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The NSW Police agree that Minimum Passing Distance legislation must be enforced - but we need your help!

Bicycle NSW was very proud to play a key role in the establishment of Minimum Passing Distance (MPD) legislation when it was introduced in NSW in 2018. 

Minimum passing distance laws had been a long-term goal for Australia’s bike riding community.

Give me room! A close pass is intimidating and very dangerous. The fear of being squeezed off the road or hit by vehicles discourages many people from ever getting on a bike (Image: Bike Auckland)

Amy Gillett Foundation’s A Metre Matters campaign launched in 2009. In October 2015, South Australia became the first state to introduce MPD laws. One by one, each Australian state introduced the laws, with Victoria becoming the last state to do so in April 2021.

The Minimum Passing Distance rule helps ensure that drivers leave space when overtaking bike riders, to helps to protect our most vulnerable road users. Drivers who pass a bicycle rider must allow a distance of at least:

  • 1 metre when the speed limit is 60km/h or less
  • 1.5 metres when the speed limit is more than 60km/h.

Back in 2016, there was an education and awareness campaign, and a little bit of enforcement. We saw 30 infringements issued per annum. This gave hope to bicycle riders across the state.

A 2017 campaign saw Amy Gillett Foundation partner with the Toll Group, to brand 14 delivery trucks with a clear message; ‘everyone has the right to get home safely – a metre matters’.  In 2020, Bicycle NSW collaborated with Suez to put bike safety messages on waste collection trucks  (Image: AGF/Toll)

The rules are now nationwide. Victoria was the final state to introduce MPD legislation in 2021. Victoria’s MPD education campaign from 2017 was on an impressive scale – but soon fell off the public radar (Image: Transport Accident Commission)

But six years on from the introduction of the NSW Minimum Passing Distance legislation in 2018, community awareness of the rule remains VERY low.  Enforcement is rare, and very few drivers receive the stipulated $362 fine and a penalty of 2 demerit points. It doesn’t help that some police officers remain uninformed about the legislation.  

The result? Disenfranchised bicycle riders who ask themselves 'why would I bother even making a complaint?'

The need to enforce MPD has been acknowledged by NSW Police 

Bicycle NSW has continued to raise concerns about non-enforcement directly with the NSW Government and senior police.

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

“I highlighted the lack of consistency in reporting and issuing tickets, even when clear evidence is provided,” says Peter.  “Other examples included not taking a statement, not acting on clear MPD breaches and not investigating allegations in a timely manner, resulting in the statute of limitations expiring.”  

Complaints are dismissed as unprovable without any effort to properly examine the evidence.  

The Assistant Commissioner wants to know about all MPD cases

“Bicycle NSW was extremely pleased to hear that Assistant Commissioner McFadden wants to see these cases directly from now on,’ says Peter McLean. “He is committed to getting his team to investigate and follow up internally to ensure appropriate action is taken and measures are implemented to prevent recurrences.” 

If you have an MPD case which was not investigated, please email us and we'll be sure to communicate directly with Assistant Commission McFadden's team.  

“Bicycle NSW appreciates the time given by NSW Police to meet and discuss these matters,” says Peter. “We are pleased they will be taken more seriously. Especially given the very wide and challenging scope of work which NSW Police are faced with.” 

How to report a close passing incident

Our 2023 article How to Make a Metre Matter Again explained the steps to take if a driver breaks the MPD rule.

It is essential to record the following information:

  • Your contact details
  • Exact time and address of incident
  • Make, model, colour and rego of car
  • Direction you and the car were travelling and position on the road
  • Description of driver’s behaviour 
  • How close was the pass?
  • What the driver did before, during and after the incident.
  • What you did before, during and after the incident. 
  • Were there any dialogue or gestures?
  • Name and contact details of any witnesses 
  • The physical and emotional impact of the incident

Clear video evidence is very useful to ensure an infringement is issued.  No video? That’s fine too. A witness may have recorded it on their phone. Just compile as much information as you can. After that: 

  1. Report to a police station
  2. Call Police Assistance line on 131 444
  3. Call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000

And if you don’t hear back, let us know!

It’s time for a new education campaign on MPD

Bicycle NSW CEO Peter McLean attended the NSW Road Safety Forum in February 2024. Experts from around the world presented evidence-based measures that can make roads less lethal. This event was held in response to terrible road safety outcomes over the last few years. 2023 saw a 30% increase in the death toll. By mid-December 2023, 354 lives had been lost in NSW, 68 more than in the previous 12 months.

Education was one of the themes discussed. Although MPD was not specifically highlighted, the evaluation of the 2016 MPD enforcement and education trial confirmed that MPD compliance would be improved by further public education.

“We need continuous, high-quality campaigns to educate all road users about safe passing and other laws that protect riders.  Then more people will feel safe to cycle,” says Peter.

Two more images from Victoria’s 2017 MPD education campaign from 2017. The images were used in a variety of media and contexts to ensure the message reached all corners of the community (Image: Transport Accident Commission)

(Image: Transport Accident Commission)

The urgent need to tailor the communication strategies for young drivers was raised at the Forum. It was acknowledged that traditional approaches fall far short of reaching with the target audience.

One obvious moment to engage with teenagers is when they are learning to drive. Unfortunately, the Learner Driver handbook does not include information about driving around bicycles. 

Transport for NSW has a quick-read guide to the Top 10 Misunderstood Road Rules that all learners and supervising parents are asked to refer to. But MPD rules are not mentioned.  

Would this not be a good opportunity to reinforce rules that must be adhered to when sharing the road with vulnerable road users?

The Minimum Passing Distance rules. To give a rider space, drivers can cross double lines, an unbroken dividing line or drive on a painted island, if it is safe to do so. Check out the Road User Handbook to brush up on your knowledge of NSW road rules (Image: Bicycle NSW)

Before you go!

If you’re not already, then sign up as a Bicycle NSW Member today! This will ensure we have the funds to focus on critical bicycle related issues through working closely with all levels of governments to make NSW better for bicycle riding. You will also ride easy, covered by our comprehensive insurance and enjoy many other Member-only benefits.

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