The Australian Road Rules apply to road users in the ACT, including cyclists. The ACT's Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Regulation 2000 provides some deviation from these, specific for cyclists in the ACT. These include matters relating to vehicular passing distances, cyclists using pedestrian crossings and riding on footpaths (all detailed below).
Various offence provisions apply to cyclists who do not obey the road rules. Common penalties include:
- failing to stop at a traffic light
- failing to stop at a stop sign
- making a U turn at an intersection with traffic lights without a U turn permitted sign
- failing to give way to pedestrians on a footpath or shared path, and
- failing to display a front or rear light at night or in poor weather.
The content on this page provides an overview of key matters, common issues, and of lesser known rules, to help improve cyclist confidence and safety.
What you need before you go
Australian law requires that any person on a bike must wear a helmet at all times, whether riding on roads, off roads, on trails, or on shared paths and footpaths. The helmet must be approved, be properly fitted and securely fastened. Any approved helmet will have a sticker attached indicating that it complies with one of the relevant standards.
All bikes in the ACT, whether being ridden on or off road, must have at least one effective brake and a warning device such as a bell or horn.
It is also required by law that, if riding in the dark or in poor light conditions, a bike must have a front white light and red rear light, both visible for at least 200m.
All bikes must also have a red rear reflector.
Trial laws in the ACT
From November 2015 a two year trial commenced for road rules in the ACT.
Cyclists may cross a road using a pedestrian crossing - including zebra crossings, children's crossings and pedestrian crossing at intersections including traffic lights - while remaining on their bike, however:
- when using a pedestrian crossing, cyclists must slow to 10kph or less, and
- if crossing at a signalised intersection, a cyclist may cross only if the green pedestrian light is showing.
When overtaking a cyclist, a vehicle must provide a minimum 1m passing space in speed zones of 60kph or less and 1.5m in speed zones of more than 60kph, however:
- a bike lane does not always provide these spaces and vehicles may sometimes need to move further beyond a bike lane to provide the required minimum space when passing a cyclist,
- when passing a cyclist, a vehicle may cross the centre white line, straddle lane-lines and/or drive on painted islands, provided the motorist has a clear view of approaching traffic and it is safe to do so, and
- if it is not clear ahead, or not clear to provide the required minimum distance passing space for a cyclist, a motorist must slow down behind the cyclist until approaching traffic has cleared and it is safe to pass.
Riding on shared paths and footpaths
In the ACT, a cyclist may ride on shared paths and footpaths. When doing so, a cyclist must keep to the left and must give way to pedestrians.
On-road bike lanes
If a bicycle lane exists, an on-road cyclist must ride in the lane provided, unless it is impracticable to do so. Examples where it may be impracticable to ride in a bike lane include if there is debris, potholes, overgrown vegetation and other hazards. Sometimes these hazards may not be apparent to drivers of motorised vehicles. Cyclists should beware that motorists may not anticipate a cyclist moving out of a bike lane to avoid such hazards.
Cycling two abreast
It is legal to ride two abreast in the ACT. This includes situations where one rider may be inside and the other outside of a dedicated bike lane; and instances where there are no bike lanes and both riders are in the regular lane of traffic. When riding two abreast, riders must not be more than 1.5 metres apart and should exercise consideration and courtesy for other road users.
Stop signs and traffic lights
Cyclists riding on roads have the same rights and responsibilities as other road users. This requires cyclists to stop at stop signs and at yellow and red lights.
On approaching an intersection with a yellow light, if a rider can stop safely before reaching the intersection, they must do so. If it is not possible to stop safely due to speed and approach distance, the cyclist should continue through the intersection, taking necessary caution. If the intersection has a dividing strip, safety zone or traffic island forming an area set aside for bike riders, a bike rider should proceed to reach this area and then await the next green light to safely complete the crossing.
Cyclists may make a hook turn when turning right at an intersection unless there is a sign at the intersection preventing a cyclist from doing so. Some intersections might have a storage area for bikes making hook turns.
Where an intersection has painted markings on the road to enable hook turns, these are intended to act as an aid, rather than implying that it is compulsory for all cyclists to make a hook turn. Some cyclists may able to make a direct right hand turn, depending on their level of confidence and the volume of traffic.
At a multilane roundabout, a cyclist may choose the safest means of traversing the roundabout, through either the left or right hand lane, despite any road markings indicating the lane direction, and regardless of where the cyclist is exiting the roundabout.
This is relevant particularly for cyclists who are turning right at a roundabout, and may do so from the left hand lane.
However, a cyclist in the left hand lane of a roundabout must give way to any vehicle exiting the roundabout.
At a single lane roundabout, a cyclist may choose to 'claim the lane' and take up the whole lane like other road users.
Vehicles turning left
If a cyclist is riding on the road (whether in a bike lane or not) and approaches from behind a vehicle that is in the process of turning left and is indicating to turn left, the cyclist must give way. However, if the vehicle is approaching from behind the cyclist, the vehicle must not cut-off the cyclist in order to turn left.
Bike storage areas
A bike storage area is an area of road, at a traffic light intersection, painted green with bike markings, allowing cyclists to move ahead of the traffic during a red stop light. The storage areas are placed in front of vehicular traffic to enable the cyclist to be easily seen. When the light turns green, the cyclist in the storage area can progress through the intersection ahead of other traffic.
Some roads are prohibited for cyclists
Some roads are not suitable for cyclists, due to high speed and heavy traffic volumes with nil or unsuitable bike lanes and shoulders. Where there is a 'bikes must exit' or 'no bicycles' sign, a cyclist must leave the road and use another means of path to continue their journey. Planning your route and journey in advance of your ride will assist you in avoiding these areas.
Emergency stopping lanes
Cyclists may stop in emergency stopping lanes if required.
In the unfortunate event of an accident or injury
Occasionally, accidents and injuries occur. However, riding a bike is considered to be seven times safer than playing a game of football, based on the number of hospitalisations, so don't be discouraged!
In the unfortunate event of an accident or injury, you may need to contact the police and/or an ambulance by contacting emergency services on 000.
For all incidents, you are encouraged to report details through the ACT Government's online form. By providing this information, you will contribute valuable data which will assist the ACT Government in making our roads and paths safer for everyone.