We’re excited to be partnering with Pedal Power for the 2019 Cycle Works challenge. To help keep you safe and on the right side of the law, in this article Amber Wang gives an update on road rules for cyclists.* 
If you’re riding regularly, you’ll need to be familiar with the road rules that apply to people cycling on ACT roads and paths. However, as the ACT is bordered by NSW, you need to remember that there are subtle differences between the road rules and penalties in each jurisdiction.
The Road Rules are incorporated into the Road Transport (Road Rules) Regulation 2017 in the ACT. Part 15 contains the additional rules for bicycle riders.

1. Safety precautions

The bike rider and any bicycle passenger (including a passenger in a bicycle trailer) must wear an Australian standard approved bicycle helmet that is securely fastened on the rider’s head.
When riding at night or in hazardous weather conditions you must have a forward-facing flashing or steady white light that is clearly visible for at least 200 metres, and a rear-facing flashing or steady red light that is clearly visible for at least 200 metres. You must also display a red reflector on the rear of the bicycle that is clearly visible for at least 50 metres.
Recommendations included in the recent Coroner’s decision in relation to the death of endurance rider Michael Hall included:

  • the national standards relating to bicycle lighting be updated
  • the ACT Government amend its legislation to require a flashing rear light to be displayed when riding a bicycle in low light conditions on rural roads
  • clarifying whether bicycles require a wholly separate reflector on the back of the bicycle, or whether the reflector may be integrated into the rear light.

A bike must have at least one effective brake and a working warning device, such as a bell.

2. Seating

The rider of the bicycle must be seated facing forward, with at least one hand on the handlebar. Cyclists can carry passengers, but only if they have the appropriate number of seats attached.

3. Cycling on paths

Canberra’s path network is a fantastic resource for people wanting to get around the city on foot and on bike. On our shared paths and footpaths people on bikes must give way to people walking and must keep to the left unless it’s impracticable to do so.
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.
Almost all of Canberra’s paths are shared, with the exception of separated cycle paths like the Civic cycle loop; the cycle way in Matilda St, Phillip; and the planned Belconnen bike way, where bike riders have right of way.

4. Cycling on roads

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.
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. Motorists are still obliged to ‘stay wider’ of the rider nearest to them.
A cyclist may not ride within 2 metres of the rear of a moving motor vehicle for more than 200 metres. We remind cyclists to be cautious travelling behind trucks – they generally can’t see you unless you can see their mirrors.

5. Crossings

A rider can ride across a childrens crossing, marked foot crossings, or a pedestrian crossing at speeds of 10 km/h or less. You must approach the crossing at a speed of 10 km/h or less, look for approaching traffic and be prepared to stop. You must give way to pedestrians, and keep to the left of an oncoming bicycle or pedestrian, and maintain the speed of 10 km/h or less.
If you approach an intersection that has a bicycle crossing light symbol and traffic lights, you may cycle across the intersection if the bicycle crossing lights are green, even if the traffic lights are red or yellow.

6. Bicycle storage areas

With the introduction of light rail, more bicycle storage areas are likely to be introduced; some of these may involve hook turns.
A bicycle storage area can usually be identified by an area before an intersection with traffic lights that flows from a bicycle lane, and will have one or more bicycle symbols painted in it.  You must give way to vehicles in the area, although if there is space, two bicycles may enter. If the traffic lights are red, motor vehicles are not permitted to be stopped in this area. If you are turning left, you are required to do so from as far left in the storage area as is practical.
Bicycle hook turn storage areas should be able to be identified by a bicycle symbol and right turn arrows painted on it. If you need to make a hook turn you must approach the intersection from the far left side of the road, enter the intersection by moving into the bicycle hook turn storage area, then move forward until you are as near as possible to the far side of the road that you are entering. You are not permitted to make  a  hook  turn  at  an  intersection that has a ‘no hook  turn by bicycles’ sign.

7. Passing laws

Side-swipe collisions between cyclists and drivers account for 14 per cent of all fatal bike crashes in Australia. Since November 2015, the ACT has minimum distance passing laws in place that state that drivers must allow at least a metre between their vehicle and any cyclist if the driver is travelling at 60 km/h or less. The minimum overtaking distance is 1.5 metres where the speed limit is over 60 km/hr. These distances are measured from the furthest extension of the bike (usually the handlebar) to the nearest extension of the vehicle (usually a wing mirror). To ensure a safe passing distance, the driver may cross the median strip if it is safe to do so, including when there are double lines.

8. Other laws

It’s worth pointing out that while riding a bike you must follow the same laws as other road users, such as stopping at red lights and stop signs, not riding intoxicated, and not using your phone while riding.
While we expect all road users to be alert and aware, and to comply with the law, as a vulnerable road user you can’t take this for granted. Know your rights, but don’t make assumptions about the behaviour of other road users. We recommend that cyclists always ride carefully and safely, and:

  • ride predictably and signal your movements
  • use your bell or your voice to let people know you are coming when you’re riding on paths
  • make eye contact with drivers where possible when riding on the road.

How can we help?

Snedden Hall & Gallop is Pedal Power’s legal partner and principal sponsor of the Cycle Works challenge.  As cycling accident legal experts, we offer Pedal Power members a free first consultation; a ‘no win, no fee’ arrangement; and up to a 50% reduction of gap fees where fees are unrecoverable from the at-fault party. To find out more contact us on 02 6285 8000 or by email.

*The content of this article is provided for information purposes only, and we do not accept any liability for reliance upon the information contained in this article.  This information cannot be relied upon as legal advice.