With only a day remaining until the April 30th cut off, the Amy Gillett Foundation (AGF) is feverishly requesting 20,000 mail-in signatures for its ‘A Metre Matters’ petition to present to the Federal Parliament in May.
The AGF launched the petition at the Australian National Road Race Championships in January, which includes signatures from both 2012 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans (BMC), Australian road champion Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) and campaign ambassador Richie Porte (Sky). With the petition, the AGF is calling upon the Australian Government to amend the Australian Road Rules and require that drivers allow a minimum of one metre when overtaking bicycle riders.
BikeRadar recently sat down with AGF CEO Tracey Gaudry about her first two years at the Foundation, the importance of ‘A Metre Matters’ and the need to change legislation and“reduces the temperature” between the bike riding and motoring communities.
BikeRadar: You have been at the helm of the Amy Gillett Foundation for two years now, how would you describe the role so far?
Tracey Gaudry: I came on board at AGF in mid-2010 and the foundation was about four years old at that point in time. The great thing about the Foundation’s development was that it was set up in such a way that was commercially sound and with a strong level of governance and accountability; so that once the foundations were established it was on a platform to plan and deliver very good work into the future.
Some of the work includes the ‘A Metre Matters’ campaign; can you discuss the origins of the campaign?
‘A Metre Matters’ was not created out of thin air. It was based off what is recommended by six of eight states and territories in Australia. It is about safe and practical behaviour. If you are going to overtake a bicycle rider there should be a minimum of one metre of clearance.
We introduced it as a national campaign four years ago on the steps of the Federal Parliament House by the then-Minister of Transport, Anthony Albanese, so federally the campaign was supported as safe behaviour. It makes sense and it’s about saving lives and does not cause any disruption in the efficiency of the transport system from a motoring perspective.
So why the push for the campaign to become legislation?
So after two years of running ‘A Metre Matters’ as an awareness campaign, it had reached millions of people around the country with the collaborative efforts of other cycling organisations, city councils, and foundation partners such as Trek Bicycles, Bike Exchange, Subaru, Europcar, Toll, etc.…but we asked ourselves is the campaign really working? People were aware of it, but what is compelling them to change their behaviour and we were not seeing that shift often enough.
We found that behaviour changes if they are sympathetic because they know someone that rides a bike or someone that has been riding a bike, or perhaps they ride a bike themselves, but we weren’t changing the mainstream attitude and behaviour. That is when road rules come into the frame and first and foremost, road rules and legislation are all about establishing a safe way for road users to interact, as well as trying to maintain an efficient transportation system.
Was there a particular catalyst that set the legislative wheels in motion?
There was a tragic situation in Queensland last year where a driver was acquitted of any charges after colliding with a bike rider while trying to overtake and ultimately the bike rider died. The driver was not charged at all when quite clearly the driver had judged that he was leaving enough distance for overtaking when in fact he did not.
There was no penalty to the driver. The furore amongst the community – and not just bike riders – was such that action needed to be taken and a petition in Queensland was launched by another organisation called Safe Cycling Australia. Queensland established an inquiry into cycling issues and the AGF contributed significantly to that inquiry, and as a result 68 recommendations were released by the state. One of them is the introduction of a trial of a minimum overtaking distance of one metre, and a metre and a half if the speed zones are over 60 km/h.
How will this petition effect change in the other states and territories?
We are concurrently lobbying the other states on a state-by-state case and saying that each state can enact their own legislation in their own right, meanwhile federally there is what we call a ‘model set of Australian road rules’ which are not legislation, but they are model road rules that, by and large, every state can adopt as legislation.
What is the best-case scenario in regards to outcome of the petition?
The best-case scenario is that the petition is lodged in Parliament to the House of Representatives in May with 5-, 10-, 15-, 20-, 50,000 signatures. It’s a mail trail petition and it is not online so people have to visit our website and print out the form and mail it in. Our focus is a safer outcome for cycling and it is a way of life and we hope that everyone agrees that ‘enough is enough’ and the government implements the legislation as a model road rule, which will be enforced within the year.
How did Richie Porte get involved with the petition launch?
Last year 48 bike riders, most of which were hit from behind, in the process of overtaking, lost their lives. It was a significant jump from the previous 10-year average of 35. The last of those fatalities in 2013 was a young rider in Tasmania that happened to be a family friend of Richie Porte, and ironically, a rower – Amy Gillett was also a rower.
At that moment Cycling Tasmania and local MP Andrew Nikolic said ‘enough is enough’ and said he would take ‘A Metre Matters’ into Federal Parliament if someone sponsors a petition because a MP cannot sponsor their own petition. So Cycling Tasmania said they would do it and asked Richie Porte if they could use his profile and champion the petition. So in reality, it is not the Foundation’s petition, but rather a petition based on our work.
With such a drastic rise in bike-related fatalities, do you think the government is doing enough in regard to safety and infrastructure?
We support all the work the government and other cycling-related groups are doing in terms of infrastructure provided it is done in safe, separated ways for people to cycle as not everybody rides in lycra and at 40km/h. Actually only about one per cent of the community rides that way, so it all comes down to how can we create a culture and an environment that is for everybody. So if we are creating an environment that we are sharing, we need to first establish what we need to do in order to do just that – share.
Are there any programs geared toward cycling education?
Yes, one thing we have to do is increase the education and skills of the people who ride bikes, so we jointly own a program with Cycling Australia called AustCycle. AustCycle teaches people how to share the road and equips cyclists with the skills to manage themselves on a bike with more confidence.
What other initiatives are currently in play with the AGF in terms of community education and cycling safety, considering tensions between cyclists and motorists seem to be at an all time high?
We recently launched ‘It’s a Two-way Street’ with the NSW government. Half of the messaging focuses on how motorists can look out for cyclists and be more aware and consider their behaviour, while the other half of the campaign focuses on what bicycle riders can do to be better aware, better skilled and interact in a way that reduces the temperature between the bike riding and motoring communities.
We have to dispel this ‘us vs. them’ mentality. A lot of our work is breaking down those tensions. A ‘Two-way Street’ is just that, it’s about taking the emotion out of the equation and help everyone remember that is a human being out there, and there are four million people riding a bike. We all know many people from 3-year-old children to 85-year-old grandmothers that would chose to ride a bike if it were safe, and that is our mission to provide a safe environment for all.
For more information on the Amy Gillett Foundation’s ‘A Metre Matters’ petition, please visit their official website here