Bicycle-specific laws

 

Bicycles must have a brake, warning device or bell and have lights for night riding. Helmets are compulsory. Scooter riders must wear helmets if travelling on the road. Cyclists must not ride more than two abreast on the road. Cyclists cannot lose demerit points for riding under the influence of alcohol. Riders may not cycle across pedestrian crossings. Adults may not ride on the footpath unless they are disabled or supervising a child rider.

Essential road rules

What is a roadworthy bicycle?

All bicycles must have at least one working brake and a “bell, horn, or similar warning device, in working order” (RR 258; maximum penalty: 5 pu).

If you ride a night or in bad weather, you must have attached to your bicycle:

1 a flashing or steady white light on the front of the bicycle (arguably then, the blue lights that are becoming more popular as front lights offend this rule) that is clearly visible from 200 metres in front of the bicycle; and

2 a flashing or steady red light on the back of the bicycle that is clearly visible from 200 metres behind the bicycle; and

3 a red reflector on the back of the bicycle that is clearly visible from 50 metres behind the bicycle (RR 259; maximum penalty: 5 pu).

Helmets

When you are riding a bicycle, you and any passenger (including children in attached seats) must wear a properly fitting and fastened helmet unless you are riding on private property (RR 256; maximum penalty: 5 pu). If you are riding a scooter on a road or road-related area, you must also wear an approved bicycle helmet (RR 244B(1)).

“Approved bicycle helmets” are those approved by VicRoads and published in the Government Gazette. Your helmet must meet Australian safety standard AS/NZS2063.

In exceptional circumstances, VicRoads “may issue a certificate stating that it would be impractical, undesirable or inexpedient that the person named in the certificate wear a bicycle helmet while riding on, or being taken as a passenger on, a bicycle (RR 256(4)) or travelling on a scooter (RR 244B(2))”. An automatic exemption exists if:

the rider is a member of a religious group and is wearing a type of headdress customarily worn by members of that group; and

the wearing of the headdress makes it impractical to wear a bicycle helmet (RR 244B(3A), 256(6)).

A person who has been issued such a certificate must have it in their possession when riding and produce it when demanded by an authorised person (i.e. person with written authorisation from VicRoads or the Victorian Government Department of Transport) or a police officer (RR 244B(3), 256(5)).

A paying passenger being carried on a three- or four-wheeled bicycle does not have to wear a helmet (RR 256(2)(a)).

How a bicycle should be ridden

When you are riding your bicycle, you must face forwards and have at least one hand on the handlebars (RR 245; maximum penalty: 3 pu).

Passengers

You must not carry more passengers than the bicycle is designed to carry. Accordingly, “dinking” is against the law (but a child in a child-seat is permitted). Passengers can only sit on your bicycle if they are in a seat designed for a passenger (RR 246; maximum penalty: 3 pu).

You can tow a bicycle trailer with a passenger in or on it if:

you are at least 16 years old; and

the passenger is under 10 years old (or older if the person holds a valid, signed medical certificate) (RR 257).

Mobile phones

When riding a bicycle, you must not hold a mobile phone, use it to send text messages or touch it in any way (RR 300; maximum penalty: 10 pu).

You can use your phone as long as it’s fixed to your bicycle, is “hands-free” and only used for calls, listening to music or GPS navigation.

For your safety, it is better to not use your phone at all while riding.

Riding with pets

It is illegal to have your dog on a lead while you ride your bicycle (RR 301(3); maximum penalty: 3 pu).

Riding in traffic

Keeping left and safe distances

When riding on the road, you must ride as close as practicable to the left side of the road (RR 129; maximum penalty: 3 pu).

Keep a safe distance between you and any traffic in front of you and make sure you have enough space to stop safely. There must be at least two metres between your bicycle and the rear of the vehicle in front (RR 255; maximum penalty: 3 pu).

Turning and signalling

If you intend to change direction when riding, the safest option is to signal your intention to do so. How to signal is explained in RR 50: extend the right arm and hand horizontally and at right angles to the bicycle, with the hand open and palm facing forwards.

When intending to turn right, cyclists should look back to check what is coming and, if the way is clear, signal, merge towards the centre of the road and turn when appropriate. Whenever you are moving over to the right (including when changing lanes or turning right), you must signal with your right hand (RR 48(1); maximum penalty: 3 pu).

Cyclists should turn left by moving towards the left kerb and then making the turn. If you’re turning left, you do not have to signal, but it’s a good idea to do so (RR 46(5)).

Hook turns

A hook turn is a right-hand turn started from the far left of an intersection.

If there is a hook turn sign, cyclists must do a hook turn to turn right. At all other intersections, RR 35 allows cyclists to do a hook turn rather than cross lanes of traffic (unless a sign prohibits it: RR 36; maximum penalty: 3 pu).

If a cyclist doesn’t carry out a hook turn as described in RR 35(3), they can be fined a maximum of 2 pu.

More information about hook turns is available at www.vicroads.vic.gov.au.

Bicycle storage areas

A bicycle storage area or hook turn storage area is a painted rectangle marked at an intersection with a bicycle symbol inside it.

These areas are safer places for cyclists to stop as cars are not allowed to enter them until the lights change. The intention of bicycle hook turn storage areas is to make hook turns safer to execute, as cyclists can gather in the rectangle and all take off at the same time when the traffic lights turn green.

If you are riding on the road and there is a bicycle storage area and you need to stop, you must stop inside it.

If there is a bicycle lane leading into the bicycle storage area, you must use the bicycle lane to enter the area unless that is not a practical option (RR 247A; maximum penalty: 3 pu).

RR 247B(1) requires cyclists, when entering a bicycle storage area, to give way to:

any vehicle that is in the area; and

if green or yellow traffic lights are showing, any motor vehicle that is entering or about to enter the area, unless the motor vehicle is turning in a direction that is subject to a red traffic arrow; and

if the area forms part of a lane to which traffic arrows apply – any motor vehicle that is entering or about to enter the area at a time when those arrows are green or yellow (maximum penalty: 3 pu).

Cyclists who are in a bicycle storage area that goes across all traffic lanes must, if any green or yellow traffic lights are showing, give way to a motor vehicle that is in any lane other than the lane that the bicycle is directly in front of, unless the motor vehicle is turning in a direction that is subject to a red traffic arrow (RR 247B(2); maximum penalty: 3 pu).

Motor vehicles are prohibited from entering bicycle storage areas before the lights change. RR 60A(1) says that “if there is a bicycle storage area before traffic lights that are showing a red traffic light, a driver of a motor vehicle must not allow any part of the vehicle to enter the bicycle storage area” (maximum penalty: 10 pu). Subrule (2) says that “if there is a bicycle storage area before traffic arrows that are showing a red traffic arrow, and a driver of a motor vehicle is turning in the direction indicated by the arrow, the driver must not allow any part of the vehicle to enter the bicycle storage area” (maximum penalty: 10 pu).

Riding in groups

You cannot have more than two cyclists next to each other, except when overtaking (RR 151; maximum penalty: 3 pu). When riding next to someone, you must not ride more than 1.5 metres apart from them (maximum penalty: 1 pu).

Overtaking

A cyclist is permitted to pass or overtake a motor vehicle on the left or right, except where the vehicle is turning left and is indicating left, or the vehicle is turning right and is indicating right (RR 141(2); maximum penalty: 3 pu). Cyclists must not overtake a vehicle on the right if it is doing a U-turn from the centre of the road and is indicating right.

When passing or overtaking, all drivers (including cyclists) must leave a “sufficient distance to avoid a collision or obstruct the path of the vehicle being passed” (RR 144). To counter the disturbingly high number of cycling fatalities and injuries, the “A Metre Matters” campaign seeks to amend the laws so that “sufficient distance” means:

at least 1 metre distance when vehicles are overtaking bicycles on roads with maximum speed limits of 60 km/h or less; and

at least 1.5 metres distance when vehicles are overtaking bicycles on roads with maximum speeds in excess of 60 km/h.

If the above minimum distance passing laws are enacted, then cars would be permitted to cross centre lines, if safe to do so, when passing cyclists.

Currently, minimum distance passing laws (or trials of them) exist in Queensland, South Australia, Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales. Hopefully, similar laws will be enacted in Victoria (see the Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Overtaking Bicycles) Bill 2015, introduced by Greens MLC Samantha Dunn).

Crossings

If you want to cross the road using a pedestrian or children’s crossing, you must get off your bicycle and walk it across the road, unless there are bicycle crossing lights (RR 248(2); maximum penalty: 3 pu; see also RR 262).

Causing a traffic hazard

Cyclists are not permitted to cause a traffic hazard. This includes riding into the path of a driver or pedestrian (RR 253; maximum penalty: 1 pu), riding too fast for the conditions, not looking before pulling out into traffic, or being towed by another vehicle or holding onto a moving vehicle (RR 254; maximum penalty: 5 pu).

Riding on paths and bicycle lanes

Footpaths

The RR dictionary defines a “footpath” as “an area open to the public that is designated for, or has as one of its main uses, use by pedestrians”.

You can only ride on a footpath if you:

are under the age of 12 (RR 250(1); maximum penalty: 3 pu);

are an adult (18 years or older) supervising a child under 12;

have a disability that means it’s difficult for you to ride on the road (and you have a valid medical certificate);

are a postal worker (RR 250(1A)).

When riding on a footpath, you must keep to the left (provided it is practicable to do so), and you must give way to pedestrians (RR 250(2); maximum penalty: 3 pu).

Separated footpaths

A separated footpath is a path divided in two – with one side reserved for cyclists, the other for pedestrians (RR 242(2)). Pedestrians and cyclists must keep to their designated lane (RR 239(1); maximum penalty: 2 pu). Exceptions for pedestrians are:

if the pedestrian is crossing the path – undue delay in crossing the path is not permitted (RR 239(1)); or

if the pedestrian is on rollerblades, rollerskates or a similar “wheeled recreation device” (e.g. a skateboard or scooter), or is in or pushing a wheelchair (RR 239(2)).

Bicycle lanes

Bicycle lanes are on-road lanes reserved for cyclists; these lanes are identified with a bicycle symbol on the road.

If there is a bicycle lane (see RR 153(4)), the cyclist must ride in that lane, unless it is blocked (RR 247; maximum penalty: 3 pu).

Motor vehicle drivers are not permitted to drive in the bicycle lane (RR 153(1); maximum penalty: 5 pu) except for up to 50 metres if they are:

about to stop or park (provided stopping or parking is not prohibited at that place) (RR 153(2));

driving a bus or taxi and setting down or picking up passengers (RR 153(3));

entering or leaving the road (RR 158(1)(a));

entering a part of the road of one kind from a part of the road of another kind (e.g. moving to or from a service road) (RR 158(1)(b));

overtaking a vehicle turning right or doing a U-turn (RR 158(1)(c));

entering a marked lane or a line of traffic from the side of the road (RR 158(1)(d)); or

stopping at a place in the lane (RR 158(3)).

It is also permitted for a motor vehicle driver to drive in a bicycle lane, for an unrestricted distance, to avoid an obstruction (RR 158(2)(a)).

Bicycle paths

Bicycle paths are separate, usually off-road paths reserved for cyclists; they are marked by a “bicycle only” sign (RR 239(4)).

Cyclists using a bicycle path must keep to the left of any oncoming cyclists on the path (RR 251; maximum penalty: 3 pu). This also applies to cyclists using foothpaths and separated footpaths.

Bicycle carriers

A bicycle carrier is a device “attached to the rear of a motor vehicle to enable one or more bicycles to be carried by the vehicle, but does not include a trailer” (RR 400(1)). You must not drive a motor vehicle that has an empty bicycle carrier attached (RR 405; maximum penalty: 3 pu).

All vehicles must display licence plates (reg 50 Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2009; maximum penalty: 2 pu). Licence plates must be clearly visible up to 20 metres away (reg 48(1)(d)). If your licence plate is obscured by a bicycle carrier, you can attach your number plate to the bicycle carrier (reg 48(3)) so that it is visible.

Serious traffic offences

The RS Act provides that cyclists can be charged with serious traffic offences similar to those that apply to drivers of motor vehicles. The offences apply to all drivers of non-motorised vehicles, not just cyclists, and the penalties for these offences are approximately half that of the penalties applying to corresponding offences for drivers of motor vehicles, reflecting the fact that cars tend to cause significantly more damage to people and property.

The serious traffic offences are:

failure to stop, render assistance, exchange details or report to police following an accident if a person is injured or property damaged (s 61A RSA; various penalties depending on whether anyone was killed or seriously injured; up to a maximum of five years imprisonment and 600 pu);

dangerous driving: the RSA (s 64(2A)) states that a person must not drive a vehicle, other than a motor vehicle, at a speed or in a manner that is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances of the case (maximum penalty: 120 pu or 12 months imprisonment or both);

careless driving: the RSA (s 65(2)) states that a person must not drive a vehicle, other than a motor vehicle, on a highway carelessly (maximum penalty: 6 pu (first offence) and 12 pu (subsequent offence)).

Drunk riding

The relevant provisions of the RS Act relating to drink-driving refer to motor vehicles and, accordingly, do not apply to cyclists – as such, cyclists cannot lose demerit points for riding while under the influence of alcohol.

However, there is an archaic offence in the Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic) (s 16(b)) that imposes a maximum penalty of 10 pu or two months imprisonment if you are drunk in charge of a carriage (not including a motor vehicle) in a public place. “Carriage” is not defined but specifically excludes a motor vehicle and would likely include a bicycle.

Careless riding

You must not ride your bicycle carelessly on the road (RS Act (s 65(2)). Examples of careless riding include riding too fast for the conditions, and not looking where you are going. If you are convicted of careless riding, you could be fined (maximum penalty: 6 pu (first offence) and 12 pu (subsequent offence)).

Dangerous riding

You must not ride your bicycle dangerously on the road (RS Act (s 64(2A)). Examples of dangerous riding include riding too fast for the conditions, and not looking out for pedestrians. If you are convicted of dangerous riding, you could receive a large fine or even a prison term (maximum penalty: 120 pu or 12 months imprisonment or both).