By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
Each year in NSW, on average, nine bicycle riders are killed and more that 1900 end up seriously injured, according to statistics from the NSW Government.
In fact, bicycle riders represent approximately 2.5 percent of total road deaths and about 16 percent of serious injuries.
It is for such reasons that drivers are constantly pushed to practice being on the road safely with bicycle riders and respect the space they need.
Nevertheless, earlier this month, a teenage boy riding his bicycle was killed after he was hit by a car south of Wollongong in NSW.
It is reported on 11 February 2020, the 16-year-old was cycling on Wattle Road at the intersection of Benson Avenue in the Shellharbour city centre when he was suddenly hit by a sedan.
The strike left the boy with severe head and chest injuries.
Emergency workers arrived at the scene around 6pm, at which point he was airlifted to the Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick in a critical condition.
Sadly, however, the injuries were too severe and the boy later died.
Driver Distraught After Striking Bicycle Rider
The driver of the vehicle who hit the young boy was a 25-year-old woman.
She was left distraught and fully co-operated with police, who said there was no evidence of negligent driving or dangerous driving, and no suggestion of driving at excessive speed.
She underwent obligatory drug and alcohol testing.
Speaking of the incident, Lake Illawarra Police Acting Inspector Anthony Peterson said crash scene investigators were now examining the sequences that the traffic lights follow.
“I know that the Crash Investigation Unit wants to look at the phasing of lights at the same time that the crash occurred,” he said.
“There are a number of witnesses that have been interviewed.”
Acting Inspector Peterson also informed that there was no helmet found at the scene of the accident.
Flowers were laid at the junction where the fatal crash took place in memory of the young boy.
Click here for an outline on the law on negligent driving occasioning death in NSW.
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The Vulnerability of Bicycle Riders on the Road
While motorists tend to find bicycle riders on the road annoying or inconvenient, cyclists are recognised as vulnerable road users, and as a result, for their safety, extra precautions and awareness are required from both cyclists and drivers.
Indeed, for day-to-day cyclists, the scenario of coming within inches of being hit to the ground by a passing vehicle is all too familiar and intimidating.
Too often, this occurs when motorists drive dangerously close to them, which is even more infuriating for the bicycle rider who tends to follow the road rules of wearing a helmet, turning their lights on at night, and even wearing bright or reflective clothing so they are visible.
Much like the aforementioned case, too many close calls occur on the roads simply because drivers have not obeyed the rules.
In NSW, the Minimum Passing Distance Rule is a road regulation designed to ensure the safety of bicycle riders as they share the roads with other motor vehicles.
The minimum passing distance rule is contained in Rule 144-1 of the Road Rules 2014 (NSW).
Rule 144-1 makes clear that drivers who pass the right of a bicycle rider (that’s travelling on the road in the same direction) must allow a distance of at least one metre when the speed limit is 60km/h or less, or 1.5 metres when the speed limit is more than 60km/h.
This is the minimum distance required to safeguard bicycle riders from the risk of crash when a vehicle passes them.
Allowing for this minimum distance is especially important in situations where bicycle riders may not be aware that a car is advancing from behind them.
Additionally, as per the NSW Road Rules, should a bicycle rider be using a full lane, motorists are required to overtake them as they would any other vehicle – which is to wait for a safe opportunity to pass through.
What is a ‘bicycle’ under the law? A bicycle here includes any bicycle trailer towed by the bicycle, the rider or any passenger on it or in or on the trailer and any basket or pannier bags attached to the bicycle or trailer. It does not include a flag or stick attached to and projecting sideways from it.
The Penalties for Not Allowing the Minimum Passing Distance in NSW
In NSW, drivers who fail to comply with the Minimum Passing Distance Rule can receive an on-the-spot fine of $337 from police and two demerit points.
Once the fine is paid the matter is concluded and the two demerit points are incurred.
However, you can choose to have the matter dealt with in the Local Court, which means you could avoid acquiring the demerit points. In this case, the fine is not required to be paid.
The offence carries a maximum court penalty of $2,200.
To avoid the demerit points and fine in court for this offence, even after pleading guilty to it in court, the court must be convinced to impose a section 10 or conditional release order non-conviction sentence or penalty.
In fact, these penalties reflect the same as those for overtaking a vehicle without leaving a sufficient gap.
What You Should Know as a Cyclist
While all drivers are required to leave a safe distance when passing or overtaking a bicycle rider, this cannot always be ensured.
If you are a bicycle rider, here are some things you should know to help ensure your safety:
- Always wear a secure helmet whenever you are riding
- Always have at least one brake and a warning device (whether a bell or horn) that is working.
- During the night or in conditions of poor visibility, you must use a front white light and rear red light that can be seen for 200m.
- Do not ride on freeways or in pedestrian malls.
- You can use the left lane of a roundabout when turning right, but must give way to vehicles exiting a roundabout.
Always ensure your visibility by wearing reflective or fluorescent clothing.