What are your blind spots on safe shared road usage?

Two cyclists sharing the road with cars at a busy intersection

Share the road: both cyclists and motorists need to be aware of the other's rights and their own responsibilities.

This week’s article has come from a number of different incidents that highlighted a gap in understanding in sharing the road safely regulations and laws ascribed to in our community.  These incidents also confirmed that in community groups there will always be a sliding scale of those that try their best to be responsible shared road users and at the other far end there will be those that have a different agenda motorist and cyclists alike. These are mainly in a minority and we find it hard to comprehend or understand where they may be coming from when mixed with anger and frustration towards other shared road users.

It is clear however regardless of where we might be on the sliding scale we can all have blind spots that allows us only to see what we want at a given time based on perceptions, prejudice or out of ignorance. These are quite often the basis of how we all see and our own strong personal view does not make us justified as right above others without being full knowledge of the law (again the cap fits for both groups of motorist and cyclists alike).

There would hardly be a week that goes by where a conversation is entered into that reveals how uneducated we can be on shared road use. In some popular circles there are those that hold the view that cyclist are not vehicles and therefore don’t have shared rights of road use. Bicycles are vehicles, and cyclists are permitted to use the road, just like motorists. People who are riding bicycles on the road are required to obey the Road Rules, as are people who are driving. Drivers should to look out for cyclists, who in turn should to take care for their own safety.

Another popular view is that it is illegal for cyclists to ride two abreast. Riders must not ride more than two abreast.  If riding two abreast, riders must not ride more than 1.5 metres from the other rider. A common perception leads to riders being heavily criticised for riding more than 2 abreast. A closer inspection will reveal that most cycling groups in Bendigo adhere to the no more than two abreast and it is merely the positioning of the subsequent riders following the lead riders on the road that can make it look multiple abreast can be caused by prevailing winds. Cyclists need to be more aware of this failing in keeping the predictable lines on the road.

Another perception of more than two abreast is where there are three riders and the last rider sits at the rear between the leading two. The old rule for cyclists must be single file on double lines is no longer the case. Guess a good way to consider what is safe and the law is to ask oneself “is it ever permissible to cross double lines?” In this case single or double abreast a vehicle keeping the mandatory no less than 1 meter off cyclists is it possible to pass safely on double lines?

Bicycle Victoria are very strong cycling safety advocates and in their recent “Ride On” magazine published a very enlightening legal opinion on cyclist passing vehicles on the left hand side when the vehicle is turning left with indicator on.  As long as the vehicle is stationary facing a red light it is safe to pass.  Common courtesy may well give way that a cyclist would wait their turn of the vehicle turning left if the front car.

VicRoads and other members of the Victorian Bicycle Advisory Council, including Victoria Police, RACV, Bicycle Victoria, Cycling Promotion Fund and the Retail Cycle Traders Association  have developed a helpful set of guidelines called “Sharing the Road”.  It is a community-based campaign being delivered in conjunction with Local Government, Roadsafe Community Road Safety Councils, and other organisations concerned with safe use of our roads.

Please don’t take my word for what is presented in this article as gospel check it out and commit to finding, what are the current laws for shared road use? Cyclists are increasing every day. If taking the step into cycling, please make the effort to familiarise yourself with what are your rights and obligations in being a responsible shared road user as a cyclist.

If in doubt when on the road prudent avoidance is better than valour. A smile and a forgiving thought is better than confrontation in the hope a conscience being pricked to think next time.

Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing.

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