Bicycle road safety in Sydney NSW has been in many news headlines and in recent years has enjoyed a strong online presence. The NSW Government introduced many new laws and increased fines surrounding cycling on NSW roads. The Government claims this is to “improve safety” for bicycle riders.
From my point of view, the new cycling laws that are suppose to improve safety for cyclist and other road users are not improving the safety to cyclist at all. I have been commuting to and from work for many years now, well before the new laws were introduced and now with the 1m passing law in place since 1st of March 2016 I don’t feel nor see any improvement in safety when I cycle on NSW roads. To me the government is not doing a good job on educating drivers on this new law.
To further explain on how the government failed to educate drivers and road users, I will share my experience of my commute home where we were nearly hit by a passing car and the experience of going to the police station to report the incident and the outcome of it.
On a fine sunny Monday afternoon, 20th of February 2017, Lissy and I were on our usual commute home route. The final part of our ride includes a short section on Parramatta Rd, we were traveling in the middle of the most left lane in single file. It was about 17:30 where we approach the Animal Referral Hospital on Parramatta Rd at Flemington. I felt a gush of air move past me, so fast that I felt the hairs on my right leg move. At that very moment I heard Lissy scream and I saw a white Mazda2 with a green P plate moving past me. It was still in my lane and didn’t merge into the next lane until it went past my shoulder. I was fine as I have been cycling on the roads for many years and hardly get frightened by these kinds of things. I quickly asked if Lissy was ok as I noticed she was in shock and was very shaken up by it.
When we arrived home Lissy was still unsettled from the incident.After reviewing the footage on my fly6 camera (full review of the fly6 is coming soon) it became clear to me why she was so shaken up by it, the car’s left wing mirror was centimeters from striking her arm. I used the information on Bicycle NSW about the Minimum passing distance. I made a copy of the video footage and images onto a USB stick before taking it to Auburn Police Station.
Arriving at the police station around 20:00, a male police officer came to the counter, I told the officer that I would like to report an incident about a car nearly hitting us while we were cycling. I had the screenshot of the video on my phone, I showed that as a supporting evidence with the USB stick in my hand saying “everything is in here, including the video footage”.
Police: have you seen this person before?
Police: do you know why this person would want to hurt you?
Police: so you don't know this person
Me: NO, we were just riding home. I didn’t know who this is or why he or she drove so close to us.
Police: OK, so the footage is in here? (pointing at the USB stick)
Police: I will take a look.
After this we waited for about 30 minutes before another female police officer came out and asked us if we were the one who handed the USB stick in before telling us that she will take a look and get back to us. Five minutes later she came back and asked us to join her in a room to make a statement.
Before we gave our statement, the police office asked us many times if we wanted to go through with this and if we would be willing to go to court if this person were to be charged. I said YES multiple times. The thing that was most surprising to me was the police officer didn’t know about the 1 meter minimum passing law but is aware that cyclist must wear a helmet and not to ride on footpath. I had to bring up the NSW transport website to show the officer about the new 1 meter passing law. If police don’t know of the 1 meter passing law then what chance do we have with motorists?
The process of giving the statement was not too long, we gave evidence and the police officer typed it all out, making sure it was as clear as possible. We both gave a statement each. All up, was about an hour and a half of our time at the police station.
Later on we found out from the police that the driver was an 18 year old girl, university student who claimed that she didn’t see us on the road and by the time she saw us she had to swerve suddenly to avoid hitting us. Police asked her and the parents to visit the station the following day to show her the footage. In the end this girl was let off with a warning. She wrote me a letter to say how sorry she was. Was this the best outcome? Should this girl be charged and fined? I don’t know but all I want is to have a safer road, for motorist to know that bicycles have the right to be on the road and most of all the minimum 1 meter passing distance. I hope this young driver will change her driving behaviour and to learn from her mistake.