Cycling

In February 2017, RACV commissioned market research to learn more about Victorians and their bike riding behaviours, experiences and opinions. The key research finding are outlined in this report and are based on the responses of a representative sample of more than 800 Victorians who completed a 15-minute online survey. 

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Buying a bicycle helmet

Here are some important things to consider when you’re purchasing a helmet for yourself or a child.

Illustration for helmet safety featuring a certification label

1.    Standard

Make sure the helmet meets the Australian Standards. All helmets sold in bike stores in Australia are required to meet these standards. To check, look for the label inside the helmet that says it’s certified to meet Australian Standards. If you’re buying a helmet online, make sure you’re buying from a reputable Australian retailer.

Handy hint: When riding a bicycle or scooter in Australia, you must be wearing an Australian Certified helmet.

Illustration for helmet safety featuring fit information

2.    Fit

Children’s helmets are often one size fits all, but adult sized helmet shells are a range of basic sizes. Make sure the helmet fits level on your head – snug but not too tight. The front of your helmet should be one or two fingers above your eyebrows. The ‘Y’ of the helmet strap should join just under your ears and both arms of the strap should sit flat against your head. When the straps have been correctly adjusted, you will not be able to pull the helmet forward off your head.

Good quality helmets often have an adjuster at the back – usually a wheel or dial that you can turn to tighten or loosen the straps. Helmets with these adjusters fit better and are often more comfortable.

Handy hint: If you’re buying online, you can find your ‘hat’ size by wrapping a tape measure around your head above your ears and across your forehead like a sweatband.

Illustration for helmet safety featuring quality information

3.    Quality

Consider purchasing an in-mold helmet, where the plastic shell and shock absorbing foam are created in one piece. These helmets generally cost more than helmets created in two parts. While both are safe to use, in-mold helmets are generally more durable and perform better when they hit the ground.

Some helmets come with an additional layer of protection inside the shock absorbing foam, called a multidirectional Impact Protection System (MIPS). This system moves slightly on impact, reducing the force of an impact and helping to reduce concussion style injuries.

Handy hint: If there is foam on the outside of the helmet, you can feel a space between the shell and lining or you can see tape running around the helmet where the cover meets the foam, then it’s probably not an in-mold helmet.

Illustration for helmet safety featuring visibility information

4.    Visibility

Pick a helmet with bright, contrasting colours and reflective strips.

Handy hint: If you’re buying a helmet for child, make sure they like the look of it as they will be happier wearing it.

5.    Replacing your helmet

If you happen to fall off your bike and your helmet hits the ground, it’s time to get a new one. After a solid impact, the foam will have reduced its ability to absorb shocks and the shell may have cracks that you may not be able to see.

Handy hint: Treat your helmet with care. If you keep dropping it on the garage floor, the shock absorbance may be reduced before you really need it for protection in a crash.

Bicycle riding with children

A child cycles along a bike lane wearing a helmet

Keep safe when bicycle riding by ensuring that children understand and follow road rules when riding on roads and road-related areas like bike paths, bike lanes, shared and separated footpaths.

Supervision

  • Parents should spend time supervising children while they develop the necessary skills to be able to ride in a straight line, brake properly and corner safely.
  • Choose a flat, open space away from traffic with a surface that is suitable for children to practice.  
  • It is not recommended that children under 12 ride on the road without adult supervision.

 Safety equipment

  • Bike riders are required to wear a securely and correctly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet.
  • Helmets should have a sticker showing the Australian Standard AS 2063, AS/NZS 2063.
  • A bicycle must have a bell, horn or similar warning device and at least one effective brake.
  • When riding at night or in poor light, stay visible with front and rear lights and a rear red reflector.

Bicycle rules

  • Children can ride on footpaths up to the age of 12 as can the adult riding with them.
  • Help your children cross roads safely by walking bikes across roads and using pedestrian crossings.
  • When riding, children should be facing forward and have both hands on the handlebars.
  • Give way to pedestrians when bicycle riding.
  • It’s important to remember that bike riders need to follow all the same road rules as motorists.

Safety tips

  • Teach children to cycle safely from an early age such as making a shoulder check behind them before they signal and turn.
  • Remember to be clearly visible to motorists by wearing bright clothes.
  • Ride on bike paths - children are safer away from the road environment.
  • Watch out for cars going in and out of driveways when riding on footpaths.
  • Replace helmets that have been involved in an accident or dropped from a height, even if there is no visible damage.
  • Maintain and check bikes on a regular basis.

Bicycle safety checklist

Getting the right bike: stand your child over the bicycle with both feet on the ground. For medium or lightweight bikes there should be at least 2cm between the crotch and the crossbar (or where crossbar would be). For BMX and mountain bikes, there should be at least 5cm between the crotch and crossbar.

Seat: Adjusted to correctly height and comfortable.

Brakes: Brake blocks should be fitted correctly and not worn down.

Chain: Oil frequently and check that the chain is not too loose.

Tyres: Look for bald spots, bulges and cuts. Tyres should not 'squash' when squeezed.

Pedals: Check that they spin freely.

Bell or horn: Should be loud enough for others to hear.

Reflectors and lights: Should be secure, properly aligned, clean and working.

Transporting children’s bikes

For more information about transporting a bike on your car, see the section bicycle carriers.

Cycling

RACV advocates for improved transport services for all our members, including those who ride a bicycle. Market research shows that nearly half of RACV's members ride, with one in five doing so at least once a week.

RACV supports the provision of appropriate safe facilities for all on-road modes of travel. In regard to bicycles, both off-road and on-road paths or lanes may be appropriate. If extra space is required on roads to provide dedicated bicycle facilities, on-street parking should be removed.

Shopping precincts, education facilities, public transport interchanges, and community facilities should provide bicycle parking. In particular, long-term bicycle parking spaces should be in secure facilities, including those at railway stations and in workplaces. In growth areas, new communities should have riding networks integrated into the community and connecting to adjoining neighbourhoods, and roads with a speed limit of 60km/h and above should have separated facilities.  

RACV supports the construction of high-quality, separated facilities as part of the construction of new major road projects. Such facilities should be connected to existing bicycle infrastructure to provide a useful network for riders that improves local and regional accessibility. Where off-road paths cross roads, safe crossing facilities must be provided.

Highways with sealed shoulders should have bicycle facilities line-marked on the sealed shoulders, with an appropriate buffer to adjacent high-speed motor vehicle traffic, and be regularly swept so as to be clear of debris. Local and state government authorities must maintain safe surfaces on off-road paths, too, as well as safe overhead clearance to overhanging branches.

Regular information and education campaigns should be run to ensure all road users are aware of the road rules and their responsibilities, to ensure everyone is safe. This includes the rules about sufficient passing distance. As a guideline, RACV encourages drivers to provide at least one metre clearance to riders. RACV does not support motorcycles being able to share on-road bicycle lanes or bicycle boxes, other than what is allowed within the existing road rules.

RACV advocates for enhanced safety for bicycle riders by representing its members and working with organisations such as Bicycle Network Victoria and the Amy Gillett Foundation on specific projects to ensure the needs of bicycle riders are met.

RACV supports bicycle riding by:
  • Encouraging all road users to share the road safely and respect each other including reminding drivers and riders of the road rules.
  • Advocating for safer bicycle riding infrastructure and treatments.
  • Supporting safer on-road cycling corridors along key routes such as Sydney Road.
  • Identifying missing links in the cycling network.
  • Promoting the social, health, environmental and economic benefits of bike riding.
  • Providing road and bicycle riding safety education programs for school children through RACV Street Scene.
  • Funding research into riding related issues, including our latest market research results.
  • Sponsoring organised riding events including the RACV Great VIC bike ride.
  • Providing roadside assistance and emergency transport for riders through RACV Bike Assist.
  • Offering a low cost, pay by the month, plan to enable people to afford new electric bikes through RACV eBike.
  • RACV’s Mobility Hub at the City Club with secure bicycle storage and change rooms for RACV Club members, building tenants and RACV employees.

Advice and information for riders