The changes were phased in late last year, with drivers subject to fines for encroaching within a metre of cyclists in 60km/h zones, but allowed to cross double lines to overtake.
Contentiously, bicyclists are also allowed to ride on footpaths.
Stevens told a parliamentary inquiry yesterday the early experience of SAPOL officers was that “more expiations were issued to cyclists than they were to car drivers”.
“So I would like to say that is a suggestion that the police have a balanced view on this, and ‘what’s good for the goose is good for the gander’ is the prevailing situation,” he said.
Stevens said he was aware of high-profile complaints about cyclists riding between idling cars and violating the metre rule – a distance the onus is on motorists to honour – but emphasised that “as with anything, we expect our police officers to apply a degree of reasonableness to their assessment of the circumstances and act in accordance with what is reasonable”.
“There are limitations to what a vehicle driver can do if a cyclist is going to encroach on that one-metre point, and that is an issue that would dictate whether or not we, firstly, intervene at all,” he said.
“I think the greatest criticism we get is when police officers act strictly to the letter of the law and issue expiations for things that might be seen as a technical breach of the regulations or road rules.”
Asked about the issue of cyclists riding on footpaths, Stevens noted the issue was one that “attracts significant public debate”.
“Anecdotally, we are not hearing instances of people who are reverting to footpaths and riding bicycles in a manner that would create significant risk to the public,” he said.
“The principles around riding on the footpath are to ensure that young people and people who may be less confident on a bicycle or who are simply commuting to and from local areas are able to do so safely. We haven’t seen any big trends of lycra-wearing cyclists jumping on the footpaths and travelling at 30 or 40km/h.”
In response, committee member and Xenophon-aligned crossbencher John Darley noted that he had been “nearly run over by a bike in front of Parliament House on North Terrace this morning”.
The RAA’s road safety manager Charles Mountain told InDaily the commissioner’s comments reflected the motoring body’s own feedback, as well as the experience in Queensland, where similar changes were enacted in 2014.
“The cyclists who choose to ride on the footpath are generally not comfortable riding on the road anyway, so they tend to be happy riding at a slower speed,” he said.
“It also highlights too the ongoing need about effectively sharing the road between motorists and cyclists, ensuring both do the right thing and abide by the rules.”
He said while the RAA had received feedback from motorists unhappy with the changes, “a lot of that has come about because people don’t fully understand how the rules work and the rationale behind them”.
“Once we’ve explained how the rules work, most people are reasonably comfortable with them,” he said.
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