Quick safe riding tips
- Always wear an approved bicycle helmet, properly fitted and fastened
- Always obey the road rules, including traffic lights, stop signs and give way signs
- Allow pedestrians a metre of space on shared paths, where possible.
- Always travel at a speed that is safe for you and the pedestrians around you, especially if you are riding on a footpath or shared path
- When approaching pedestrians, always ring your bell, slow down and prepare to stop and give way
- Ride in a predictable manner so that other road users do not have to react suddenly to your movements
- Give hand signals when changing lanes or turning left or right
- Make yourself visible by wearing bright, light or reflective clothing
- Plan your route using quieter streets, bicycle paths or shared paths
- Always be in control of your bicycle. It is an offence to ride with both hands off the handlebars, feet off the pedals or to carry anything that prevents you from having control.
As a bicycle rider, it’s very important to know how to respond to the road environment. Take the time to understand the road rules and gain riding experience before you ride in traffic. Riding in a predictable manner and knowing how to react to hazards or navigate the road network can help you have the safest journey possible while riding.
Check for hazards
Maximise your safety when riding by constantly assessing your environment for any hazards that may cause a crash. Scan the road for holes, gaps, uneven surfaces, debris and regularly look over your shoulder to check what is beside and behind you. Do not wear headphones when riding. You must be able to hear potential hazards so you can react quickly.
When riding, always remember to:
- See and hear road hazards (pedestrians, motorists, other bicycle riders and the road environment, e.g. potholes, opening doors, and grates)
- Think about what might happen and anticipate how to avoid a problem
- Do what you feel will ensure your safety while abiding by the road rules.
Avoid blind spots
A blind spot is an area outside a motor vehicle that drivers cannot see in the rear or side mirrors of the vehicle. For trucks, this includes the area in front of their vehicle. When riding in traffic, it is important to increase your visibility by keeping away from motor vehicle blind spots.
Anticipate vehicle movement
Watch other road users - look at the movement of vehicle wheels, increases or decreases in speed, brake lights and the use of indicators that signal a change of direction. Make eye contact with other road users and avoid riding alongside a motor vehicle for longer than required.
When you need to stop, apply your back brake initially and then your front so that your bicycle comes to a gentle halt. A sudden stop could send you over the handlebars and cause an injury.
Travelling behind a car
You must not ride your bicycle within 2 metres of the rear of a moving motor vehicle continuously for more than 200 metres.
Intersections, roundabouts and turning
Traffic light loops
Most traffic lights in NSW are controlled by loops. These are embedded in the road surface close to the stop line at a signalised intersection. Loops operate through a magnetic wave. When a car disrupts the wave, the signal detects that a car is at the lights. Sometimes bicycles do not trigger the loop to change the lights, simply because they do not contain as much metal as cars. To make sure the loop detects your presence, try to position your bicycle at the sensitive points, usually in the centre of the square loop.
You should assess your own skill level before attempting to travel through a multi-lane roundabout. If you don't feel comfortable negotiating a multi-lane roundabout, take a different route. Turning right at multi-lane roundabouts can be dangerous for bicycle riders - particularly if you are unfamiliar with the area or if there is heavy traffic. You can make a right turn in one of two ways:
- Use the outer left lane, giving way at each exit to all traffic exiting the roundabout
- Use the inner right lane and complete the turn in the same way a car would do.
Before you negotiate an intersection, try to make eye contact with drivers who are giving way. If you do not see their eyes look at you, it is unlikely they have seen you.
To ensure a safe right turn, look at the traffic around you then indicate and turn when the traffic is clear. Make sure you look over your shoulder to identify potential hazards beside or behind you before making the turn.
When you need to turn right in heavy traffic, you may find it useful to make a hook turn. A hook turn is made in three stages, using the left lane to turn right.
A. Position your bicycle to the far left side of the road then proceed into the intersection, keeping clear of any marked crossings.
B. Wait near the far left side of the intersection; giving way to vehicles travelling straight through the intersection. If there are traffic lights, wait until the lights on the road you are entering turn green.
C. Proceed when it is safe and legal.
Some intersections provide a hook turn storage box and you must use this facility. At some intersections, bicycle riders are prohibited from making hook turns. A 'No Hook Turn by Bicycles' sign will be displayed.
Negotiating heavy traffic
Freeways and motorways
Freeways and motorways carry large volumes of traffic with multiple high-speed traffic lanes in each direction. If you ride a bicycle along a freeway or a motorway, you must obey the law and only ride on the shoulder. It is essential to take care when riding along the shoulders of freeways and motorways - particularly when approaching and crossing access ramps used by both bicycles and vehicles. Be aware that you may not be able to use all sections of the freeway or motorway. Check your route before starting your journey.
Freeway/motorway crossing points
If you ride your bicycle on freeways and motorways, look for and, whenever possible, use designated signposted bicycle crossing areas. Be aware that vehicles are generally travelling fast, so make sure you allow more space before crossing.
Avoid riding beside heavy vehicles. Slow or stop to allow them to pass, then safely continue your journey.
Bicycle storage areas
Some signalised intersections may have bicycle storage areas. These are painted areas on the road in front of the stop line that allow you to wait at traffic lights in safety. You can enter these areas from the preceding bicycle lane moving to the far left or right to make your left or right turn. You must wait for the green signal before proceeding and follow the arrows on the road.
As a bicycle rider, you should be particularly aware of heavy vehicles including buses and trucks as they pose great risk to your safety. The size and weight of these vehicles results in many blind spots and they need more room to turn and brake. Remember, if you can't see the driver, they can't see you. When heavy vehicles pass you at high speed, be aware that the wind will affect your stability and control of your bicycle.
Rail and tram tracks
Check both ways twice and listen for oncoming trains/trams before you cross a track. Observe directions given by flashing lights or boom gates warning you of an oncoming train. To ride safely over tracks, approach at a right angle to avoid your wheels getting trapped.
Planning a safe journey
Before you set out, plan the route that provides the safest road conditions. Maximise your use of off-road and on-road bicycle lanes, and roads that have low traffic volumes and speeds. It’s also important to consider the influence of other factors while riding, including the weather, drugs, alcohol and fatigue.
Riding in the rain
- Use your front and rear lights and wear a reflective vest to make yourself visible to other traffic when riding in dark, wet and slippery conditions
- Try to stay upright and steer with your arms rather than leaning into corners with your hips
- Take corners slower - wet riding surfaces reduce traction between the tyres and the surface
- Apply the back brake smoothly and prepare yourself well in advance before entering a corner. Using the front brake only in a sudden stop has the potential to send you over the handle bars
- Avoid hazards such as potholes and storm water grates
- If you're riding along a poorly drained road, avoid water channels by moving towards the centre of your lane - but remember to look over your shoulder and give a hand signal before doing so. Move back to the left of the lane once you have passed the hazard or when it is safe to do so
- Wear bright waterproof clothing.
Drugs and alcohol
Drugs and/or alcohol can inhibit your ability to respond quickly and safely in a hazardous situation. Riding a bicycle under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal and dangerous for you and those around you.
Prescription drugs can cause you to feel drowsy and may slow your reaction time. Medicines that may affect your ability to ride safely include:
- Some painkillers
- Some medicines for blood pressure, nausea, allergies, inflammation and fungal infections
- Tranquillisers, sedatives and sleeping pills
- Some diet pills
- Some cold and flu medicines.
You can reduce your risk by:
- Reading the label of any medicine you take
- Not riding after taking any medication that warns of an effect
- Asking your doctor if in doubt.
The safest blood alcohol concentration for any road user is zero.
Alcohol is a depressant that reduces your ability to cycle safely because it:
- Slows the brain's function and ability to respond to situation decisions or react quickly
- Reduces your ability to judge the speed of other road users
- Makes it harder to do more than one thing at a time
- Affects your sense of balance
- Makes you sleepy.
If you are going out drinking, arrange a lift home by a designated driver or a taxi. Leave your bike at home.
Fatigue is a term used to describe the feeling of being 'sleepy', 'tired' or 'exhausted'. It's your body's way of telling you that you need sleep. While many people think fatigue only affects drivers of cars and motorcycles, fatigue can also affect bicycle riders.
For bicycle riders, the problem with fatigue is that it severely reduces your concentration and judgement and slows down your reaction time.
Useful tips for managing fatigue
- Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated
- Avoid too much coffee or sweet soft drinks
- Stay away from alcohol
- Eat small amounts of simple foods frequently such as fruit, nuts, a muesli bar or a small chocolate bar
- Avoid fatty foods and large meals before or during a ride
- In winter, don't make yourself too snug and warm - it's good to be a little cool.
Fatigue on the road
If you feel fatigue while you're out cycling, pull to a safe area on the side of the road and have a rest. If possible, discontinue your ride.
Bicycle riders can find safety publications and guides on our Products page.