Cyclists and the law – do you really know the road rules?

cycling rules NSW, Australia

As lockdowns continue across New South Wales, many people are dusting off their bicycles to exercise. Certainly, here in the Northern Rivers, particularly around Brunswick Heads, Byron Bay, Lennox and Ballina, cycling is a really popular way to get around.

However, cyclists, like motorists, have responsibilities when using the road and there’s harsh penalties for doing the wrong thing. So, here’s a refresher of the laws.

Under the Road Rules on the NSW legislation website, a bicycle is considered a vehicle and has the same road rules as other vehicles. What’s more, there are also special rules that apply only to cyclists and many of these are not well known.

Doing the wrong thing can be costly. If you are stopped by a police officer who alleges you’ve broken a rule, then you will be issued with a Penalty Infringement Notice (PIN) or a Criminal Infringement Notice (CIN), depending on the offence. These are sometimes referred to as an on-the-spot-fine, and they are payable via Revenue NSW.

Cyclists have a responsibility to obey the law

You can ask for a review of the penalty if you don’t believe you were in the wrong, and failing that, you can contest the matter in local court, but you should be aware that if the court finds you guilty, it can impose tougher penalties.

When using the road, cyclists must obey the road rules, which includes staying to the left-hand side of the road, stopping at red lights and stop signs, heeding give way signs and other signs such as stop signs or those for railway crossings. Bicycle users are required to give way to pedestrians using pedestrian crossings.

Cyclists are encouraged to use hand signals to let other road users know what their intentions are, but you are required by law, to give a hand signal when turning right or merging to the right lane . You should start to signal about 30m before you intend to change your position on the road. It’s important to remember that you should only change position when it is safe to do so.

When using roundabouts, according to the rules, bicycle riders are allowed to turn right from the left-hand lane. When passing each exit, bicycle riders must give way to any vehicle leaving the roundabout.

Special road rules for cyclists

  • You can perform hook turns at intersections unless prohibited by sign posting
  • You do not need to give a left or stop signal, or signal when making a hook turn
  • You may ride two abreast on the road but not more than 1.5m apart
  • You may overtake two other bicycle riders who are riding side-by-side
  • You may travel in a designated bicycle lane, bus lane, tram lane, transit lane or truck lane but never in a “bus only” lane
  • You may ride to the left of a continuous white edge line
  • You may overtake on the left if need be.


Since 2018, children under 16 years of age have been permitted to ride on a footpath. An adult rider who is supervising a bicycle rider under 16 may also ride with the young rider on the footpath. Children aged 16 or 17 can ride on the footpath, when accompanied by a child under 16 and a supervising adult. When riding on a footpath, riders must keep left and give way to pedestrians.

Shared paths

When using shared paths, which are designed for both cyclists and pedestrians, cyclists must always keep left and give way to pedestrians.

Keep your bicycle in top condition

Cyclists must always wear an ‘approved’ helmet. An ‘approved bicycle helmet’ is one which has a sticker or label certifying it meets the Australian and New Zealand standard.

Additionally, the New South Wales Road Rules state a bicycle must be fitted with at least one working bell or horn, or a similar warning device. Bicycles are required to have at least one working brake, and tyres should be appropriate to the size of the bicycle and inflated to the pressure as listed on the tyre wall. Lights and reflectors should be installed so that your visibility on the road is increased. By law, you must have your lights on between sunset and sunrise and in bad weather. The fines for not having your bike in good condition can be hefty.

Cyclists are encouraged to carry ID, although it is not required by law in New South Wales.


Earlier this year the Federal Government updated requirements for e-Bikes permitted on roads.

There are only two types of permitted e-bikes:

  • Power-assisted pedal cycles
  • Electrically power-assisted cycles.

While it’s wise to check specifically what’s allowed under law at the time you purchase your e-Bike, the general rule is that bikes must be propelled primarily by the rider – they cannot be propelled exclusively by the motor.

Drugs and alcohol

It is a criminal offence in New South Wales to ride your bike while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The maximum penalty for a first offence is $2,200 and/or 9 months imprisonment, however you also risk losing your drivers license for up to 12 months, depending on the circumstances relating to the offence.



This post is informative only. It is not legal advice. If you have a specific legal matter you’d like to discuss, please contact us. We service the area from Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay, Ballina and Tweed Heads regions on the Far North NSW Coast.

To learn more about The Local Court Lawyers, see our What We Do page.


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