Road rules for cyclists

Not the most exciting topic perhaps but it is easier to shout at motorists when you know you are in the right. 🙂 A marked shoulder is easily mistaken for the bike lane which creates confusion. More about Australian Road Rule 153.

It is all much simpler to use the bike path if there is one but there not always is. It can be faster on the road and you do not have the pedestrians and dogs off the leash to worry about.

Cycling paths

First, one thing about cycling paths that we need to get out of the way. On community paths, the cyclist is expected to give way to people, horses and dogs – basically everyone. The law is written in such a way that in a collision with a pedestrian the cyclist is always in the wrong. This is why third party liability insurance is essential.

“This means that a pedestrian isn’t obliged to move out of the way of a bike approaching from behind, even if the cyclist rings their bell.”

Road rules for cyclists, Amber Wang, Snedden Hall & Gallop Lawyers, 25 Mar 2019

The only exception to this are cycle ONLY paths, of which there are few, but which are easily identifiable by the bike stencil on the path indicated by the word ONLY. The paths will also be signed with “bike only”. Pedestrians should not walk on these (but we know they will).

Pedestrians often mistake the paths for footpaths because they are the same colour as all other cycle paths. In the ACT the policy is to generally only paint the paths GREEN if they are in an exposed zone (“exposure length”) at the intersection where conflicts (collisions) with cars are likely to occur. This is unfortunate as the Dutch always colour their cycleways RED. (You want to trigger the local human factors lover, mention green exposed zones and you’ll be lectured in colour psychology and cognitive biases!)

“Exposure length – The length of a bicycle lane, typically at a slip lane, in which the cyclist can be regarded as having a high risk of conflict with vehicular traffic.”

Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05, ACT Government, April 2019
Pedestrian ONLY and Bicycles ONLY path marking. Source Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool (ATIPT), ACTSD 3500 Series Related to Active travel 181220
Pedestrian ONLY and Bicycles ONLY path marking. Source Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool (ATIPT), ACTSD 3500 Series Related to Active travel 181220

Road riding

On the road, the cyclist is legally a vehicle. We are expected to follow all the road rules, including not using your phone while riding.

Riding in groups

We can ride in groups despite what motorists say. Bicycle clubs say it is safer in a group and passing distances are shorter. Please feel free to educate the motorists in your network!

“When riding in a group you can ride up to two abreast, as long as the two riders are no more than 1.5 metres apart. Riders can also overtake two people riding next to each other.”

Road rules for cyclists, Amber Wang, Snedden Hall & Gallop Lawyers, 25 Mar 2019
Riding side but side is OK. Wearing helmets is required in Australia. Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com

Bike lanes

The bike lanes around Canberra are patchy and for many too hard to identify. This creates confusion.

When you’re riding on an on-road bike lane, you have the right of way. You must ride in an on-road bike lane if there is one, unless it’s impractical to do so.”

Road rules for cyclists, Amber Wang, Snedden Hall & Gallop Lawyers, 25 Mar 2019

Marked shoulder

From our driving test, we know all about using indicators for changing lanes and stopping at the side of the road. The solid white line along the edge of the road defines the edge of the road (carriageway).

“Marked shoulder – Refers to the sealed edge of roads outside of the travelled carriageway defined by an edge line (the shoulder) where cyclists are legally allowed to travel. This facility is almost invariably associated with unkerbed roads and is often used on rural roads.”

Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05, ACT Government, April 2019
Riding in the lane is fine even when there is a marked shoulder.

Australian Road Rule 153

A marked shoulder is easily mistaken for the bike lane which creates confusion. A cyclist can ride behind the marked shoulder for some protection from the traffic but does not have to. We are entitled to ride down the centre of the lane. On some Canberra roads, the marked shoulder is right on the edge of the asphalt leaving us with little choice.

Many drivers cannot recognise a bike lane. Without adequate markings, it is a marked shoulder. Much of the aggravation between motorists and cyclist arises as a result of this confusion due to a general lack of education.

“Bicycle lane – A special purpose on-road traffic lane for the exclusive use of cyclists marked in accordance with Australian Road Rule 153 and as described in AS1742.9 and AGRD03 Section 4.6.7. Bicycle lanes may be of varying widths depending on the road speed environment and their use is defined by the Australian Road Rules for cyclists and other road users.”

Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05, ACT Government, April 2019, page 13.

AUSTRALIAN ROAD RULES – REG 153

153—Bicycle lanes

(1) A driver (except the rider of a bicycle) must not drive in a bicycle lane, unless the driver is permitted to drive in the bicycle lane under this rule or rule 158…

(4) A “bicycle lane” is a marked lane, or the part of a marked lane—

(a) beginning at a bicycle lane sign applying to the lane, or a road marking comprising both a white bicycle symbol and the word “lane” painted in white; and

(b) ending at the nearest of the following:

(i) an end bicycle lane sign applying to the lane, or a road marking comprising both a white bicycle symbol and the words “end lane” painted in white;

(ii) an intersection (unless the lane is at the unbroken side of the continuing road at a T-intersection or continued across the intersection by broken lines);

(iii) if the road ends at a dead end—the end of the road.

Australian Road Rules – Reg 153, South Australian Current Regulations, 19/9/2020
Bicycle lane sign
End bicycle lane sign

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