Relevant laws and regulations

 

The Australian Road Rules dictionary carries definitions of wheeled vehicles, both powered and unpowered. People riding wheeled recreation vehicles (skateboards, roller skates, roller blades and scooters) are considered pedestrians. Cyclists are subject to the road rules and liable to penalties for failure to obey traffic lights and stop and give way signs.

Regulations

The relevant regulations, under the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) (“RSA“) are:

  • the Road Safety (Road Rules) Regulations 2009 (Vic) (“Road Rules“) ““ these are the Victorian version of the Australian Road Rules;
  • the Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2009 (Vic) (“Vehicles Regulations“); and
  • the Road Safety (General) Regulations 2009 (Vic) (“RS General Regulations“).

Who and what do the Road Rules cover?

The Road Rules define various words in the text and in the dictionary (“RR dictionary“) at the end of the Road Rules. The definitions below are from this dictionary.

A “cyclist“ is included within the definition of “rider”, who is a “person who is riding a motorbike, bicycle, animal or animal-drawn vehicle” (Road Rule (RR) 17(1)). This does not include a passenger or a person walking beside and pushing a bicycle (RR 17(2)).

A “bicycle“ is defined in the RR dictionary as:

a vehicle with two or more wheels that is built to be propelled partly or wholly by human power through a belt, chain or gears (whether or not it has an auxiliary motor), and

  1. includes a pedicab, penny-farthing and tricycle; and
  2. includes a power-assisted pedal cycle within the meaning of vehicle standards, as amended from time to time, determined under section 7 of the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 of the Commonwealth; but
  3. does not include a scooter, wheelchair, wheeled recreational device, wheeled toy, or any vehicle with an auxiliary motor capable of generating a power output over 200 watts (whether or not the motor is operating), other than a vehicle referred to in paragraph (b)).

The definition of a “wheeled recreation device“ as a

wheeled device, built to transport a person, propelled by human power or gravity [or in the case of a scooter, propelled by a person pushing one foot against the ground, or by an electric motor or motors, or by a combination of these] and ordinarily used for recreation or play

includes rollerblades, rollerskates, a skateboard, a scooter that is not a motor vehicle, or similar wheeled devices. It does not include a golf buggy, pram, stroller or trolley, or a bicycle, wheelchair or wheeled toy, or a scooter that is a motor vehicle. Persons riding wheeled recreation devices are considered to be pedestrians (RR 18). Some rules relating to pedestrians are covered later in this chapter (seeUse on footpaths, shared paths, bicycle paths and bicycle lanes“).

The riders of scooters, although considered to be riding wheeled recreation devices have been singled out for greater protection (see below for further discussion).

RR 19 states that all references to “driver” and “driving” in the Road Rules include a reference to “rider” and “riding”, unless otherwise stated. Therefore, cyclists are subject to the general Road Rules that govern all traffic on the road and, in particular, to the rules governing speed limits, pedestrians and traffic control devices (signs and signals). Cyclists are also subject to the same on-the-spot fines (aka infringement penalties) as motorists for failing to:

  • obey a traffic light (infringement penalty: 2.5 penalty units ; or
  • obey a stop sign, a stop here on red signal or arrow sign, or a give way sign (infringement penalty: 2 pu).

Several rules dealing specifically with bicycles and their riders can be found in part 15 of the Road Rules.

The Road Rules apply to vehicles and road users on roads and road-related areas (RR 11). However, these terms are quite broadly defined (RR 12 and 13); the definition of a “road“ being:

an area that is open to or used by the public and is developed for, or has as one of its main uses, the driving or riding of motor vehicles [or any area declared under the RSA].

A “road-related area“ includes footpaths, nature strips, areas that divide roads, and areas that, while not roads, are open to the public and designated for use by cyclists or animals or used by the public for driving, riding or parking motor vehicles.

The following summary of the law is in three parts. The first relates specifically to bicycles (how they should be ridden, roadworthiness, helmets, use of bicycle carriers); the second relates to skaters; and the third covers the general road law, in particular stopping and turning behaviour as it applies to bicycles.

Melbourne’s bike hire scheme

The Victorian Department of Transport’s bike hire scheme, Melbourne Bike Share, (melbournebikeshare.com.au) is supported by the City of Melbourne and operated by the RACV. Formally, Bike Share cyclists had to provide their own helmets or buy one for $5 from a nearby store or vending machine. However, the scheme is now trialling providing free helmets, which can be found on the bikes themselves. There are two ways the scheme operates:

  1. annual subscribers ($56 for an individual subscription and $100 for a corporate subscription) insert their bike share keys into the bike docking station;
  2. daily ($2.80) or weekly ($8) pass cyclists swipe their credit card at the bike station kiosk and receive a code, which is then plugged into the docking station to release the bike.

The scheme provides the bikes for free for short trips:

  • for annual subscribers, the first 45 minutes is free;
  • for corporate subscribers, the first hour is free, then it costs $2 for the next 30 minutes, then $7 for the next 61″“90 minutes, $17 for up to two hours, then $10 for every additional 30 minutes;
  • for daily or weekly users, the first 30 minutes is free.

The pricing is designed so that only short trips are taken. For longer bike trips, the Melbourne Bike Share website recommends using other bike hire companies. Daily and weekly hire also requires a $50 deposit, and you can only hire a maximum of two bikes for each credit card.

There are currently 51 bike stations and 600 bikes in and around the CBD, extending north to Melbourne University and as far south as Albert Park Lake. The website now has a handy map (and Spotcycle app) showing the location of bike stations.