Nearly three years on from the horrific crash, Mr Atherton is still recovering. “My knee still hurts all the time, the shoulder still hurts every now and again.”
Mr Atherton’s experience is one of many prompting the RACV to push for Victoria to trial laws mandating a minimum passing distance for motorists when overtaking cyclists.
This would mean motorists would legally have to leave at least one metre of space between their vehicle and cyclists when overtaking on roads less than 60km/h, and 1.5 metres when overtaking on roads with speeds over 60km/h.
Victoria is the only state or territory in the country that has not trialled or legislated a minimum passing distance, despite proposed laws being tabled in State Parliament nearly five years ago.
From 2015 to 2019, 47 cyclists died and more than 2100 were injured on Victorian roads.
The RACV was previously opposed to the laws, saying it was not aware of evidence that showed mandated minimum separation was safer for bike riders.
But RACV’s senior manager of transport, planning and infrastructure, Peter Kartsidimas, said the state government now needed to do more to reduce the number of cyclists being injured or killed.
“TAC figures show that cyclist death and injury are only increasing. The government needs to do more and that’s why we are calling for a trial of a minimum passing distance rule,” he said.
The RACV said the government’s 2017 “Share the Road” education and awareness campaign does not appear to have been successful in changing drivers’ behaviour.
“In March 2017, the government agreed to trial minimum passing if the community education campaign was ineffective in achieving safety benefits for cyclists,” Mr Kartsidimas said.
The state government said it was reviewing the effectiveness of minimum passing distance laws in other states.
“Safety is always our number one priority and we are reviewing the effectiveness of this road rule in other states to see if it could be rolled out in Victoria,” a government spokesman said on Tuesday.
But Australian Cycle Alliance president Edward Hore said a distance of one metre was not enough. He has called for European-style rules where cars must change lanes when passing cyclists.
“A car is 20 per cent occupied, a bike is 100 per cent occupied. It just makes sense,” Mr Hore said.
Cycling lobby group, Bicycle Network, called for minimum passing distance laws, as well as a special police unit to enforce them, in its state budget submission last year.
“Riding among cars is the biggest concern for people who ride and a passing distance law is one way we make riding more comfortable,” Bicycle Network chief executive Craig Richards said.
Mr Atherton was travelling on the far left-hand side of the road, about half a metre from the gutter, when he was hit from behind by the car.
He said laws mandating a one-metre passing distance would make drivers more aware of the danger of being too close.
“But the only thing is, how are the police going to police it? That’s the catch-22. It’s going to be very hard. I think it will make drivers aware, but how they police it – that part I don’t know,” Mr Atherton said.