Ten Commandments All Cyclists Should Follow

Ten Commandments All Cyclists Should Follow
Image: iStock

Cyclists take to the streets to get to work, to get fit or purely because it feels great to ride a bike. But boy, do they cop a hiding from motorists. As a South Aussie-expat, this time of year is notorious for one thing: In the shadow of the Tour Down Under, cyclists take over the roads, footpath and cafes.

Here’s a list of commandments you should be following if you want to avoid getting a filthy spray from an indignant motorist.

#1 You Shall Wear A Helmet, Dummy

Look, if there’s a list of commandments for a cyclist, this is at the top. Not wearing a helmet is illegal but more than that, it’s just stupid. If you’re emulating your favourite cycling heroes, they all wore helmets. Wear the helmet.

#2 You Shall Not Ride Three Abreast

Most Australian roads are not wide enough for cyclists to accommodate cyclists riding right next to each other, especially if you are operating at three or more abreast. Yes, you can ride two abreast, but you must be within 1.5 metres of the other rider. Best practice would dictate that on tiny roads you try your best to ride in single file, if only out of courtesy – though this may not be the ‘rule’ it’s just the best thing to do to ensure safety for yourself and for others using the road.

Plus, if you’re riding in a peloton of your own making, you’re going to quickly anger motorists behind you.

#3 You Shall Always Use The Bike Lane

Sadly, the luxury of a bike lane doesn’t exist in many major cities, which does make this one harder to follow. But if there is a bike lane there, you need to use it – that’s not just a commandment, that’s actually the law. Councils and local governments need to do a better job providing spaces for cyclists to use, but there are more times than I wish to count where I’ve seen a cyclist ignore the bike lane in favour of riding on a footpath or street – for no good reason.

#4 You Shall Not Ride On The Footpath

Follows on from above. The footpath is not a place for cyclists in Victoria or New South Wales. However, if you’re under 12 years of age, riding on a footpath is totally fine, but anyone over 12 years of age should not use the footpath when cycling unless they are accompanying a person under the age of 12. In other Australian states, you’re free to ride on the footpath as you desire but if you’re using a shared path, stick to the left as best you can.

Updated: Originally, this post did not distinguish between riding on the footpath in different Australian states. If you’re anywhere but Victoria or New South Wales, the footpath is to be shared. A good tip for both cyclists and pedestrians.

#5 You Shall Ring Your Bell

It’s true that cyclists get caught in this weird purgatory between the street and the footpath, which means that incur the wrath of both motorists and pedestrians. If you find yourself in breach of the above commandment, or if you’re using a shared path, then you’re going to have to ring your bell to let people know you’re there. It’s not always effective in this day and age (headphones have made sure of that), but it’s courtesy and it is a requirement of owning a bike. Not ringing the bell is a dick move.

#6 You Shall Wear High Visibility Gear

Pertinent at night specifically, but one to keep in mind, wearing blacks and greys will see you disappear into the asphalt, making you near impossible to spot. Make sure you always have your flashing lights turned on at night and you’ll prevent any unnecessary fracas with frustrated motorists.

#7 You Shall Not Run Red Lights

As a cyclist, you are considered a vehicle and, like a vehicle, have to obey the road rules. Running a red light is illegal. Don’t do this. It’s dangerous and stupid.

#8 You Shall Be Courteous On Public Transport

You’re bringing in a vehicle as wide as you are tall. You’re going to need to store that thing somewhere. When you get on a tram or a train, you are going to need to get in and out more than once so other commuters can get to their seats or get in the door. Bikes are big unwieldy things that, unfortunately, not a lot of public transport is designed to deal with. Get on last, get off first.

#9 You Shall Not Leave Share Bikes In A River

If you’re looking for a share bike, the best place to look is generally in a large body of water or the upper branches of a tree. Share bikes are a great concept that seems to have completely backfired, with the rentable velocipedes turning up, discarded, all over Australian cities. Most cyclists would have their own ride, but for those that just jump from share bike to share bike, don’t throw them in the river.

#10 You Shall Always Remember: Motorists Can Be Dicks

Yeah, motorists can be as bad – if not worse – than cyclists when it comes to sharing the road. Sadly, aggressive driving can be potentially fatal, but that doesn’t mean that motorists take it easy. Though they should always be giving a metre for cyclists, sometimes that distance can be a lot tighter. That’s become illegal in several Australian states, but it doesn’t mean that everybody follows the rules. So a word of warning, more than anything else: If you’re riding on the street, just remember that motorists aren’t always looking out for you.

And there’s no need to get your pitchforks out, cyclists. Put your guns down. I catch a train every day because the roads are terrifying and I am all for cyclists getting their fair share of the roads. Motorists need to relax a little, especially in Sydney. That’s why we’ve got another article in the works about the stuff motorists need to consider when sharing the road.


  • Love the rules, except for #1. Like the rest of the world (except for nanny state Oz), I wear a helmet as per the conditions I ride. On my road bike, gunning down the highway, I wear a helmet. Cruising down to the beach on my cruiser, NO HELMET.

  • This is a terrible article…
    Cyclists don’t use bike lanes when the road is a safer option. While motorists and other users may not understand this – there’s a bigger world then themselves and keeping safe is a priority.

    Its legal to ride of the footpath in Queensland. Ride on it if you feel safer. Else ride on the road. Cyclist choice.

    All people can be dicks, equally. Different strengths and qualities. Everyone should feel safe on the road – what is the point of telling cyclists that motorist might not be looking out for you? Anybody can be T bonned in their car and die. Or hit head on on a road in their car and die – that’s life. There’s nothing magical about telling Cyclists to watch out for this – there’s little to do if somebody is going to kill you.

    • Cyclists don’t use bike lanes when the road is a safer option

      Which is entirely reasonable and the exception. There are bike lanes that run outside my balcony. I routinely see cyclists on the roads.

      However, it is a good point to mention that riding on the footpath is legal in Queensland. This is also the case in Western Australia.

  • To add to the above – there are many articles on why Cyclists ride 2 abreast. Perhaps the biggest reason is for safety. 2 Cyclists are more visible and force motorists to take care on overtaking – rather than pushing through at a pinch point. Simple.

    • No – this is rubbish. Don’t deliberately ride closer to the hazard. Anybody who learns to ride a motorbike learns to buffer hazards by staying away from the hazard. Deliberately moving closer to “make yourself more visible” or “force them to take care” is dangerous and irresponsible. Combine that attitude with a road that gives little room for cyclists and cars, and you’re basically setting yourself up for an accident.

      • @soldant, are you really saying other riders are hazards? And that motorists would intentionally collide with the cyclist who has placed themself in a more-visible position?

        • No, I’m saying that deliberately riding closer to a hazard (that being the car) in the hopes of forcing it away from you is silly. When I ride my motorcycle I don’t ride closer to cars to force them away from me – I stay away and position myself within the lane to remain visible and keep a safe distance.

          There are too many cyclists riding close to cars within their bike lane or riding two abreast where room barely exists under some mistaken belief that it will be safer. Its the only group of road users who seem to think that being close to hazards makes them safer. It’s antethical to sharing the road.

          • I fail how to see, you could possible interpret the above as – CYCLISTS SERVE INTO CARS WHILE SCREAMING DO YOU SEE ME NOW!… Quite simply, as a car approaches 2 cyclists from behind from a distance, 2 cyclists are going to be more visible. The car clearly sees the cyclists and has more time to plan a safe overtake. Now if they are impatient, despicable human beings that say F waiting I’m going now – they are more likely to wait if there is no space for an overtake rather than directly hitting a cyclist. In the previous example if there was a single cyclist – they will push through – increasing the likely chance of a collision. Riding a motor cycle does not make you a safer motorist – only you make yourself a safer motorist. The way you ride a motorcycle is not exactly the same as a cyclist. Some similarities some differences. Get on a bike and see a different view point.

          • If you don’t ride two abreast where space barely exists and don’t ride deliberately closer to the car, the car doesn’t have to do anything to safely overtake. If your riding is forcing the car to change lanes, enter the other lane, or otherwise significantly deviate within their lane because you’re riding two abreast or deliberately riding closer to the car, then you’re not buffering correctly and are probably the problem.

            If a car hits you, you will come off second best every time. Buffering hazards is the same concept regardless of what vehicle you are in. Everything you just posted is some sort of ridiculous hypothetical to try and justify your actions. Almost nobody goes out of their way to deliberately hit cyclists.

            If I think back on most of the cyclist accidents I’ve attended over the years, they’ve mostly involved people turning without being able to see said cyclist (eg cyclist was in blind spot), inattention or distraction on behalf of either party, or it involved a heavy vehicle (and cyclists should stay away from these). Take some responsibility for your personal safety and learn how to appropriately assess and buffer hazards instead of deliberately trying to force the hazard to move. It’s safer for all.

          • “position myself within the lane to remain visible and keep a safe distance.”

            Exactly what the above commenter was saying. I have had my motorbike license for almost fifteen years and have used it as my daily commute most of that time.

            I also cycle.

            The original comment here was simply pointing out that two abreast means visually, the riders are (in your words) positioned in the lane to remain visible.

            To counter your own point, when you’re on the motorbike you don’t ride all the way over to the left on the white line do you? No. You ‘position yourself within the lane to remain visible and keep a safe distance’.

          • Thanks for responding @soldant. I do appreciate the effort to reply, though I don’t agree with your conclusions. A cyclist riding abreast is NOT forcing an oncoming vehicle away from them. Rather, they are forcing them to not approach (and especially not too closely).

  • Terribly researched article and wrong on so many counts:
    1. MHL. I commute to work and go shopping by bike. I have no heroes! You assume that it is just a sport or recreation or child’s pastime. It’s not.
    2. It is safer to ride two abreast but as I don’t ride with anyone generally I don’t do it.
    3. You haven’t differentiated between bike paths, lanes and sharrows. The law states you must use a bike lane where practicable, but very few lanes are legally “bike lanes” since they require signs at the beginning and end (they almost never do) and almost all painted lanes are impractical because they are too narrow, in the dooring lane, non-contiguous, or poorly surfaced. Separated bike paths are ideal but there aren’t any where I live. Sharrows have no legal standing whatsoever and studies show they increase cycle / car collisions.
    4. Correct – get off the footpath.
    5. Ringing a bell at a pedestrian is rude and presumptuous. What you should do is slow to walking pace and pass the ped with a metre of clearance (just like a car).
    6. I use lights when cycling at night, but hi-vis is a choice and smacks of victim-blaming. The responsibility of the girl is not to wear a long skirt in case she gets raped.
    That’s enough, except you fail to realise that the burden of responsibility lies most heavily with the person who can do most harm. All the lights and bells and courtesy won’t save you from someone whose prejudice has been fanned by hate-articles like this that reinforce “othering” stereotypes while perpetuating myths about cycle paths. Proportionality is a thing.

  • #3 again varies by state. In Qld there is no requirement to use the bike lane.

    #9 it’s usually not the legitimate share bike users that are throwing them into rivers and doing other creative things with them, since the company has your name and the location of the bike if you’re a paying customer. It’s bored kids, drunks etc who come along later when the bike’s not in use.

  • #11 – Lycra makes you look like a wanker.

    On a more serious note one of my gripes is cyclists who grab onto the back of your car at light for a boost. One guy tried it on me on a quiet road so i brake checked him and caused him to stack.

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