25 US states 23 x3’, 1 x4’ (Pennsylvania), 1 x2’
Nova Scotia, Canada 1m
France 1m in urban areas, 1.5m elsewhere
Western Cape, SA 1m
Queensland, AU 1m <30kph, 1.5m >30kph
Country or State
Motorists must give way to cyclists
Motorists must slow down
A summary of Minimum Overtake Distance (MOD) legislation can be found here, published by the Amy Gillett Foundation.
MOD legislation is normally introduced in response to the death of a cyclist at the hands of a motorist.
Prior to introducing MOD laws, US states had advisory codes of passing with 'due care' and with “sufficient distance”. This was deemed insufficient. In each case, the new legislation was passed with minimal or no opposition. Some states also brought in anti-harassment of cyclists laws, to discourage shouts and items being thrown at cyclists.
In Spain, the law also applies to cyclists overtaking vehicles. In addition to leaving a 1.5m gap, Spanish drivers must slow down when overtaking cyclists.
Belgium gives cyclists who are crossing a carriageway right of way over vehicles using that carriageway. For example a when cycle path crosses a road, motorists are obliged to slow, or stop, to allow cyclists to cross.
The Netherlands have many initiatives to improve cycling safety. These include decreasing car access to city centres, decreasing road space for cars whilst increasing cycle lanes and decreasing urban speed limits to 30 kph or less. Cycle Network Planning allowed joined up road design, signals and cycle paths. The overall objective is unashamedly to promote cycling and discourage car use.
In France there is legislation that enshrines a Duty of Care of motorists towards Vulnerable Road Users (see later).
In 2013, after lobbying from Safe Cycling Australia, the Queensland government commissioned a Parliamentary Committee Inquiry to examine what can be done to improve interactions between motorists and cyclists and the safety of cyclists on the road. The report (here) ran to 202 pages with 68 recommendations. Those recommendations related to legislation on a new minimum passing distance and equal fines for cyclists have been expedited.
A 2 year trial period of enforced minimum overtake distance has now begun. It is a 'Split Rule', i.e. the distance depends on the speed limit of the road. If the limit is 60kph or less, the minimum separation is 1m, greater than 60kph it is 1.5m or more separation.
To support the new law, the law surrounding solid white centre lane lines has been relaxed. Motorists are now permitted to straddle or cross solid single or double white lines as long as there is a clear view of approaching traffic and it is safe to do so.
The overtake distance is defined as the right-most part of the bike or person to the left-most part of the vehicle (e.g. side mirror).
Penalties are 3 points and $341 fine. If the case goes to court the maximum fine is $4554.
There is a recommendation to introduce a new motoring offence of Inflicting Injury or Death to a Vulnerable Road User, with tougher penalties than Careless Driving.
Cyclist responsibilities are also being enforced e.g. jumping red lights with penalties being increased to be comparable to other road users.
Vulnerable Road User Legislation