The Queensland government is reviewing a raft of proposed changes to cycling laws that includes allowing cyclists to treat some stop signs as give-way signs.
And, from early 2014, a new two-year trial will require motorists to keep a distance of one metre from cyclists in 60km/h or slower zones, and 1.5 metres in higher-speed areas.
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 this week that while the group supports the safe-distance overtaking recommendation, it does not believe the practice should be made law.
“The RACQ strongly believes in motorists giving cyclists at least a metre space when overtaking but good road rules should be practical, enforceable and improve the safety for all road users,” Mr Spalding said.
“Education around safe passing distances will be far more effective and actually lead to a safer and more courteous road sharing environment.”
Under Australian road rule 144, motorists are required to give bicycles – described as a vehicle – space when overtaking, but no specific distance is noted.
“A driver overtaking a vehicle […] must pass the vehicle at a sufficient distance to avoid a collision with the vehicle or obstructing the path of the vehicle” – Vicroads.
Mr Spalding added that the RACQ is also concerned by the proposal to allow cyclists to treat stop-signs as give-way signs – meaning cyclists would not need to come to a complete stop before moving into an intersection.
“Stops signs are placed there for a reason, usually due to visibility issues and overall safety,” Mr Spalding said.
He said that while there is room for change and improvement to existing laws, greater discussion and consideration is needed.
“Our members tell us they are constantly frustrated to see one rule for motorists and another for cyclists and this will only re-enforce this conflict,” he said.
“The fact is, in order for our transport system to work, we all have to share the road. Changing laws and increasing fines make for good headlines, but without enforcement it’s a waste of time.”
The proposed changes have also included a recommendation to allow cyclists to go helmet-free in some areas, but The Amy Gillett Foundation has urged the government to uphold the current helmet laws.
“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.
Queensland Transport Minister Scott Emerson has yet to confirm if changes to helmet laws are on the cards.