Centre for Road Safety

Whether for recreation, fitness or the daily commute, more people are riding bicycles on NSW roads.

Bicycle riders have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists, which is why it’s important that both motorists and bicycle riders look out for each other and share the road safely.

By understanding and following the road rules, bicycle riders can improve their safety as well as that of other road users. Our tips for safe riding can also help bicycle riders better share the roads and avoid danger. It’s also important for drivers to understand how to share the road with bicycle riders to ensure everyone has a safe journey.

Staying safe

About 15 per cent of bike riders killed or seriously injured on NSW roads were not wearing a helmet. You must always wear an approved bicycle helmet that is securely fitted and fastened. This applies to all bicycle riders, regardless of age, including children on bicycles with training wheels and any child as a passenger on a bike or in a bicycle trailer.

Research conducted by the University of NSW in 2016 involving 64,000 injured cyclists found helmet use was associated with about a 50 per cent reduction in head injuries of any severity, about a 70 per cent reduction in serious head injuries and 65 per cent reduction in fatal head injuries. You should also wear bright, reflective clothing to improve your visibility and safety when on the roads.

In addition to proper equipment, you can plan for safer journeys by choosing cycleways, shared paths and quieter streets when riding. Even experienced bicycle riders are vulnerable on our roads and risk serious injury or death if involved in a crash, so it’s important to always be alert to all traffic hazards and to know how to avoid crashes.

General road rules

Bicycle riders are subject to the same road rules as other vehicles in NSW and must obey traffic signals and street signs. Breaking the road rules, such as not wearing a helmet or riding negligently, can result in penalties.

Drivers are also responsible for ensuring our roads are safe for bicycle riders and need to be aware that special road rules apply to bicycle riders, including the use of transit lanes, turning when in roundabouts and restrictions for riding on footpaths for those aged 16 and over. Drivers should always be aware of bicycle riders on and around the road, especially at intersections and roundabouts, and safely share the road. For more tips on how you can keep bicycle riders safe, please visit our sharing the road with bicycle riders page.

Special road rules also apply to drivers passing bicycle riders on the road to help keep them safe. In NSW under the Minimum Passing Distance rule drivers must give bicycle riders:

  • At least 1 metre of space when passing when the speed limit is 60km/h or less
  • At least 1.5 metres when the speed limit is more than 60km/h.

Legal and illegal bicycles

What bicycles are legal?

Bicycles that can be used on public roads and road-related areas include:

  • Bicycles that have no engine attached and are built to be propelled solely by human power (through a belt, chain or gears). These include:
    • Regular bicycles
    • Pedicabs
    • Penny-farthings
    • Tricycles.
  • Bicycles that are built to be propelled by human power but have power assistance to help the rider. These include e-bikes that meet the requirements for:
    • Power-assisted pedal cycle
    • Electrically power-assisted cycle

You can find more information on which types of e-bikes are legal in NSW.

What bicycles are illegal?

Illegal bicycles include:

  • Bicycles powered by petrol engines
  • Bicycles powered by other types of internal combustion engines
  • Any powered bicycle which is propelled solely by the motor (i.e without the rider pedalling)
  • Any powered bicycle which does not meet the e-bike requirements.

You can find more information on petrol-powered bicycles.

Food delivery riders

Bicycle food delivery riders face various risks on our roads, which is why it’s important to know how to protect yourself in the road environment. Food delivery riders has tips and information to help keep you safe while riding.

Riding safely: information for families and schools

The safest places for young children and beginners to learn to ride bikes, scooters and skateboards are in enclosed areas. This helps prevent falling onto the footpath, driveway or the road while they are learning to ride. Children need ongoing adult help and supervision in safe, off-road locations to gradually develop all their skills.

Wearing a helmet from the moment they start learning to ride will help your child to develop it as a life-long habit and reduce the risk of head injuries. Early helmet wearers will also be more likely to continue to wear helmets throughout their life.

Our Safety on wheels brochure (PDF, 383Kb) for families outlines safety tips and information.

Safety Town has a range of interactive resources about bike safety for teachers and families to use share with primary aged students.

The key road safety messages for teachers and families to share with children are:

  • Always wear a helmet when you ride or skate
  • Ride your bike away from the road.

Cycling NSW and Bicycle NSW encourage greater participation in cycling and provide safe riding tips and information on how to get started, join local cycling groups and find popular cycling routes. Transport for NSW also has more information for bicycle riders, including the Bicycle rider handbook and the location of cycleways and shared paths.