Whether you’re just starting out on a fresh new bike (we’re loving that basket), dusting it off after a break or a seasoned veteran on the pedals, there are some things everyone needs to know to stay safe on the road.
At Powershop, we’re big on finding different ways to reduce our impact on the world and help reduce climate change. One tip from the Better Health Channel is to leave the car in the garage and cycle for short trips to reduce carbon emissions. Here we explore the ‘101’ around riding and bike etiquette.
There are two major sides to bike etiquette, the laws that ensure our safety; and the things we can do to help make the experience safer and more enjoyable for everyone. We’ve done the research so you don’t have too!
Cyclists must follow the same road rules as drivers, however, some laws are specific to cyclists and these can vary by state. Here are a few you may already know, and some you may not.
You may know that you must:
- Have working brakes and a bell/horn
- Have lights attached to your bike when riding at night
- Follow road rules (for example, stop at stop signs and traffic lights)
- Ride the correct way down roads and paths
- Wear a helmet at all times (except in NT)
- Not ride on footpaths (only applicable in VIC and NSW)
You may not know that you must:
- Have at least one hand on the handlebars at all times
- Not drink alcohol (it’s illegal to drink and ride)
- Give way to a vehicle turning left (must not overtake on the left when they are turning)
- Signal when turning right by extending your arm
- Not lead an animal while cycling
Want more information about specific state bike laws? Head to Bicycle Network for a link to each states laws and road rules. Or head to Insider Guides for a breakdown of the laws by state.
Aside from abiding by the laws to keep everyone safe, there is a certain bike etiquette you can adopt to be thoughtful of other cyclists, cars or pedestrians.
This is possibly the most important piece of etiquette for all riders on road and pedestrians off. Maintain a steady line and avoid changing direction or braking suddenly. It’s not just for etiquette, it’s also for safety as riding erratically can make it hard for cars and other bikes to allow enough space when passing.
Just like driving a car, you should always keep left unless overtaking someone.
Pass other bikes and pedestrians on the right, but make sure you’re doing so when it’s safe and there’s plenty of space (i.e. not on a blind corner). When passing pedestrians give them plenty of notice you are about to pass with your bell or call out. According to the Bicycle Network: “ “Passing” is a commonly used call. “Hello” or “coming through” is effective as well. What is not effective is “on your right”, which tends to confuse people and can cause them to step into your path.”
Being friendly to your fellow commuters can go a long way. If someone looks like they are struggling with a bike or has fallen off, it’s an unspoken law of cyclists to stop and help out (or at least ask if they need help). But always remember to keep your own safety in mind when helping others, especially on roads or narrow paths.
Use headphones with caution
Who doesn’t love listening to some tunes or a podcast on a commute? But it’s important to make sure you can still effectively hear your surroundings. The volume of the music as well as the type of the headphones you use can impact how well you hear outside noises.
According to Bicycle Network, a cyclist with ear-bud earphones playing music at a reasonable volume hears much more outside noise than a car driver, even when that driver has no music playing. Bike riders with in-ear earphones playing music at a reasonable volume hears about the same outside noise as a car driver with no music playing, but more than a car driver playing music. So, remember to remain mindful of your surrounds and make sure your volume is always set to a reasonable level.
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