Cycling laws in Australia

Words: Sarah Coles Photography: Lisa Widerberg and Mission Bicycle Company at Flickr Creative Commons

The Australian Bicycle Council released the results of the National Cycling Participation Survey last year.

The survey shows that around 4 million people in Australia ride a bike in a typical week. Participation rates are highest in WA, the Northern Territory and ACT. The regulations cyclists face vary widely from state to state.

If you ride your bike in a thunderstorm during the day in Adelaide without bike lights you could be fined $54. If you ride a bike in NSW after March 2017 without carrying ID, you risk a $106 fine. If you ‘ride furiously’ on your bike in NSW you could be subject to a $425 fine. If you live in Darwin you are allowed to ride on the footpath provided you don’t exceed 20km/h. In Perth only children under the age of 12 may ride on the footpath. In Canberra a two-year trial was passed in November 2015 that allows cyclists to ride slowly across pedestrian crossings.

NSW changed some of its cycling laws on March 1, increasing fines and making them equal to those facing other road users–for example the new fine for riding through a red light is $425.  More than 10,000 people signed an online petition against the changes.

During Operation Safe Cycling in January, South Australian police fined 333 cyclists for not wearing helmets, riding at night without lights, disobeying traffic lights or other offences (car drivers received 53 fines). In SA the penalty for not wearing a helmet is $98 and the penalty for riding without lights at night or during hazardous weather is $54. The fine for driving in a bicycle lane is $251.

A number of Australian states and territories have introduced a minimum passing distance law (MPDL) that includes restrictions around distance between bicycles and vehicles when passing–drivers must allow at least 1m in distance when passing a cyclist, 1.5m if the speed limit is greater than 60km/h. Motorists are also allowed to go over unbroken lines and painted traffic islands to protect the safety of cyclists.

In 2015 the Victoria Law Foundation (VLF) launched an online guide to the state’s bicycle laws. Victoria is considering passing minimum passing distance laws. On April 1, 2016, the Bicycle Network confirmed that it will support a minimum passing distance law trial in Victoria. Cycling is a healthy and environmentally conscious mode of transport so it is crucial that legislation promotes, rather than deters, cycling.

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