By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
If you’ve ever commuted by bicycle then you’d probably be familiar with the jarring experience of coming within inches of being knocked out by a passing vehicle – one that clearly saw you on the road but didn’t afford you enough space.
Indeed, cyclists everywhere know how exasperating it is when motorists drive dangerously close to them, especially when following all the road rules – you wear a helmet, you turn your lights on when you ride at night, you wear reflective clothing so you are visible.
Yet there are still more close calls on the road than you can count by drivers not obeying the rules.
Now, it turns out the solution to this day-to-day problem for cyclists is actually much simpler than thought, and comes in the shape of a giant foam pool noodle.
Queensland Man Uses His Noodle: Straps Pool Float to Bicycle so Drivers Keep Safe Distance
Knowing all too well the danger of motorists driving too closely to cyclists, this week, a Brisbane man decided to take matters into his own hands by installing a pool noodle to the back of his bicycle (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7074219/Cyclist-straps-swimming-float-bike-ensure-drivers-pass-safe-distance.html) to keep passing drivers at bay.
The man was spotted in Bardon in the north-west of Brisbane, waiting at a red traffic light.
On the back of his bicycle, a noodle foam float was observed sticking out several feet to the right of the road.
The unusual but effective use of the pool float would give drivers a visual indicator of how far away they should stay, and thus force cars to drive past only at a safe distance rather than zooming by in close proximity and potentially putting him in danger.
Social Media Users Impressed with Cyclist’s Invention
The cyclists comical yet clever display was captured on camera by a baffled road user, Alfred Botha, who shared the image of the safety precaution on social media.
“Got to hand it to the folks in Bardon. They do know their rights,” Mr Botha, who runs a building design company, wrote on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10219421825520215&set=gm.615602968905757&type=3&theater).
Meanwhile, social media users praised the man’s impressive use of the foam float, with one labelling the invention as an “amazing” idea.
Another, encouraged by the picture to consider cyclists’ road safety, vowed to always “visualise noodles” whenever they passed a bicycle rider.
One person also commented, “I really think this diligence for safety is a must”.
Peculiar Invention a Burden or a Benefit?
Although the foam noodle was able to deter vehicles from getting too close, Mr Botha however later revealed that the rider’s bizarre invention appeared to be more of a hindrance than a help.
“Unfortunately for the bloke [the noodle] didn’t work,” Mr Botha said.
“The noodle stuck out too far to the right and if he tried to turn [a corner] he’d end up blocking the vehicles trying to drive straight on.
“It was more of an obstruction than anything else.”
Nonetheless, Mr Botha did note the bicycle rider seemed “determined” to do as he pleased.
He added he doubted the cyclist would have been concerned had he been question by anyone about his float installation.
Queensland Legislation on Motorists Driving Near Cyclists
In Queensland, legislation (https://www.qld.gov.au/transport/safety/rules/other/cyclists) states that motorists must stay wider of bicycle riders by giving a minimum of:
- One metre gap when passing a bicycle rider in a 60km/h or less speed zone
- 5 metre gap where the speed limit is over 60km/h.
Passing a bicycle rider means that the motorist and the cyclist are travelling in the same direction. This includes when you are travelling side-by-side in separate lanes on a multi-lane road. It does not apply if you are travelling in opposite directions.
More than 1900 Cyclists Injured Each Year: What NSW Says on Cycling Safety
As Transport for NSW (https://roadsafety.transport.nsw.gov.au/campaigns/go-together/index.html) advises, in NSW, on average, nine bicycle riders are killed and more than 1900 end up seriously injured each year.
Bicycle riders represent approximately 2.5 percent of total road deaths and about 16 percent of serious injuries.
For this reason, drivers, bicycle riders and pedestrians all need to practice being on the road safely and respect each other’s space. This way, it can be ensured that everyone remains safe.
Minimum Passing Distance Rule in NSW
In NSW, the Minimum Passing Distance Rule is in place to ensure that bicycle riders remain safe when sharing the roads.
There is an on-the-spot fine of $337 with 2 demerit points that a police office can issue to anyone who fails to keep a safe distance when passing a bicycle rider.
The on-the-spot fine is a penalty notice which puts an end to the matter if paid. Upon payment, demerit points will also be incurred.
If you want to avoid incurring the demerit points you may not pay the fine and elect to have the penalty notice heard in court.
If you court-elect the penalty notice, upon your appearance in the Local Court, you may then either plead guilty or plead not guilty to the charge.
If you are found not guilty after pleading not guilty, or if you plead guilty, the Magistrate will hear anything further you wish to add before imposing an appropriate sentence.
In the event you are sentenced for this offence, the Magistrate has the discretion to impose the maximum penalty allowed for this offence in court, which is up to $2,200 fine. The maximum is rarely imposed though.
However, if you are able to convince the Magistrate to impose a Conditional Release Order without conviction (https://www.criminaldefencelawyers.com.au/criminal-law/penalties/nsw/conditional-release-order/) for this offence, even after pleading guilty, you will not end up incurring any demerit points, nor will you end up having to pay a fine.
Rule 144-1 Road Rules 2014 (NSW) (https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/view/regulation/2014/758/part11/div3/rule1441) prohibits a driver of a vehicle from driving past or overtaking (to the right) a bicycle rider travelling in the same direction on the road unless the driver does so:
- At a distance (from the right of the bicycle) of at least 1 metre away from the bicycle if the speed limit of the road is 60km/h; or
- At a distance (from the right of the bicycle) of at least1.5 metres away from the bicycle if the speed limit of the road is over 60km/h.
However, while a driver is passing a bicycle on a road in the above situation may also do any of the following if it is safe and if the driver has a clear view of any approaching traffic:
- Where the driver is on a two-way road without a dividing line or median strip, the driver may drive to the right of the centre of the road; or
- Where the driver is driving on divided line road, the driver may drive to the right of the divided line; or
- The driver may drive on a dividing strip that’s at the same level as the road or the driver may drive on (or over) a single continuous line or 2 parallel continuous lines, along a side of or surrounding a painted island; or
- Where the driver is driving on a multi-lane road, the driver may drive so that the driver’s vehicle is not completely in a marked lane; or
- Where the driver is driving on a road with two or more lines of traffic travelling in the same direction, but without marked lanes, the driver may drive so that the vehicle is not completely in a single line of traffic; or
- Where the driver is driving on a multi-lane road, the driver may move from one marked lane to another marked lane across a continuous line separating the lanes.
The purpose of the rule is to better protect bicycle riders from the risk of crash when they are being passed by a car.
By leaving a safe distance, riders can be safeguarded, including in situations when they may not realise a vehicle is approaching them from behind.
These penalties are the same as the current penalties for overtaking a vehicle without leaving a sufficient distance.
What Should You do as a Driver?
If you are driving on the road with a cyclist in sight and cannot pass the bicycle rider safely, then it is best to slow down and wait until the next safe opportunity to do so.
As stated in the NSW Road Rules, if bicycle riders 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.
All drivers are required to leave a safe distance when passing or overtaking any vehicle.
As Sydney’s leading traffic defence lawyers (https://www.criminaldefencelawyers.com.au/), we appear in all courts, provide fixed fees for most traffic cases and offer a free first appointment. If you have a question, call out 24/7 hotline on (02) 8606 2218.