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Road rules for cyclists

Generally, as a bicycle is defined as a vehicle [Road Traffic Act 1961(SA) s 5], cyclists are subject to the same basic road rules as drivers of motor vehicles but with some important exceptions, such as they must wear an approved bicycle helmet [Australian Road Rules rule 256]. Cyclists must keep as close as reasonably practicable to the left-hand side of the road or bikeway except when making, or about to make, a right hand turn or where the road is divided into lanes. If it is safe, cyclists are permitted to pass vehicles on the left in the lane unless the vehicle is indicating and turning left [Australian Road Rules rule 141].

Bicycles are exempt from requirements to be registered or insured. This includes electric power-assisted bicycles with a motor that produces no more than 200 watts and Pedalecs (with a motor capacity of up to 250 watts). In order to qualify as bicycles they must have a clear label identifying them as complying with the nationally accepted standards for electric bicycles (which is: EN15194).

However, other power-assisted bicycles, in particular, petrol-powered bicycles, are subject to the same requirements as motor vehicles. Riding petrol-powered bikes is illegal on South Australian roads and charges such as drive unregistered/drive uninsured and even drive disqualified can follow.

Riding abreast

Cyclists can ride two abreast on a carriageway, but any more than two is an offence.

Riding on footpaths

As of 25 October 2015 cyclists of all ages are allowed to ride on footpaths.

Shared facilities for both pedestrians and cyclists called "shared paths" are designated by signs or line marking. Cyclists riding a footpath or shared path must keep left unless it is impractical to do so [Australian Road Rules rule 250(2)].

Box right hand turns

Cyclists can make a "box right hand turn" by crossing an intersection on the left side and waiting on the opposite corner for a break in the traffic before proceeding along the road into which the turn is to be make. Just as drivers must keep their hands on a steering wheel, cyclists must keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times [Australian Road Rules rule 245] and they must signal when turning right [Australian Road Rules rule 48].

Other restrictions

Cyclists are also subject to other restrictions. It is illegal to hold on to a moving vehicle [Australian Road Rules rule 254] or to ride for more than 200 metres within two metres of a motor vehicle [Australian Road Rules rule 255].

The old practice of "donkeying" (carrying another person on the bike, such as on the handle bars) is also against the law unless the bicycle is equipped to carry passengers [Australian Road Rules rule 246].

Cyclists can also be charged for riding under the influence of alcohol or drugs and face a fine up to $300 if convicted [Road Traffic Act 1961 (SA) s 47].

Penalties - see Expiable Offences, Codes and Fees (PD320A) on the SAPOL website

Keeping a sufficient distance when passing bicycle

From 25 October 2015 it is an offence to fail to keep a sufficient distance when overtaking a cyclist [Road Traffic (Road Rules - Ancillary and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2014 (SA) reg 11A].

A "sufficient distance" is defined as the lateral distance between the bicycle and a car, that is, the distance between the furthermost point to the right of the bicycle and the furthermost point to the left of the driver’s vehicle (including any projection from the vehicle).

When travelling at speeds 60 km/h and under this is a distance of at least one metre and a distance of 1.5 metres when travelling over 60 km/h.

There is an exemption from certain rules in relation to overtaking if it is necessary in order to comply with regulation 11A. For example, if a driver is driving on a road with a dividing line they may drive to the right of the dividing line provided they have a clear view of any approaching traffic and can do so safely [see Road Traffic (Road Rules - Ancillary and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2014 (SA)reg 11B ].

Maximum penalty: $2500

Cycling  :  Last Revised: Tue Dec 5th 2017
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.