All road users are equal

Quick – what do horses, bicycles and cars have in common? They’re all classed as vehicles under Victorian road rules. There aren’t many horses or horse-drawn vehicles about these days. But there are lots of bikes who have certain rights.

Cyclists are allowed to use the road just as drivers are. They can pass cars on the left, unless the car is turning left. They are allowed to ride two abreast, as long as they’re not more than 1.5 m apart. They can occupy a whole lane if there is not enough room for a car to overtake safely within the lane. They’re advised to ride at least 1 m away from a line of parked cars. They can turn right using a hooked turn.

While it’s good to know you’re allowed to be on the road, as a “vehicle” you need to observe the road rules the same way cars do. Stop at red traffic lights and stop signs. Indicate when you’re turning right. Ride predictably, maintain eye contact with drivers and don’t pull out in front of cars suddenly.

All this is designed to avoid the one thing every cyclist dreads: an accident with a car. According to Vic Roads there are four common situations where cyclists and cars collide: at intersections turning or passing straight through; leaving a path or driveway to enter a road; from behind or the side; when a car door is opened in their path.

It’s really important to put yourself behind the wheel of the cars you’re sharing the road with. Can they see you? Can they predict what you’re going to do next?

It’s also important for drivers to watch out for cyclists – we are legitimate road users. Be patient, Vic Roads advises. Look out for cyclists, especially at intersections and in residential streets. The road rules state that cars should allow at least 1 m clearance when passing cyclists and leave plenty of space before pulling back in. And check behind before opening your door. It’s too easy to send a cyclist or motor cyclist sprawling across the road in a moment of carelessness.

Roads are public spaces, governed by a set of hard, cold rules. Our challenge is turning those rules into courteous behaviour. Because the one thing all horses, bikes and cars want to do is reach their destination safely.

See you on the road soon, God willing. Eddie Barkla

First published in the Bendigo Weekly Friday 16 June 2006

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