Give a Metre – How to apply the Minimum Passing Distance Rule

Bicycle NSW launches Give a Metre hands on experience

In 2016, Bicycle NSW received a small Community Road Safety Grant to develop the Give a Metre experience. A hands on activity for every day people to test their ability to accurately assess and give the Minimum Passing Distance when safely passing a bicycle rider on the roads. The experience asks people to pretend to be the driver and position themselves where they believe their vehicle would be giving the bike rider an appropriate amount of space.

The experience has surprised many when they discover just how little room they have been giving bike riders when they pass, and are now more able to visually assess the minimum distance they need to give bike riders. We have produced a brochure for participants to take home which outline how the new Minimum Passing Distance Rule works on NSW roads.
This hands on experience can also be modified to challenge bike riders to identify how much space they give a pedestrian when passing them on a Shared Path.

The kit will be made available to our Affiliated BUGs to use at community events and festivals, or at their Local Council activities to help give people across the state, the chance to test their skills and ensure they feel safe in the knowledge that they can safely give bike riders the space they need on the road while managing to help traffic flow through our cities and towns.

The Minimum Passing Distance Rule

In March 2016, the NSW State Government introduced a new Road Rule requiring a Minimum Passing Distance for drivers overtaking bike riders. The Rule has been effective in other states and provides motorists the ability to safely give vulnerable road users the space they need on the roads.

Bicycle NSW advocated strongly for the Minimum Passing Distance Rule and continues to work to ensure a greater understanding for all road users on how to share our roads. We are proud to deliver our Give A Metre campaign to help all road users understand how this Rule works and how they help to create harmony on our roads.

What is the Minimum Passing Distance Rule?
Details about the Rule and the Government 'Go Together' campaign educating on the Rule can be found on the Centre for Road Safety's website.
Below we will outline the basic information and examples of how and when the Rule can be applied.

The new Rule states the drivers of motor vehicles must give a minimum amount of space when overtaking a bike rider. When driving where the speed limit is 60km/h or less, vehicles must give at least 1 metre of space to the bicycle as the vehicle passes.

When driving where the speed limit is more than 60km/h, vehicles must give at least 1.5 metres of space to the bicycle as the vehicle passes.
That means between the widest part of the vehicle and the widest part of the bicycle and rider must be at least 1 - 1.5 metres of space.

What does this mean for Drivers and Riders?

Vehicles are allowed to cross unbroken lines, when safe to do so, in order to give bike riders the minimum passing distance as they overtake.

Bike riders are legally allowed to use a traffic lane either riding in single file, or riding two abreast.

Bike riders are allowed to ‘take the lane’ or ride in the position on the road that is equivalent to the driving position within a car. In this central position bike riders can see hazards sooner, be seen by drivers at side streets and pedestrians at crossings more easily, and are able to keep away from the danger zone of opening car doors.

As a courtesy, bike riders could however move to the left to allow cars to pass when safe to do so.

How does a driver decide when it is "safe to do so"? When the driver can see ahead and judge whether they have enough time and space to safely overtake the bike rider/s while giving 1-1.5m depending on the speed limit, and be able to merge back in to the traffic lane without causing obstruction.

Drivers should look ahead to check whether they have a clear view, can see over a crest or around a bend, and identify whether there are any road obstructions, like traffic islands or road dividers. Drivers must still use indicators to communicate to all road users their intended maneuver.
Image Courtesy of SA Government Learner Driver Handbook

Extending the courtesy to paths

Bike riders are allowed to ride on footpaths if they are under the age of 12, or are with an under 12 bike rider. This means that parents, guardians, friends and siblings aged 12 years or over are legally allowed to ride on the footpath if they are accompanying a rider under 12. An rider under the age of 12 includes children riding their own bicycles, riding as a passenger on an adults bike and carried in a carrier made for the purpose (eg a bicycle child seat), riding on a carrier attached to an adults bicycle (eg a tag-along or a bicycle trailer with child seating), or in a cargo bike fitted for the purpose of carrying passengers.

Bike riders of all ages are allowed to ride on designated Shared Paths which often connect bike routes and paths through our cities. Shared paths are signposted and bike riders must always give way to pedestrians. Many Local Council's create maps and signage identifying shared paths. As a courtesy, pedestrians are encouraged to keep left, to allow faster moving pedestrians and bike riders to safely pass.

Bicycle riders are also encouraged to allow pedestrians a metre of space on shared paths, where possible.

Have you experienced a close pass or a driver not giving the minimum passing distance when overtaking?

Bicycle NSW produced a guide for bicycle riders to use sharing information on recording and reporting breaches of the Minimum Passing Distance Rule to the NSW Police. To read the guide, visit our MPD page.