The Queensland government recently conducted a review of the states cycling laws and have proposed a series of changes that are due to come in to effect early this year.  The most exciting and controversial law to be trialed is the requirement for motorists to keep a distance of one metre from cyclists in 60km/h or slower zones, and 1.5 metres in higher-speed areas.

In 2013 a Transport, Housing and Local Government Committee was formed to review a variety of regulations including the state’s cycling laws.  After a five-month inquiry the committee released a 200 page dossier on the states laws and have made 68 recommendations on issues from cyclists running stop signs to the disparity between penalties for cyclists and motorists.

From early 2014 a new two-year trial period will see the introduction of the following laws:

  • Have a minimum safe passing distance of 1m on streets up to 60km/h and of 1.5m on roads signed at higher speeds. Drivers who breach the one-metre rule face a maximum fine of $4400 and the loss of eight demerit points
  • An equalization of penalties for cyclists and motorists
  • Giving cyclists permission to treat stop signs as give-way signs when it is safe to do so
  • Relaxing of helmet laws for people aged 16 and over on bike and footpaths
  • A major public education campaign about cycling safety

Cycling safety group The Amy Gillett Foundation has praised many of the proposed changes, but the state’s peak motoring body, the RACQ, has raised concerns over heightening tensions between cyclists and motorists.

RACQ’s Safety Policy Manager, Steve Spalding, said that while the group supports the safe-distance overtaking recommendation, it does not believe the practice should be made law.

Under Australian road rule 144, motorists are required to give bicycles – described as a vehicle – space when overtaking, but no specific distance is noted.  Under Queensland law, this distance will now be a minimum of one meter.

The proposed changes have also included a recommendation to allow cyclists to go helmet-free on some bike and footpaths; however The Amy Gillett Foundation has urged the government to uphold the current helmet laws.

[quote_box_center]”While implementing the proposed safety measures we recommend the Queensland government uphold current helmet laws to avoid taking one step backwards for safety at the same time we are taking a step forward,” the foundation said in a statement.[/quote_box_center]

Queensland Transport Minister Scott Emerson has yet to confirm if changes to helmet laws are to be upheld.

As an avid cyclist and regular vehicle user on our roads, I strongly welcome the review of these laws.  With cyclist numbers mushrooming and an increase in vehicular traffic, both motor and pedal powered, there is a need to update the laws and review them periodically.  I have had countless issues with motorists passing by me in very close proximity.  Many of these incidents occurred on quiet open roads at high speeds in the early hours of the morning.  These potentially fatal incidents occurred for no other reason than the motorist seemed to have an ego trip worth pushing?  It seems clear to me that the motorist had not considered the consequence of their actions and what may happen to them, should they have collided with me.

Now obviously it is fool hardy to generalise and it is often the actions of a few that ruin it for the rest.  This argument works for both cyclists and motorists alike.  As cyclists we have a responsibility to be aware of the laws of the road and to abide by them.  As cyclists we face an uphill battle to use the road and feel safe in doing so.  Despite our right as tax paying vehicle users, we must be aware of the issues facing all cyclists and attempt to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  Only through courtesy and understanding for all vehicle users can safer roads for all be achieved.

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Below are some of the common cycling laws in effect in Queensland.  For a full list of all the laws, please visit the Queensland Government, Department of Transport and mainroads website.

Riding too close to the rear of a motor vehicle (s255)

You must maintain a distance of at least 2 m between you and the rear of a motor vehicle when following the motor vehicle for over 200 m.

Avoid being a traffic hazard (s253)

You must avoid becoming a hazard by riding into the path of a driver or pedestrian — this rule applies to all road users.

Riding at night (s259)

When riding at night or in hazardous weather conditions with reduced visibility, you must display on your bicycle or yourself:

  • a flashing or steady white light that is clearly visible for at least 200 metres (m) from the front of the bicycle
  • a flashing or steady red light that is clearly visible for at least 200 m from the rear of the bicycle
  • a red reflector that is clearly visible for at least 50 m from the rear of the bicycle when a vehicle’s headlights on low beam shine on it.

Signalling (s48, s49, s50)

Hand signals must be given when turning right.

To give a hand signal for changing direction to the right, you must extend your right arm and hand horizontally and at right angles from the right side of the bicycle, with your hand open and your palm facing the direction of travel.

Equipment on a bicycle (s258)

Your bicycle must:

  • have at least one effective brake
  • have a bell, horn or similar warning device in working order.

Pedal Hard…

Haydn Thomas: haydn@pedaltorque.com

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Haydn has been bitten by the cycling bug and bitten hard. Like most Aussie kids, he grew up riding his beloved chrome BMX before moving onto a Mountain Bike. Haydn describes his transition onto a road bike as a Renaissance and since that time has never looked back. If not riding the awesome roads of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Haydn can often be found photographing local cycling events. As Pedaltorque co-founder, Haydn is responsible for editing and photography. He rides a Specialized Tarmac.