The seven basic rules of bike etiquette

Man riding bike along bike path with signs in foreground.

Clare Barry

Posted April 20, 2020

Don't commit cycling sins. Practise good bike etiquette by following these golden rules.

Our roads might have emptied lately but our shared bike and walking paths are busier than ever as legions of home-bound Victorians get on their feet and their bikes for exercise and a dose of fresh air.

A recent Bicycle Network survey of its members and other riders found that 36 per cent of female respondents and 27 per cent of males planned to ride more during the partial lockdown. Three in four of those surveyed planned to use their bike to access essential services including shops, healthcare, work and education. (More: 12 common cycling myths, debunked)

While group rides are clearly out, solo cyclists need still to do the right thing. So if you’re new to riding or unused to navigating busy shared paths, you’ll need to know a bit of basic cycling etiquette.

Seven golden rules of courteous cycling

Keep your distance

Bicycle Network’s Alexander Miller says the government’s mandated 1.5-metre gap for social distancing can be tricky to measure when you’re riding a bike. “It’s worth being extra cautious and staying a bit further back than you might usually. Give yourself an extra bit of leeway to keep that safe distance.”

Peter Kartsidimas adds that airborne moisture such as from your breath or sweat will likely travel further when you’re moving at speed. “So it’s best to keep a real distance behind people and let them know you’re passing them. And there do seem to be a lot more people on the paths now – so if you’re on a bike, slow down.”

‘Bike coming through’

There are ways and ways to let walkers or other riders know that you’re behind them. A gentle ding of a bell or some friendly words keeps it nice on busy paths. “Walkers who hear a bell behind know there’s a bike coming, they know what to expect,” says Peter. 

“You can use a bell or sometimes just use your voice and tell people that you’re coming through, say ‘passing’ or ‘bike coming through’,” says Alexander. “Trying to keep it nice and quiet is a good way to go about it.” (Plus, check out the latest innovations in cycling tech.)

Ride nice 

Alexander says simple good manners and consideration for others go a long way on the bike path. “Don’t overtake people too quickly, don’t overtake when there’s someone coming in the other direction, and make sure you’re leaving that nice extra space.”

Hit the road instead

With shared paths seemingly busier than normal, Peter says our unusually quiet roads are a tempting alternative. “Confident riders can take advantage of the fact there is less traffic on the roads to deal with,” says Peter. “However, we encourage all road users to act safely, keep your distance and watch out for each other.” Less experienced riders might want to stick to residential streets that have less traffic and people driving more slowly. 

Alexander says those unaccustomed to riding on the road or jumping on a bike for the first time might want to stay off the road. “They want to be riding somewhere they feel confident and comfortable,” he says. (More: Victoria's cycling danger zones, revealed)

Take a lunchtime ride 

Our shared paths do seem busier in the morning and evening peaks as workers and families decompress before or after a day indoors, so why not steer clear of those times? “A good way to avoid that completely is to go for a ride in the middle of the day,” suggests Alexander. “Break up the day and de-stress and clear your head a bit if you’re working from home.” 

Do double duty 

We’re all being urged to limit how often we leave home, so it’s a good idea to combine a food forage or chemist run with a longer ride that finishes at the shops. “If you can do those two things at once by getting those 30 minutes of exercise for adults or 60 minutes if you’re a younger person, and going to the shops at the same time, you’re reducing the number of times you have to leave home,” says Alexander. 

Keep it to yourself 

When you get off your bike, think about where you put your helmet, glasses or gloves, and try to keep them on you or with your bike. “Don’t put your helmet down when you’re in shops, maybe keep it on your head,” suggests Alexander. 

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