New road safety laws in the ACT will provide added protection for cyclists and other micromobility users, but will also subject them to greater regulation.
The regulations, announced by the ACT Transport Minister Chris Steel last week, were intended to protect riders and pedestrians, but also to encourage safe riding practices on public roads.
He said the Road Transport Legislation Amendment Bill No. 1 sought to “keep Canberrans safe by encouraging responsible and considerate behaviour on the road – whether driving, walking, cycling or scooting”.
“Importantly, they will apply to personal mobility devices like e-scooters, as well as other vehicles,” he said.
“In preparing for the city-wide roll out of shared e-scooters, we’ve heard that Canberrans want a clearer framework to guide good behaviour and encourage considerate sharing of the road when people are using these devices.”
The new laws strengthened the range of offences and penalties for unsafe behaviour that puts other road users at risk – “particularly those who don’t have the protection of a car around them”.
Fines Tripled for Injuring Cyclists
They include tripling on-the-spot fines for drivers who injure cyclists or any other vulnerable road users, with police now able to issue fines up to $900.
It follows a public outcry in late 2020 after a dashcam image showing a cyclist getting hit by a passing motorist was circulated online. It was later revealed the driver received a $393 fine, a penalty described by Pedal Power ACT as “grossly inadequate”.
The changes outlined by the Minister last month provided a clear hierarchy of offences, with escalating penalties from lower-level dangerous behaviours through to the most serious negligent, dangerous or culpable driving. This includes:
- new offences for not taking due care and attention or providing reasonable consideration when driving and riding
- new and updated offences for driving and riding without having proper control
- new police powers to direct a person to get off, or not get on, devices like e-scooters and bikes, with associated penalties when a direction is ignored
- updated penalties for the existing offence of negligent driving that does not lead to injury or death
- a new offence for negligent driving occasioning actual bodily harm, to “ensure dangerous behaviour that causes injury to another road user is appropriately recognised and penalised as the serious matter that it is”
- longer automatic licence disqualification periods for several driving offences which result in serious harm or death
“New lower-level offences will act as early intervention tools to stop dangerous behaviour before someone gets hurt,” the Minister said.
“The new offence of negligent driving occasioning actual bodily harm addresses a gap in the ACT’s current laws. It seeks to capture harm that is serious but not necessarily permanent – like major bruising, black eyes and lacerations.
“These types of harm are most often experienced by vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists when other road users don’t take enough care.”
He said the introduction of the new laws would be accompanied by a Share the Road education campaign being rolled out by the ACT Government this month.
“The Share the Road campaign will be highly visible in public spaces, including on buses, at petrol stations and in shopping centres,” he added.
ACT Commitment Well Above Rest of Australia
The Minister delivered an active travel statement to the ACT Legislative Assembly last week, outlining the ACT Government’s active travel priorities for the year.
During the address, he announced the Government would provide $45 million in additional funding for active transport over four years, taking its total allocation to $77 million when added to previously announced projects.
That equates to annual funding of nearly $43 per person, based on the Territory’s population of approximately 450,000 people.
Bicycle Industries Australia General Manager Peter Bourke said Government budget processes – including the provision of cycling initiatives within larger projects and funding allocations – made it almost impossible to accurately calculate State Governments’ total allocations to active transport. However, it would be safe to say the ACT Government’s upgraded allocation would be around 10 times greater than the per capita commitments by any other Australian State or Territory.
ACT Active Travel Plan
Chris Steel also used his statement to declare the ACT Government would embark on community consultation in mid-2022 to develop a new ACT Active Travel Plan.
In addition, the Government will review guidelines for active travel infrastructure, with a view to “go beyond Australian standards”.
According to a report by Pedal Power ACT, that review comes as the Government prepares to implement several infrastructure projects, including:
- Extending the Belconnen Bikeway from the University of Canberra to the AIS and into the city. Construction is set to start mid-year.
- Path improvements around Lake Ginninderra. A feasibility study has been completed, a government will consult with the community later this year about priority improvements.
- A shared path on Sulwood Drive.
- A new 7km off-road shared path in West Belconnen from Drake Brockman Drive to Bindubi Street.
- Cycling connections to the Gungahlin Town Centre. A route planning study is underway.
- A Watson to Braddon cycle route. Route planning study underway.
- Protected bike lanes will be delivered when London Circuit is raised as part of a light rail extension.
- A feasibility study into a cyclist highway on Adelaide Avenue, as part of progressing light rail to Woden. The ‘cyclist highway’ would link to the city and Parliamentary triangle.
- Secure bike parking at the Woden transport interchange currently under construction.
- An expansion of the Conservation Council and Canberra Environment Centre’s Make the Move program, to help workplaces support employees to take up active travel.
- A Multimodal Network Plan to identify transport modes that need enhancing to provide more integrated transport services.
- An ‘End of Trip Facilities General Code’ to support the provision of secure bike parking, showers, change rooms, lockers, charging facilities and drying areas in developments
The code will be finalised this year.