The road laws for cyclists in Tasmania are contained in the Road Rules 2009. ‘Vehicle’ includes bicycles, and the person riding a bicycle is a ‘rider’. This definition does not include a person wheeling a bicycle. For the purposes of the Road Rules, a driver includes a reference to a rider, and driving includes reference to riding. This means that driving offences are also cycling offences. This means that if a cyclist fails to observe road rules, penalties that apply to drivers also apply to cyclists. However, there are some rules that apply specifically to cyclists. See the Road Rules at rules 245 – 262 for a full list.
What is a roadworthy bicycle?
Some of the most severe cycling accidents occur at night and in many cases, the bike has no lights. To combat this, the Rules (rule 259) state: ‘The rider of a bicycle must not ride at night, or in hazardous weather conditions causing reduced visibility, unless the bicycle, or the rider, displays –
- a flashing or steady white light that is clearly visible for at least 200 metres from the front of the bicycle; and
- a flashing or steady red light and reflector that is clearly visible for at least 200 metres from the rear of the bicycle; and
- a red reflector that is clearly visible for at least 50 metres from the rear of the bicycle when light is projected onto it by a vehicle's headlight on low-beam’ (maximum 5 penalty units).
Road Rule 256 states that all bicycle riders, and their passengers, ‘must wear an approved bicycle helmet securely fitted and fastened’ on their heads (maximum 2 penalty units). All approved helmets are labelled.
Under Road Rule 379 it is possible to obtain a written exemption from Service Tasmania stating you do not have to wear a helmet. It is likely the person applying for the exemption will have to show it is ‘extremely difficult’ to comply with the requirement of wearing a helmet (as under the previous Regulations). An exemption may be subject to conditions such as being carried and produced when demanded by an ‘authorised person’ or a police officer.
Paying passengers on 3- or 4-wheeled bicycles do not have to wear helmets (rule 256(3)).
How a Bicycle Should be Ridden
Riders must ‘sit astride the rider's seat facing forwards (except if the bicycle is not built to be ridden astride), with at least one hand on the handlebars’ and, if the bike is equipped with a seat, not ride the bike seated in any other position on the bike (rule 245; maximum penalty 5 units).
‘The rider of a bicycle must not carry more persons on the bicycle than the bicycle is designed to carry’ (one may query whether the metal footrests on many BMX wheels are designed for transporting extra persons or just for trick performances by the actual rider) (rule 246; maximum 5 penalty units). No reference is made in the current Rules to child seats on bicycles, however it is assumed this Rule would cover the previous Regulation which permitted the carrying of a child under 5 years old in a properly constructed and fitted seat attached to the bicycle. As a passenger, that child would require a helmet.
‘A rider is not permitted to ride within 2 metres of the rear of a moving motor vehicle continuously for more than 200 metres’ (rule 255; maximum 5 penalty units). Riders are not permitted ‘to cause a traffic hazard by moving into the path of a driver or pedestrian’ (rule 253; maximum 5 penalty units). Riders are not permitted to be towed by another vehicle or hold onto a moving vehicle (rule 254; maximum 5 penalty units).
A rider is permitted to overtake a motor vehicle on the left except where that vehicle is turning left or indicating it will be turning left (rule 141; maximum 10 penalty units).
Riders are prohibited from riding ‘across a road, or a part of a road, on a children's crossing, marked foot crossing or pedestrian crossing’ (rule 248; maximum 2 penalty units). This means riders must dismount and walk their bicycles across.
Cycling on the Road, Footpaths, and Bicycle Paths
Bicycle riders of any age may ride on a footpath in Tasmania unless such a use is prohibited (usually by signs) (rule 250(1); maximum 2 penalty units). There are some paths which will indicate that they are either shared or separated. This is evidenced by sign posts or painted symbols on the path.
On shared paths, the same etiquette as with footpaths applies – keep to the left, and give way to pedestrians. Riders using separated or ‘bicycle paths’ (areas signposted with bicycle path signs – (rule 239(4)) must, wherever practicable, keep to the left of those paths (rule 251; maximum 2 penalty units), on the bicycle designated path. They must not ride in the part of the path designated for use by pedestrians. This can be confusing, as it can appear that there are two lanes created, much like on the roads. However, each lane is bicycle or pedestrian specific.
When a rider reaches a crossing, a rider of a bicycle must not ride across a road at a children’s or pedestrian crossing, or cross a road at a foot crossing where there are no bicycle crossing lights (rule 248). The cyclist must dismount.
Wherever there is a designated ‘bicycle lane’ (rule 153(4)) on a road, riders must use the lane, unless impracticable to do so (rule 247; maximum 2 penalty units). Drivers are not permitted to drive in the bicycle lane except for up to 50 metres if about to park (provided parking is permitted adjacent to the bike lane) or if driving a bus, taxi or the like and setting down or picking up passengers (rule 153; 10 penalty points).
Section 151 of the Road Rules states that cyclists cannot ride more than two abreast unless one cyclist is attempting to overtake the other two cyclists. Two cyclists may ride side by side, but the distance between them can be no greater than 1.5m.
Other rules include:
- Cyclists on footpaths must give way to pedestrians and keep to the left where practicable
- Cyclists must keep a distance of 2 metres from the rear of a moving motor vehicle over distances of greater than 200m (rule 255);
- The fines for bicycle specific offences are between 2 and 5 penalty units, so between $260 and $650;
- The fine for cyclists who fail to stop at a red light or a stop sign or give way at a give way sign is up to 10 penalty units – this means a cyclist can be fined up to $1300 for failing to stop or give way.