close pass reports and video footage. We are following up several cases.

BUG Incident Report

Here’s a great case study of how Dorrigo Urunga Bellingen Bicycle Users Group (DUBBUG) responded to Assistant Commissioner McFadden’s request for reports.

DUBBUG groups regularly cycle along Keevers Drive beside the Bellinger River. “There have been several cycling incidents along this short stretch,” said Dave Spears, DUBBUG Secretary. “However, many go unreported.”

Members of the Dorrigo Urunga Bellingen Bicycle Users Group - DUBBUG (Source: DUBBUG Facebook)

This Incident Report (lightly edited for clarity) details two dangerous incidents on Friday 23 Feb 2024. It was written by Dave Spears and addressed to the Mayor of Bellingen.

Incident 1

At around 8:10 am, a BayRange ‘tipper & dog’ truck overtook our group of cyclists heading north along Keevers Drive in an 80 kmph straight section north of Bellinger River bridge. The vehicle had turned into Keevers Drive from North Bank Road, presumably from a job along this road. An approx. location is shown on the map below. This section of Keevers Road does not have road markings.

Our cycling group was rather large and split into a ‘fast’ and ‘slower’ group, after being held up at traffic lights at Raleigh Bridge heading north.

Initially, the BayRange truck overtook the slower group on the right-hand side of the road. The driver then proceeded to stay in the right-hand side, catch up with the fast group, and overtake them.

Heading south, in the opposite direction, a car was on the right-hand side and clearly visible with lights on. The driver of the BayRange truck appeared to make the decision to speed up even faster to overtake the fast group and then pull across to the left-hand side in front of them. 

The car, with lights on, slows down to allow the speeding truck to pass the cyclists. This could have been a disaster. The driver’s decision was very risky, particularly as the vehicle was so long and the road is relatively narrow.

Incident 2

A little later, at around 8:30 am, an unmarked ‘tipper & dog’ truck close passed going south along Keevers Drive in an 80 kmph section at the Bellinger River turnoff to Repton (Mylestom Drive).

As it went past it sounded its horn, presumably to warn our riding group. However, it did not move across the centreline to give the required 1.5m berth. There were no visible vehicles heading in the opposite direction. It is assumed it was heading to the same job on North Bank Rd.  

Heavy vehicles are currently not permitted to cross Raleigh Bridge, therefore the two incidences may be related to the same business.

Background to the incidents

Keevers Drive is the only sealed road suitable for road cyclists which links Coffs Harbour and Mylestom to Urunga/Bellingen. The area is extremely popular for recreational and commuting riders, particularly in the early mornings. Keevers Road is not is marked with cyclist lanes. 

Drivers, particularly contractors, who have deadlines to meet may not be familiar with cyclists using this section of Keevers Drive. It appears there is also confusion between State Government and Bellingen Council as to who is responsible for its maintenance and road markings etc. Parts of the road have no markings at all.

Large vehicles, trucks and buses generate considerable wind blast at 80 kmph. This is enough to cause a cyclist to become unbalanced or thrown off their bike if passed at close range. Cyclists are often not aware of the size of these vehicles approaching them from the rear.

There have been many incidences involving cyclists in this stretch of the road, most of which go unreported.

DUBBUG recommendations for Council

  • Targeted education for drivers to raise awareness of bike riders
  • Shared cycle lanes and/or markings on Keevers Road 
  • Speed limit reduction from 80 kmph to 60 kmph speed limit between Bellingen River Repton turnoff to Raleigh Bridge.

DUBBUG believes the immediate reduction of the speed limit is the easiest and logical first step. The total distance affected is less than ONE kilometre. However, this would have a significant impact on safely sharing the road, given there are currently no lane markings and it remains a popular road for cyclists.

[Incident Report Ends]

Our affiliated BUGs do extraordinary work to help facilitate positive outcomes for safety.  This is just one of the many stories we have documented of their invaluable input to making NSW better for bike riding.

Why not join your local BUG and benefit from local guided group rides in your area and regional tours? 

One more thing…

If you are not already a Bicycle NSW Member, please consider joining up today!  You will ride easy, covered by our comprehensive insurance and enjoy many other Member-only benefits. You will also support our advocacy work to make NSW safer for bike riding.

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