Give me room - a campaign for a safe passing rule
Introduce a safe passing rule, to protect people on bikes.
A safe passing rule was recommended by the NZ Cycle Safety Panel in 2014. Safe passing rules are common in Europe, the US, and most Australian states. They also protect people on foot, law enforcement and road workers.
Why are we waiting?
Why is this important?
Close passing is intimidating, dangerous and in the worst cases life threatening for people on bikes.
The NZ Road Code recommends 1.5m: “Give cyclists plenty of room when passing them. Ideally, allow at least 1.5 metres between you and the cyclist”, but this lacks the force of law.
Close passing is one of the top concerns mentioned by people who responded to the CAN survey in February.
So what is this 1.5m Rule all about?
Firstly to clarify, it’s not a blanket 1.5m rule. The proposed rule is that, as a motorist, you will be required to give at least 1.5m clear space to a bike when passing them on a road with a 70km/h or higher speed limit, and a 1.0m minimum gap for speed limits 60km/h and below. In principle, that distance would be measured from the outer edge of the bike handlebars or rider’s body.
So what’s the reasoning behind the rule?
Safety, both actual crash safety data and perceived safety of riders, is the main reason. A lot of cycle crashes, particularly in rural areas, involve motorists not passing riders with sufficient space or trying to squeeze past with oncoming traffic (often there is a misjudgement about how fast a rider is actually travelling). Most rural cycle fatalities for example are on roads with little or no shoulder. And for many people who would like to ride a bike, they are put off by motorists passing them too closely, particularly when at speed.
1.5m seems like a lot though
Try standing on the side of a road while a large truck thunders past you closely at 100km/h. As well as the noise, the air displacement and vibration can be very unsettling and potentially enough to knock over a rider (or at least affect their balance and riding direction). 1.5m provides a safe margin for error in case the rider does encounter problems, whilst also reducing the chances of that happening in the first place.