For the most part, the road rules are the same for everybody. We stop, we go and we give way to others as dictated by the fat cats on capital hill. For cyclists there are a few exceptions; I’ll focus on the NSW rules (being arguably the most restrictive in Australia, woo nanny state) though note that there are variations across other states.
What Cyclists Can Do:
- We can legally use Transit lanes - sweet! And Bus lanes - dope!! (but not the “BUS ONLY” lanes )
- We can ride 2 abreast in a lane (but not more than 1.5m apart)
- Cyclists can ride to the left of any unbroken line, and overtake/pass on the left of any stopped or slowed vehicles.
- Hook turns: no longer just a Melbourne thing but a great way to get ahead of traffic:
What Cyclists Can’t Do:
- Ride on footpaths (unless under 12 yrs of age or accompanying someone under 12). Cyclists can ride on shared paths (usually signposted) but remember pedestrians have right of way. Common sense approaches like calling out - politely - “passing on your right”, or using your ting-ting bell, helps to warn others (headphones notwithstanding.) Keeping left makes life easier for oncoming walkers/runners/riders, but be patient as the keep-left rule seems optional to many who meander.
- Cyclists cannot ride on the road when there is an adjacent bicycle lane (rule 247), unless it is “impracticable to do so” (their words). I’m guessing council excavation or fallen trees count, but the "traffic-light-works-better-for-cars” reason won’t...
- Nor can we ride across road crossings; we have to dismount and walk across. You can ride across only if there is a green bicycle signal light:
- You need to keep at least one hand on the bars whilst riding - the “look-mum-no-hands” is a no-no.
- Don’t hold onto another vehicle, or get towed, or ride with more people on your bike than there are bike saddles - even if you've got a set of phat pegs.
- Don't run red lights!
The Weird Stuff:
- As an adult you can’t ride on a footpath. Unless you live in Queensland. Or Tasmania, the ACT, South Australia, WA and the NT.
- Unlike motorbikes, cyclists can’t filter between lanes of cars even though there doesn’t seem to be a specific rule prohibiting it. That's a rant for another time but take my word for it. Unfortunately I don't make the rules.
The Practical Stuff:
- Road surfaces. Potholes, gravel, sand, leaves, broken glass, stormwater grates, cracks and road plates all mean loss of traction and grip. Look well ahead (not just 2m in front of you) and they become easier to avoid or negotiate.
- Give yourself space. Yes cars should keep at least 1m away from you, and whilst most drivers adhere to that rule, there are still a small but annoying percentage of drivers who scoff at that law. Give yourself some space in case a car turns or stops suddenly (cars can pull up much faster than most bikes). Be wary of not staying in a driver’s blind spot:
- Riding in wet conditions means giving yourself more time for braking: keep the bike upright, using both front and rear brakes together, and stopping will be predictable. Don’t grab the brakes (you’ll lock up the wheels and skid) - Use the “squeeeeeeeze” technique, gradually increasing pressure as you begin to slow down. Practice this in the dry as it’s the most efficient way to brake safely.
- Traffic lights can be unpredictable. Most are triggered by induction loops embedded in the road surface. These have a magnetic wave, which gets signalled when a big chunk of metal comes near it. A car has lots of metal. Your bike? - not so much. Try and position yourself over the centre of the loops (usually in the middle of the square ‘cuts’ in the asphalt) and that should do it. Or you can dismount and push the “walk" button on the opposing lights. Or just wait for another car to come along….
Like all life’s lessons there’s simply no substitute for experience; put these points into practice, be patient, careful and calm, and it will all become second nature very quickly.