Rule of the road
It’s almost summer, and with the warmer weather bringing more riders onto Australia’s roads and paths, Margot McGovern has a has a timely refresher on the road rules all cyclists—from roadies to commuters—should know.
By law, bike riders are legitimate road users and, as such, have the same rights and responsibilities as all other road users. However, there are some rules that apply specifically to bike riders. Below are the key laws in effect nation-wide. There are also specific rules that apply in each state. For example, in most states it is only legal for riders under 12 and those accompanying them to ride on the footpath; however, in the ACT, Queensland and the Northern Territory it’s legal for all riders, provided they give way to pedestrians. Therefore, it’s advisable to read up on the rules that apply in your state.
Before you get rolling
When riding a bike in Australia you must wear a helmet approved by Australian Standards that is securely fitted and fastened on your head (unless you have been granted an exception for medical or religious reasons). Your bike must also be fitted with a few standard safety features: at least one working brake and a bell or
similar warning device.
When riding in low-light conditions or at night, your bike must have a rear reflector visible from at least 50 metres when lit by car headlights, a white front light and a red rear light. Lights can be either steady or flashing, but must be visible from at least 200 metres. You’re also required to be seated astride the saddle and facing forwards and must keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times. You may only carry as many passengers as the bike is designed for, and if you are towing a passenger in a trailer, you must be 16 or older and the passenger must be under 10 and wear a helmet.
There are a few special exemptions that apply just to bike riders that many road users may not be aware of. For example, it is legal for riders to ride two abreast, provided they are no more than 1.5 metres apart. In addition to riding in designated traffic lanes, riders may also ride on the shoulder of the road, provided they signal and give way when crossing back over the white line into traffic.
Riders may also overtake on the left, providing the vehicle they are overtaking is not signalling left, in which case the rider needs to give way. You must ride within the bike lane when there is one provided, unless it is impractical to do so, such as if the lane is obstructed by debris or parked cars. If the bike lane is only wide enough to accommodate one rider, you must ride single file.
As a bike rider, you are permitted to perform hook turns. You can also turn right from the left lane of a multi-lane roundabout, provided you signal and give way to vehicles exiting the roundabout ahead of you.
The most important thing not to do on your bike is cause a hazard by riding into the path of another vehicle or pedestrian. There are also fairly strict rules about how you interact with other vehicles. For example, you must not follow within two metres of a motor vehicle for more than 200 metres, nor can you hang on to another moving vehicle while on your bike or have your bike towed by another vehicle while you’re riding it. When riding, you also need to steer clear of freeways, bus-only lanes and any other areas signed as bicycles prohibited. It is also illegal in all states except Queensland for bike riders to use pedestrian crossings, unless the crossing is equipped with bike signals.
It goes without saying that you must also obey wider traffic laws, such as obeying signals and signs, keeping left and riding in the general direction of the traffic. For more specific rules that apply to your state, visit the websites below.
Australia wide bit.ly/14mO5Lx
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