About cycling

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Cyclist responsibilities

Your responsibilities as a cyclist are to:

Use the correct lane

Before reaching an intersection, or when turning, you need to get into the correct lane. Inexperienced cyclists may choose to stop and get off in a safe place before reaching busy intersections, and walk their cycle to where they want to go.

Keep left

Road rules state that road users should keep as ‘near as practicable’ to the left side of the roadway. This means that you should keep left, but not to the extent that it compromises your safety.

  • Ride in a position where you have a good view, and where other road users can see you. Cycling in a straight line (ie not swerving in and out) will help other road users predict your movements.
  • Never ride so closely to the kerb or edge of the road that you are in danger of cycling into the kerb or off the road.
The car door zone

The ‘car door zone’

‘Taking the lane’

There are some situations where you may want to move more toward the centre of lane in order to keep yourself safe. This is called “taking the lane”. If you do have to move further out, remember to find a gap, signal your intentions, do a quick shoulder check and move across when it is safe.

After taking the lane you should move back towards the left side of the road as soon as it is safe to do. Please ride with courtesy and respect for all other road users making sure you are visible at all times and clearly showing your intentions. This will make sharing the road easier for everyone.

Some situations where it is important to take the lane are:

  • On approaching a roundabout: You need to take the lane as if you were a car so you are in the best position to be clearly seen by all users on or approaching the roundabout.  This will also help prevent drivers from passing you, or crossing your path. Once out of the roundabout move back to the left side of the road when it is safe to do so.  

    You may see a sharrow marking on the road in a situation such as this.
  • Turning right at an intersection: You will need to take the lane as if you were a car when turning right at an intersection so that so you are in the best position to be clearly seen by all users on or approaching the intersection. Once across the intersection move back to the left side of the road when it is safe to do so.  

Some situations where it is acceptable to take the lane are:

  • When the road is narrow: If the road is too narrow to safely allow vehicles to pass, you are in danger of being run off the road or hit by a passing car. Once you have taken the lane try to ride as quickly and safely as you can and allow the following traffic to pass when the road widens.

    You may see a sharrow marking on the road in a situation such as this.
  • When cars are parked on the left side of the road: Never ride in the “door zone” when cycling passed parked cars. Allow at least one metre between you and a parked car.  The ‘door zone’ is the space into which doors can open unexpectedly in front of you. Once you have passed the parked cars and it is safe to do so, move left to allow the following traffic to pass.

    You may see a sharrow marking on the road in a situation such as this.
  • Turning left at an intersection: In some cases, on a left-hand turn you may need to ‘take the lane’ to avoid cars parked on the left-hand side, or to avoid being cut off on the corner by a vehicle also turning left. 

Pass other vehicles safely

When passing moving or stationary vehicles, always check behind and signal your intentions. Hang back if you see a truck turning left, because cyclists are often not seen by truck drivers.

When riding past queues of stationary or slow moving vehicles, your visibility will be reduced and turning cars may not see you. Slow down and be particularly careful when there is a gap in the queue - the driver leaving the gap may have left it for a turning vehicle.

Use hand signals

Hand signals must be used at least three seconds before:

  • moving into traffic
  • stopping
  • turning left
  • turning right
  • moving from a lane.
Turning left

Turning left

Slowing down or stopping

Slowing down or stopping

Turning right, passing or pulling out

Turning right, passing or pulling out

Roundabouts

You must use hand signals before reaching a roundabout and at the roundabout. Once you are in the roundabout you may need both hands on the handlebars to keep control of the cycle, so it is okay to only indicate when you are able. For more information on indicating at roundabouts see Roundabouts.

There are also other situations where it will be difficult to use hand signals because you may need both hands on the handlebars, eg on very rough roads or in strong winds. In these cases, consider whether you should stop and get off in a safe place and walk your cycle to where you want to go.

Hand signal procedure

  1. Well before you need to signal, check behind to see when a good time to move or stop would be (keep both your hands on the handlebars).
  2. Do the hand signal while slowly counting ‘one-thousand and one; one-thousand and two; one-thousand and three’. Then return your hand to the handlebars.
  3. Check that other road users have seen you and understand your hand signal. Then carefully make your move, or stop. If you are able to make eye contact with other road users, this will help to ensure that they have seen you.

Be safe and courteous when cycling in groups

General considerations for group cycling

Group cycling can be a very enjoyable experience provided you know how to ride in groups. The ‘rules’ that should be followed are listed below:

  • Each cyclist should know the route and where the next stopping/meeting place is (meeting places should not be too close to intersections).
  • There must never be more than two cyclists cycling next to one another. When the road is narrow or vehicles cannot pass, everyone should cycle in single file.
  • Pass other moving cyclists and motor vehicles on the right, if they are in the same lane as you.
Group cycling

Sudden braking or swerving are common causes of crashes in bunches. Group rides work best when riders communicate hazards and rotate smoothly.

  • Everyone should communicate. Let others know that you are passing, stopping, slowing down or turning. Hazards need to be pointed out to cyclists behind. If a motor vehicle driver is having difficulties passing the group, the cyclists at the back should let the cyclists at the front know.
  • When following a vehicle, you must have enough clear space to stop, should the vehicle in front stop suddenly. The exception is where cyclists are participating in council-approved cycle events that allow cyclists to closely follow one another (typically referred to as ‘drafting’ or ‘paceline cycling’). When riding closely, any sudden movements by any cyclist in the paceline can result in serious crashes. A good way to tell if you are leaving a safe distance between you and the cyclist in front is to use the two second rule, described in the box below.
  • Everyone should ride smoothly with no sudden stops, starts or turns. If something unexpected happens, you should try your best to continue cycling smoothly and at the same time let the rest of the group know that a stop is needed.
  • Advanced cyclists entering events may wish to practice their drafting skills. This skill takes time to master and should only be learnt with other experienced riders present. Your local cycling club or shop may offer courses or provide group rides with other experienced riders.

The two second rule

Under normal conditions, the two-second rule is an easy way to make sure you have allowed enough following distance between your cycle and the vehicle in front, no matter what speed you're travelling at.

To check if you are travelling two seconds behind the vehicle in front:

  • watch the vehicle in front of you pass a road marking or other feature on or off the road
  • as it passes the marking, start counting ‘one thousand and one, one thousand and two’
  • if you pass the marking before you finish saying those eight words, you are following too closely - slow down, pick another marking and repeat the words to make sure you have increased your following distance.

Adults cycling with children

When cycling with young children, adults should either lead or be at the back of the group, depending on the children's experience and the number of adults. If there is just one adult to supervise a group of young inexperienced riders, riding at the back of the group is best. Where there are two adults, one should lead and the other can observe and protect the group from behind.

Adults should make sure the group doesn't get too spread out and should ensure that when turning at intersections the whole group can make the move safely. Depending on the ability of the children, adults may decide that the group needs to stop in a safe place, get off and walk their cycles across difficult intersections.

Using roads and paths

Wherever you ride, you are sharing space with other road users. Understanding and respecting the needs of other users ensures everyone is safe and comfortable while they are on the road or on paths.

Sharing with motor vehicles

Be alert and ride safely.

  • Use cycle lanes and cycle paths if they are available.
  • Keep to the left side of the road when practicable.
  • Ride in a straight line. If you have to swerve to avoid something, try to do a quick shoulder check and not to veer too far off line.
  • Obey road rules, signs and signals.
  • Only ride next to another cyclist if it safe to do so, otherwise ride in single file. It is illegal for three or more cyclists to ride next to one another.
  • Always ride so that you can control your cycle and are able to stop suddenly if you have to.
  • Try to be as visible as possible. Use lights when it’s dim or dark and consider wearing reflective clothing.
Wearing bright clothing makes you more visible

Wearing bright clothing makes you more visible

  • Be aware that drivers of other vehicles may not be able to see you if you are in their ‘blind spot’. Cyclists know if they are in a blind spot if they can't see the driver's eyes in the vehicle's rear view mirrors.
  • If an ambulance, fire engine or police car has its siren on, you should move off the road or as far to the left as possible. Watch for motor vehicles that are also trying to move out of the way.
  • Thank other road users when you can. For example, let them know you are happy they waited for you by waving, smiling, or giving them a ‘thumbs up’.
  • Respect other road users and be courteous. When it's appropriate, wait for them, give them space or wave them through.
  • Be ready for the unexpected - ride defensively. The most common mistakes people driving cars, trucks or buses, make are:
    • not giving way
    • passing you and then turning left straight in front of you
    • coming from the opposite direction and turning right in front of you
    • driving too close to you when they are overtaking
    • opening their doors wide enough to hit you when you are cycling past
    • not checking properly before coming out of driveways or parking places
    • cutting corners
    • driving too fast for the conditions
    • trying to be nice by letting you turn at times when it's not necessarily safe for you to make the turn. If this happens don't make a move until you can see that the way is clear in all the lanes you need to cross. Wave them on if you want to.
  • Stay alert – look out for buses and trucks and recognise that they may not be able to see you and may stop often. Be sure to wait for the right moment to pass.
  • Don’t weave through traffic as this makes it harder for trucks and buses to see you.
  • Never cycle up the left side of a truck or bus turning left as these vehicles often have large blind spots where drivers cannot see you
  • Take up a visible position at lights – three metres out in front and not by the left kerb or very close to trucks or buses.
  • Remember that when turning, the trailer of a long vehicle will track inside the path of the cab.

What drivers would like cyclists to know

  • Drivers expect cyclists to obey the road rules and to be courteous, ie using hand signals and not cycling through red traffic signals.
  • Because cars travel fast it can be difficult to stop them quickly and safely - so responding to hazards on the road is normally harder for the driver of a motor vehicle than for a cyclist.
  • Unpredictable cycling behaviour can be unsettling - try not to swerve or change direction suddenly.
  • Drivers can feel delayed by cyclists.
Emergency stop for a car pulling out

Emergency stop for a car pulling out

Sharing with pedestrians

  • Where there are a lot of pedestrians, slow down and be prepared to stop quickly.
  • Be careful when cycling past parked vehicles or stopped buses, as pedestrians may suddenly appear.
  • Slow down and be ready to stop for any pedestrians on, or stepping onto, a crossing. See Using different types of pedestrian crossings for more information on legal stopping requirements at different types of pedestrian crossings.
  • If you want to use a pedestrian crossing to cross the road you must get off your cycle and walk. The exception is at crossings with special traffic signals for cyclists - here you may cycle across the crossing when the signal shows a green cycle symbol. See Using shared pedestrian and cycle crossings for more information on these types of crossings.
  • Shared paths (paths that allow pedestrians and cyclists) have their own set of rules - for more information on these, see Shared paths.

What pedestrians would like cyclists to know

  • If you are on a footpath with your cycle you should be walking with it, unless you are delivering mail or are cycling a wheeled recreation device that has a wheel diameter less than 355 millimetres (normally a tricycle or small child's bicycle).
  • Pedestrians often can't hear cyclists approaching, especially from behind or to the side. Call out politely or use a bell if you have one.
  • Children, especially those under the age of nine, may have poor road skills. Be very careful when cycling near them.
  • Until children reach 15 years their vision is not fully developed. This limits their ability to see easily to their sides and can mean they may not see you until you are in their direct line of vision.
  • Children have trouble judging the speed of moving cyclists, so they may try to cross the road even if they do see you.
  • Some people may have disabilities that prevent them from reacting or moving quickly.
Children may be hard to spot behind vehicles and may behave unexpectedly

Children may be hard to spot behind vehicles and may behave unexpectedly


Helpful hints for cycling defensively in traffic

  • Where possible, communicate with drivers. Make eye contact and signal intentions clearly.
  • Look for the presence of people inside a parked car - a door may open or the car may move off.
  • When a vehicle is stationary, look for brake lights or exhaust fumes - this is a sign that the car has started and may be about to leave.
  • Look for indicator lights on vehicles - but be careful not to rely on them - wait to see if the car's speed reduces or it changes direction.
  • At side roads and intersections, look at the angle of other vehicles' front wheels - this may give you an idea about what direction they might be about to head in.
  • Before checking behind you, check that the forward path is clear.
  • Listen for changes to the pitch of a vehicle's engine. Learn to recognise the sounds of accelerating, braking, and changing gear.
  • Look for shadows on the road, reflections in shop windows and vehicle lights at night to give clues about hazards.
  • When riding past queues of vehicles, your visibility will be reduced and turning cars may not see you. Slow down and be particularly careful when there is a gap in the queue - the driver leaving the gap may have left it for a turning vehicle.
  • In the rain or other low light conditions:
    • wear reflective clothing and use your lights
    • ride slowly and keep the bicycle upright especially on corners
    • brake slowly and smoothly using both brakes
    • avoid surface water, drains and rough surfaces.

Based on information from Cyclecraft - the complete guide to safe and enjoyable cycling for adults and children, written by John Franklin.

Shared paths

It is normally illegal to ride on footpaths, unless delivering mail or when cycling a wheeled recreational device that has a wheel diameter less than 355 millimetres (normally a tricycle or small child's bicycle), but some councils have created shared paths that both cyclists and pedestrians can use.

Sometimes the shared path is sign posted to let you know what type of user has priority, and in this case, you need to give way to the user who has priority. When a shared path does not have priority signs, you should give way to the slower user. However, if you encounter a horse on a shared path it is sensible to give way to the horse, as they are easily startled.

All users on shared paths are required by law to use shared paths fairly and safely, and to try and not hold anyone up.

If you are riding on a shared path you should:

  • keep left
  • let pedestrians know you are there by politely calling out or ringing a bell when you are approaching from behind them
  • pass on the right, when possible – unless the pedestrians are on the right in which case pass them in the safest way you see fit
  • ride defensively and cycle at a speed that does not put others at risk. E-bikes should be in the lowest power setting
  • cruise by other users with a metre’s gap, so as not to startle them
  • look out for traffic going in and out of driveways – vehicles from driveways do need to give way to those on the shared path, but often drivers may not expect fast traffic on the shared path
  • be careful at intersections and give way to motor vehicles if you need to.

Expect hazards and ride to avoid them

Being a safe cyclist means being aware of hazards and being prepared for them. In this section we have listed hazards you may encounter while cycling. Read these lists and think about:

  • where and when you might encounter these hazards
  • what might happen
  • what you would do if any one of these hazards occurred suddenly
  • how you might avoid the hazards.

Plan your trip with the hazards you might encounter in mind. When cycling, continuously check for hazards.

Consider taking a cyclist skills course. Research has shown that after training, cyclists have five times fewer injuries than non-trained cyclists.

Road surface hazards

  • Debris - gravel, rocks, leaves etc.
  • Things that have been thrown or dropped on the road.
  • Glass.
  • Oil leaks from cars.
  • Drains without covers, or covers with grills parallel to your direction of travel.
  • Deep gutters.
  • Roads with a steep side slope.
  • Railway lines.
  • Potholes and uneven road surfaces particularly on the side of the road.
  • Gaps or steep ridges between the tarseal and the gutter.
  • Sudden patches of gravelled road.
  • Metal plates in wet weather.
  • Shiny tarseal in wet weather.
  • Paint markings in wet weather.
  • Paint markings, reflectors and rumble strips that have very thick sides.
  • Some road features, such as built-out sections of footpath that narrow the road and assist pedestrians crossing.
Road works, uneven surfaces and metal plates can all be hazardous in certain situations

Road works, uneven surfaces and metal plates
can all be hazardous in certain situations

Animal hazards

  • Animals sometimes run out onto the road.
  • Some dogs chase cyclists. In this situation, it may be appropriate to stop and place your cycle between yourself and the dog.
The unpredictable movement of animals

The unpredictable movement of animals

Other road users' hazards

  • Pedestrians can step onto the road without looking.
  • People in parked vehicles may open their doors suddenly in front of cyclists.
  • Sometimes drivers may not look for, or expect, a cyclist and in some cases they may not see you even when they do look because you are in their ‘blind spot’. You can tell if you are in a vehicle's blind spot if you cannot see the driver's face in the vehicle's rear-view mirrors.
  • Vehicles often reverse out of driveways quickly.
  • Vehicles often pull out in front of cyclists. Pay careful attention to buses around bus stops.
  • Large vehicles turning can be a hazard. They are bigger, so they need more room to turn.
  • Large vehicles passing at high speed can create wind which can make it difficult to control your bicycle.
Motor vehicle reversing from driveway

Motor vehicle reversing from driveway

Weather hazards

  • Gusts of wind.
  • Sun glare - when the sun is bright and low on the horizon, drivers may not be able to see you. If the sun is low in the sky, either in the morning or the evening, drivers driving towards the sun may not be able to see you because of glare.
  • Rain, ice, or snow, make roads wet and slippery and make it hard to see and be seen.

Cyclists' own behaviour

Cyclists must not:

  • text or talk on a mobile phone while cycling.

Cyclists also need to avoid:

  • drinking alcohol or using illegal substances before or while cycling
  • cycling too fast for the conditions
  • using portable music players (it helps to be able to hear traffic when cycling).
Texting while cycling is illegal

Texting while cycling is illegal

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Last updated: 22 February 2017