Bike rider safety

Bicycles are vehicles, and under the law bike riders have the same rights and responsibilities as car drivers.

Cyclists riding on bike pathTo stay safe bike, riders need to obey the road rules, ride predictably, share the road respectfully and safely with other road users, and maintain their bicycles properly.

In the ten years to 2012, there were an average of eight bike rider fatalities and 413 serious injuries per year.

Facts about bicycle crashes

  • Bike riders most likely to be involved in crashes were:
    • Male – 76%
    • Aged 26-45 years – 46%
  • Bicycle crashes are most common (61%) at intersections.
  • 12% of bike rider casualties occur when a driver or rider who is turning right fails to give way to an oncoming vehicle travelling straight through.
  • 10% of bike rider casualties occur when a driver or rider fails to give way at a cross section.
  • 10% of bike rider casualties occur when a driver opens their door into the path of a bike rider. This is much higher in inner Melbourne.
  • 9% of fatal and serious injury to bike riders occurs when it is mainly the rider coming off the footpath.
  • 8% of fatal and serious injury to bike riders occurs when it is mainly the car driver emerging from a driveway.

Bicycle safety tips

Keep safe on your bicycle. Obey the road laws and be alert to the traffic around you. Ride in the same direction as other traffic and keep your bicycle one metre from the kerb.

  • Before changing lanes and turning, always scan behind and signal your intentions to other road users.
  • Try to make eye contact with other road users to help them know that you are there.
  • Look out for other road users particularly when they are approaching you from behind or pulling out in front of you.
  • Look out for drivers and passengers getting in and out of parked cars and be aware of the risk of car doors opening.
  • Don’t ride on the inside of larger vehicles such as buses and trucks – the drivers can’t see you and these vehicles may be turning which will require more space than a normal passenger car.
  • Be careful riding over tram tracks, especially in wet weather. 
  • Wear a correctly fitted, Australian standards approved, bicycle helmet.

Take extra care when cycling at night. It is harder for drivers to see you and for you to see hazards. Try to ride on well-lit roads and wear bright or light coloured clothing or a reflective vest.

When riding at night or in conditions of low light, your bike must have a white front light, a rear red light, both visible from at least 200 metres, and a red rear reflector visible from at least 50 metres.

  • Ride defensively. This means being alert to other vehicles and acting predictably yourself.
  • When using a single lane roundabout, ride in the middle of the lane. This is so you are more visible to other road users and you are less likely to be cut off when other road users are exiting the roundabout.
  • When riding through a multi-lane roundabout you are permitted to ride in the left lane, even if you are turning right. If you do, you must give way to vehicles exiting the roundabout. Make sure you signal your intentions and where possible, try to make eye contact.
  • When using a shared path or separated footpath, ride in a manner and a speed that will enable you to give way to pedestrians. Always let people walking or slower bike riders know you are about to pass by ringing your bell or simply calling out.
  • We recommend that children under the age of twelve years ride under adult supervision.

Bike Law

Read the newly released Bike Law - a bike rider's guide to road rules in Victoria

Keeping visible

Crashes between cars and bicycles are more likely to occur when light is poor.

Bike riders are most difficult to see when they are approaching a vehicle and the driver is viewing them from the front.

Tips for being seen both day & night

Wear a bright top day & night

It is more likely that you will be seen by drivers if you wear a brightly coloured top that makes you stand out. At night reflective strips on a vest and ankle cuffs with reflective parts will make you more visible.

Use lights at night

This is the law. If you do not use lights at night or in conditions of low light, penalties may apply. The front and rear lights must be visible from 200m and the bicycle must also have a red rear reflector visible from 50 metres. Bike riders who do not have bicycle lights fitted to the front and rear of their bicycles are very difficult to see at night.

Use lights during the day

Using flashing front and back lights in daylight too helps you be seen on the road. Drivers can have poor peripheral (side) vision. Helping them to see who is in the bike lane or bike riding beside them makes it more likely that they will adjust their driving to give bike riders the space they need. So using bike lights in flashing mode day and night helps you be seen, and helps you stay safe.

Ride so that you can be seen

Drivers and other road users should look out for bike riders. However, some may not, so to help drivers see you, you should ride in a prominent position on the road at a distance of approximately one metre from parked cars. You should also obey traffic signals and stop signs.

More information: Bicycle Network Victoria – Top 60 Lights for Commuting (External link)

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