Biking bad: 12 common cycling myths in Victoria debunked

Two cyclists wearing helmets cycling past the RMIT Design Hub in Melbourne

Sue Hewitt

Posted May 04, 2022

Whether you believe that riders clog up traffic, cyclists aren't allowed to overtake cars, or ride on the freeway - you may be mistaken. 

As the pandemic found more people spending time outdoors, a 2021 study by We Ride Australia found 1.7 million bikes were purchased across Australia in 2020 alone, fostering the need for more enjoyable and safe experiences for bike riders and their road-sharing counterparts – drivers and pedestrians. 

As part of the initiative ‘Let’s Green Light Australia’s Recovery,’ RACV is working on Cycling Infrastructure Projects and a Regional Road Safety Program to better support cyclists on roads in Victoria.  

In the interests of harmony and safety for all road users, we clear up some of the most contentious issues and misconceptions relating to motorists and cyclists to work together to a better experience for all on our roads.

12 common cycling myths

1. "Cyclists get a free ride on our roads because they don’t pay rego"

Not exactly. While it’s true you don’t have to pay rego to ride a bike, car registrations pay for third-party insurance and administration costs, not directly for roads. Roads are funded by many sources, including general taxes like income tax, GST, and the fuel excise, so we all pay for them regardless of whether we drive.  

2. "Bike riders slow down city traffic"

More people on bikes means less people clogging up traffic, and less pollution from cars. Research by Transport Victoria found that 21 per cent of journeys during the morning peak include walking or cycling. This is a good thing – less cars equals less traffic. 

Another study by Infrastructure Victoria found that since the pandemic, more people are driving in to work – which could lead to ’15 per cent more cars on inner Melbourne roads.’

However, they also found that an extra 265,000 cycling and walking trips each day could ‘cut traffic time for inner city motorists by 18 minutes.’

3. "Cyclists shouldn’t be riding on the road when there is a dedicated off-road bike path available"

The law allows cyclists to ride either on the road or an off-road path. However, when riding on a road with a dedicated bike lane, cyclists must use that lane unless it is impractical to do so – such as when it’s blocked by a parked car, or when turning right.


Cyclists moving through the Lonsdale and Elizabeth street intersection

More people are using bicycles to commute, helping reduce drive times for motorists. Photo: Getty

4. "Cyclists can’t ride on footpaths"

Children under 13 can always ride on footpaths, while those 13 or older can ride on a footpath when accompanying and supervising a child under 13.  

Adults can ride on the footpath if they have a child in a bike seat, are accompanying a child under 13, or if they are pedalling on a hitch bike. 

All cyclists must wear a secure helmet and give way to pedestrians on the footpath.

5. "Cyclists are a law unto themselves and don’t follow the road rules"

Most road rules also apply to cyclists – including only using mobile phones when hands-free, obeying traffic lights and staying within speed limits. Additional rules also apply, such as the requirement to wear a helmet and being allowed to make a hook turn at any intersection. Cyclists can face penalties for offences such as riding too fast or failing to give way to pedestrians. 

6. "Cars have to stay out of bike lanes"

According to VicRoads, cars may use a bike lane for up to 50 metres when necessary, such as when passing a right turning vehicle, when coming in or out of a side street, lane or parking space, or when parking. . But motorists must always give way to bicycles in the bike lane.

7. "Cyclists can’t ride in packs"

Cyclists can legally ride two abreast and up to 1.5 metres apart. A third bike rider can legally overtake the pair, and there is no law on how many cyclists can ride behind each other.  

Riding in pairs can boost cyclist visibility and reduces the likelihood of them being involved in a crash.

8. "It’s fine for cyclists to take their dog for a run too"

It is illegal to lead your dog while cycling.

9. "Cyclists aren’t allowed to ride on freeways"

Mostly true. The law prohibits cyclists riding on urban freeways, but they can ride on some rural freeways on the shoulder – the area to the left of the road which can be sealed or unsealed. These rural freeways include the Western, Calder and Hume Freeways, and parts of the Princes Freeway.


Two cyclists riding two-abreast on a shared path by the Yarra River

Cyclists are legally allowed to ride two abreast up to 1.5m apart. Photo: Getty

10. "Cyclists aren’t allowed to overtake cars on the left"

Wrong. Cyclists can legally pass a car on the left, unless the car is turning left and indicating.

11. "Cyclists can ride at night without lights"

Lights and reflectors are required at night or in reduced visibility on a bicycle.  Front and rear lights must be visible on the bike from at least 200 metres, as well as a red reflector at the back of the bike clearly visible from 50 metres away.

12. "Cyclists don’t have to give their details after a crash"

Bicycle riders involved in a crash are legally required to give their details, and those of the owner of the bicycle, to any person who has been injured or the owner of any property that has been damaged.