The myth around cyclists riding single file

There's little love lost between most motorists and cyclists in Australia, and drivers have a long list of gripes about how some riders behave.

A campaign by news.com.au this week, highlighting the legacy of safety activist Cameron Frewer, who was hit by a car and killed last week, has raised plenty of complaints by readers.

But perhaps the biggest issue people on four wheels have surrounds the practice of cyclists riding two abreast on the open road.

The feeling is that riders jutting out into the lane is dangerous and there's also a perception among many that it's illegal.

Before this death, Mr Frewer - a campaigner for greater awareness of safe pass laws, requiring motorists to leave at least 1m when passing a bike - spoke about riding two abreast.

The 44-year-old father-of-three from the Sunshine Coast even produced a video about it, using footage captured from his front and rear cameras, to demonstrate why it's good practice.

"It's legal to do so," Mr Frewer also pointed out.

 

Cameron Frewer is being lovingly remembered by the national cycling community for his tireless efforts in promoting safety awareness.
Cameron Frewer is being lovingly remembered by the national cycling community for his tireless efforts in promoting safety awareness.

Two cyclists can ride next to each other, no more than 1.5m apart, according to laws in each state and territory.

Safety experts point out that the key to riding a bike and minimising risk is to be as visible and predictable to cars as possible.

"Riding two abreast allows you to stay visible to motorists," Mr Frewer said on the issue.

In busier suburbs and cities, when cars are often parked on the side of the road, riding two abreast also reduces the need to weave in and out of stationary vehicles.

"Single file isn't safer," Mr Frewer said.

Not only does it reduce visibility, but he believed drivers took greater risks when passing cyclists who were in a single line or on their own.

 

Cyclists say riding two abreast is a safe approach.
Cyclists say riding two abreast is a safe approach.

 

Contrary to belief, cyclists are subject to many of the same strict laws as motorists when out on the road.

They must obey the speed limit, traffic lights, stop and give way signs, rules of the roundabout and right of way. In many cases, they're not permitted to ride on footpaths or to follow pedestrian crossing signals rather than stop lights.

Bicycle Queensland chief executive officer Anne Savage, a close friend of Mr Frewer, said Australian roads were riskier for cyclists than ever before and it was in everyone's interest to improve conditions.

"The rise of technology has rapidly changed the way we drive, resulting in faster cars, close passes and distracted driving that can cause deaths and serious injuries," Ms Savage said.

"Beyond the completely horrific number of driver, passenger, pedestrian, motorcyclist and cyclist deaths each year, the number of people injured and seriously hurt is equally unacceptable.

"For every single fatality, more than 24 people are hospitalised because of road crashes."

 

Catherine Frewer, widow of cyclist Cameron Frewer, with their three children Lachlan, Heidi and Oscar. Picture: Peter Wallis
Catherine Frewer, widow of cyclist Cameron Frewer, with their three children Lachlan, Heidi and Oscar. Picture: Peter Wallis

 

Across the country since 1989, 43 per cent of road deaths involved pedestrians, cyclists and passengers - those not in charge of the vehicle.

"Serious injury crashes among cyclists have been increasing by about eight per cent every year and are higher today than they were five or 10 years ago - despite our success in reducing driver and passenger fatalities," Ms Savage said.

"Alarmingly, cyclists are over-represented in casualty counts, making up about 3 per cent of all road fatalities and 15 per cent of all road hospitalisations."

Mr Frewer dedicated much of the past two years to raising awareness of laws requiring a safe distance when drivers overtake cyclists.

 

Serious injury crashes among cyclists have been increasing by about 8 per cent every year.
Serious injury crashes among cyclists have been increasing by about 8 per cent every year.

He worked to lift woefully low enforcement rates and encourage police to take the rule more seriously.

On that point, Ms Savage said authorities had failed the cycling community for too long.

"Even if the crash that killed Cameron was caused by some other driver error, the fact remains that law enforcement (efforts) to protect cyclists helps to raise overall awareness of cyclists on our roads - and our right to be there."


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