Road Rules for Cyclists

January 16, 2013

Australian law recognises bicycles as a vehicle. As such, cyclists are required to follow the same road rules as other road users, including red lights, indicating and giving way. I’m going to assume that the general road rules are known and focus on the bicycle specific laws that affect cyclists.


It is mandatory for both adults and children under 16 to wear helmets. Under the current Road Rules 2008, riders must wear a safety helmet that has been approved by Australian Standards (there needs to be a red and silver compliance sticker on the helmet) securely fitted and fastened on the head. This applies to all cyclists, regardless of age, and includes children with training wheels and any child being carried either on a bicycle or in a bicycle trailer.

This rule is not only common sense; it has serious legal implications in the case of a serious accident, where your insurance policy may be void if you’re not wearing an approved helmet. All helmets purchased within Australian stores should be certified. Helmets purchased online from international stores are unlikely to have been certified, and this is the main reason why they are generally cheaper. While they may be EXACTLY the same as those at your local bicycle store, most racing organizations won’t accept them and your risking voiding your insurance policies.


You are allowed to perform ‘J’ turns by turning right from the left hand lane. You must give way to any vehicles exiting the roundabout as you pass each exit. 

Transit lanes

Bicycles are allowed in transit lanes.

Bus lanes

Bicycles are allowed in bus lanes. The only exception is “Bus Only” lanes; these are…well… for buses only.

Bicycle lanes

This is a tricky one. By law, cyclists must use a bicycle lane if there is one marked. This becomes difficult if road debris has been conveniently swept into the bicycle lane, or even worse, drivers opening doors from within parked cars. Car drivers are allowed to use bicycle lanes for no more than 50 meters to enter or leave a road at a driveway or intersection.

On roads without marked bicycle lanes, you are to keep as far to the left as safe and possible. You are allowed to ride two abreast as long as you are no more than 1.5 meters apart.


Bicycle riders are allowed to overtake slow moving or stopped vehicles on the left hand side.

Hand signals

You must use your hands to signal your intentions to change direction. It’s also good practice to signal your intention to slow down or stop if there is another vehicle behind you.


Unless indicated by signage, footpaths are only for children under 12 years of age. An adult can ride on a footpath so long as it’s in a supervisory capacity for a cyclist younger than 12 years of age. Both cyclists and pedestrians can use shared paths. While on a shared footpath, you need to travel at a safe speed that allows you to stop or avoid pedestrians.

Riding at night

If riding in low light conditions, bicycle riders must have:

-       A front steady or flashing white light that is clearly visible for at least 200m

-       A rear steady or flashing red light that is clearly visible for at least 200m

-       A red rear reflector that is clearly visible for 50m when light is projected onto it by a vehicle’s headlights on low beam.

These all seem like common sense points, however it surprises me how many cyclists I’ve seen riding at night with those tiny silicone “micro” lights that do nothing to improve your visibility. Please also keep your batteries charged as a flat or dying light isn’t of much use.

Bicycle Equipment

A person must not ride a bicycle that doesn’t have:

-       At least 1 effective brake; and

-       A bell, horn, or similar warning device, in working order. 


More information on road rules can regulations can be found at


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