Centre for Road Safety

Cycling safety

Minimum passing distance

  1. What is the purpose of the new rule?
  2. What are the key features of the new rule?
  3. What is the penalty for drivers not giving the minimum passing distance?
  4. What do drivers need to do?
  5. Which road rule exemptions will apply in order to leave a one to 1.5 metre gap?
  6. Will the new rule be evaluated?
  7. How will the community be informed of the new rule?
  8. What about cyclists safely passing pedestrians on shared paths?
  9. How do I give one metre of space if a bicycle rider is travelling in the middle of the road?
  10. Are bicycle riders permitted to ride two abreast in the same lane on a road?
  11. Do bicycle riders need to give parked cars 1 metre when riding past them?

1. What is the purpose of the new rule?

This new rule will better protect bicycle riders from the risk of crash when they are being passed by a car.

Leaving a safe passing distance better protects riders, including in situations when they may not realise a vehicle is approaching them from behind.

2. What are the key features of the new rule?

The new rule will require drivers of a motor vehicle to leave a minimum distance when passing bicycle riders.

This rule will require all drivers to leave at least 1 metre between the motor vehicle and a bicycle rider when passing a bicycle rider on a road with a speed limit of 60km/h and below. Drivers must leave at least 1.5m when they pass a bicycle rider on a road with a speed limit above 60km/h.

Drivers will be required to comply whenever they drive past a bicycle rider on a road in NSW.

3. What is the penalty for drivers not giving the minimum passing distance?

Drivers who do not comply with the rule will receive a $319 fine and two demerit points.

This offence attracts a maximum court fine of $2200.

This is the same as current penalties for overtaking a vehicle without leaving a sufficient distance.

4. What do drivers need to do?

The new rule requires all drivers and motorcycle riders to leave at least a metre when passing a bicycle rider – and at least a metre and a half on higher speed roads.

If drivers cannot pass the bicycle rider safely, they should slow down and wait until the next safe opportunity to do so.

All drivers are required to leave a safe distance when passing or overtaking any vehicle. For heavy vehicles, such as trucks and buses, in some situations a safe distance may be more than the 1m or 1.5m minimum. Therefore, drivers need to provide bicycle riders with more space than the minimum passing distance when required.

To allow drivers the minimum distance required, some exemptions to the road rules apply, such as being allowed to cross centre lines when completing the manoeuvre. These exemptions only apply if the driver has a clear view of any approaching traffic and it is safe to pass the bicycle rider.

5. Which road rule exemptions apply in order to leave a one to 1.5 metre gap?

Drivers will be exempt from the following rules, as long as they have a clear view of approaching traffic and it is safe to pass the bicycle rider to comply with the new minimum passing distance rule:

  • Keep to the left of the centre of the road (two-way road with no dividing line)
  • Keep to the left of the centre of a dividing line - broken and unbroken lines
  • Keep off a flat dividing strip i.e. one that is at the same level as the road
  • Keep off a flat painted island
  • Driving within a single marked lane or line of traffic, including at roundabouts
  • Moving from one marked lane to another across a continuous line separating the lanes.

6. Will the new rule be evaluated?

Transport for NSW will monitor the impact of the new rule over a two-year period in consultation with NSW Police, the Department of Justice and road user stakeholder groups.

After the two-year period, the Government will determine whether the rule should be continued, or any changes made to the way the rule operates.

7. How will the community be informed of the new rule?

The Go Together community education campaign provides guidance for drivers and riders, including road rule exemptions that will assist drivers to give the minimum passing distance.

8. What about cyclists safely passing pedestrians on shared paths?

The minimum passing distance rule only applies to drivers of a motor vehicle. However, an advisory passing distance will apply to bicycle riders passing pedestrians. This is a safety advisory recommendation only, not a road rule change.

Transport for NSW is updating communications to recommend bicycle riders leave at least one metre when passing pedestrians on shared paths, when it is safe and practical to do so.

If it is not safe to provide the metre distance when passing, bicycle riders should continue to ride slowly and give way to pedestrians.

The road rules already require bicycle riders to give way to pedestrians on shared paths and keep to the left of any oncoming bicycle rider or pedestrian when riding on a shared path or separated path.

9. How do I give one metre of space if a bicycle rider is travelling in the middle of the road?

Under the NSW Road Rules 2014, cyclists are entitled to use a full lane when riding on the road and are allowed to ride two abreast in one lane.

If cyclists are taking up a full lane, motorists need to overtake as they would any other vehicle. This means waiting for a safe opportunity to pass.

Drivers who do not comply with the new rule will receive a $319 fine and two demerit points. However a driver who passes too close to a cyclist and causes a crash leading to harm or death could be charged with negligent or dangerous driving and face imprisonment.

10. Are bicycle riders permitted to ride two abreast in the same lane on a road?

Yes. Under the road rules, bicycle riders are permitted to ride alongside one other rider who is travelling in the same marked lane. Riders are also allowed to ride two abreast in the same direction of travel on roads without marked lanes.

However, when riding two abreast, riders must travel within 1.5 metres of the other rider. This means that riders should ride as close together as safe to do so.

11. Do bicycle riders need to give parked cars 1 metre when riding past them?

No. The new minimum passing distance rules will only apply to drivers of a motor vehicle when they are driving past a bicycle rider. There will be no requirement for bicycle riders to leave a metre when riding past a parked vehicle.

However, bicycle riders should always take care when riding past parked vehicles to leave sufficient room to avoid a collision.

Drivers are reminded to look for bicycle riders before opening their doors.

Penalties and enforcement

  1. What offences have increased penalties for bicycle riders?
  2. Why did fines increase by such a large percentage?
  3. Why is it compulsory for bicycle riders to wear helmets in NSW?

1. What offences have increased penalties for bicycle riders?

From 1 March 2016, penalties increased for categories of offences committed by bicycle riders that carry high road safety risk. These increases are intended to deter unsafe behaviour and bring penalties for those high risks in line with motorists. These categories are:

OffencePrevious penaltyCurrent penalty
Riding a bicycle without wearing an approved bicycle helmet$71$319
Riding through a red traffic light$71$425
Riding furiously, recklessly or negligently$71$425
Not stopping at children/pedestrian crossings$71$425
Riding a bicycle that is being towed by a motor vehicle$71$319

These changes mean that bicycle riders receive similar penalties as motor vehicle drivers receive for high risk behaviours. In deciding to better align this small number of penalties with those for other vehicle operators, we considered the road safety risk to all road users created by these unsafe behaviours. This includes the risk to the bicycle rider themselves (e.g. not wearing a helmet) and the risk to pedestrians (e.g. not stopping at pedestrian or children’s crossings).

In some instances, there are even serious risks to drivers, who are unlikely to be injured in crashes with bicycle riders but could have to live with the stress and emotional impact of being in a serious or even fatal crash with a bicycle rider through no fault of their own (e.g. a rider does not stop at a red light.)

Fines for other bicycle rider offences increased from $71 to $106. In total, penalties have increased for 101 offences when committed by a bicycle rider in NSW. The penalties for some offences are slightly higher than in some other jurisdictions, but generally penalties in NSW remain lower than in comparable states, including Victoria.

All current and new penalties attract a maximum court fine of $2200.

2. Why did fines increase by such a large percentage?

The penalty levels for bicycle riders for road rules offences increased so that the fine levels better reflect the road safety risk they pose for bicycle riders and other road users.

The review of penalties for bicycle riders also considered the relative fine levels across the other Australian jurisdictions.

For offences with serious road safety risk, such as failing to stop at red traffic light, the penalty changes will mean that bicycle riders receive the same penalties as motor vehicle drivers receive for high risk behaviours.

3. Why is it compulsory for bicycle riders to wear helmets in NSW?

Under rule 256 of the NSW Road Rules 2014 it is compulsory for a bicycle rider to wear an approved bicycle helmet in NSW. This law is based on known safety benefits, particularly in relation to preventing traumatic brain injury which may result from a bicycle fall or crash. Research shows that helmets reduce head injuries by up to 74 per cent in crashes with motor vehicles.

In a crash, bicycle riders do not benefit from vehicle safety features afforded to motor vehicle occupants such as seat belts, airbags and greater protection from the body of the vehicle itself. This means bicycle helmets are a key way for bicycle riders to improve their safety.

NSW crash data also shows a clear association between helmet non-use and crash severity. Over the five year period 2009-2013 at least 24 per cent of pedal cycle fatalities, 19 per cent of pedal cycle serious injuries and 15 per cent of all pedal cycle casualties involved the bicycle rider not wearing a helmet.

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