A license is not required to ride a bike on Melbourne's (and most other cities in the world as far as I know) streets and sometimes knowing quite what you are allowed and not allowed to do or indeed what others should be doing around you is difficult to ascertain.
The fact is that when you are on a bike you should be obeying the rules of the road, but a lot of rules and regulations are squarely aimed at car drivers and if you haven't taken a license test, how are you supposed to know what they are anyway?
Here are a few rules and regulations that directly affect cyclists, so you can be aware of your rights and responsibilities.
Keep to the left
You should keep to the left of the lane, if the road is too narrow or clogged with traffic then you are perfectly within your rights to take the lane completely, a generally touted figure is to keep a metre from the curbside. Cyclists are also allowed to overtake on the left of a vehicle, but not if the vehicle is indicating or turning left.
Often a subject of confusion, you are allowed to ride two abreast and a third cyclist is even allowed to overtake, so car drivers put away those horns.
Bike lanes and paths
Another common grey area, this one even surprised me. If there is a bike path or lane present, you are obliged to use it if practical. Cars are also obliged to give way to cyclists in lanes and paths.
Whilst not completely required for cyclists, at major intersections where trams are present it will assist your safety and visibility if you take a hook turn instead of a 'normal' one.
Cyclists are required to obey traffic lights, stop signs and give way signs, failing to do so is an infringement and could result in a fine.
Speaking from experience, being hit by a car door is unpleasant, opening a car door into traffic is also illegal. The law states 'A person must not cause a hazard to any person or vehicle by opening the door of a vehicle?' a fact that will surprise many cyclists and car drivers alike. However, it does mean that if you are hit, you are well within your rights to take down details, claim any damages and if necessary, report the incident to the Police.
- A warning device such as a bell or horn.
- An approved helmet.
- At night a white front light and red back light.
- Disobeying traffic lights : $220
- No Helmet : $55
- No Lights : $55
- Riding on a footpath or other non-approved path : $55
In fact, cyclists are subject to the same fines as car drivers, so if you're very unlucky or not careful you could find yourself hit with a very unusual fine.
So bearing all of this in mind, why do so many cyclists seem to break these rules, putting themselves into danger, trouble and giving so many of us law abiding cyclists a bad name? I thought I'd do a little probing and try to understand why so many carry a chip on their shoulders about sharing the road and don't try to ride harmoniously with every other user of our public roads and footpaths.
A common reason for jumping red lights given by many cyclists is momentum. Unlike a car, it's is human endeavour and effort that propels your vehicle, stopping at red lights reverses all of the momentum you've just built up, starting up again can be a lot of effort. This is a fair point, but in my personal opinion, not completely valid and generally bought up by those who like to travel particularly fast or who have fixed wheel (i.e. one gear) bikes, utilising gears properly (as with a car) makes stopping and starting a fairly simple process. Yes, traffic lights are damned annoying, but they generally exist for a good reason and not obeying them could endanger you and others, ignoring the recurring issue that you will also potentially infuriate other road users, increasing cyclist animosity. Of course there are also those lights that simply don't trigger for cyclists, in those cases then you really have no option than to jump them or cross on the pedestrian crossing.
It does sadly seem that many cyclists suffer something of a superiority complex, taking the fact that they're 'doing their bit for the planet' as a carte blanche do what they like on the roads. Then there's the rebellious attitude that accompanies a lot of cyclists, the attitude that initially drives you to rebuke the four-wheeled majority and take to two wheels carries on into just doing what you damn like. Whatever your opinion or attitude, there are rules in place for a reason, if you don't agree with that reason or feel you are inappropriately represented or covered by regulations and rules then flaunting them isn't necessarily the best approach. One person breaking a rule because they feel justified or safer (which may have unforseen repercussions) in doing so achieves nothing, taking your complaints through official channels and making more intelligent larger scale protests through lobby groups (some listed below) or attending related public events can achieve better results.
Published in Aduki