The must-know cycling road rules to keep riders, motorists, and pedestrians safe

A woman wearing a helmet as she cycles through Southbank in Melbourne

Nicola Dowse

Posted September 27, 2023

Can you ride on the footpath, use your phone while cycling, or ride two-abreast? These are the Victorian cycling road rules every cyclist, motorist, and pedestrian should know to keep each other safe.

Victoria’s roads are busy places. Not only are they used by cars, trucks, buses, and trams, they’re also widely used by cyclists -and more recently, e-scooter riders.

Many Victorians are drawn to cycling for its health benefits, convenience, affordability and because it’s just a whole lot of fun. Plus, a free biking challenge is a great way to get into cycling. But riding a bike also comes with responsibilities to keep you and others safe, including knowing Victoria’s road rules.  

Victoria’s road rules are for cyclists as well as motorists. Cyclists must also obey cycling-specific rules related to how they ride, helmet laws and not using mobile phones while cycling.

We’ve highlighted some of the must-know rules below.


Many helmeted cyclists riding past Flinders Street Station along a bike lane

Cyclists must use bike lanes where possible and practical and always wear a helmet. Image: Getty

Bike riding rules in Victoria

Do I need to wear a helmet?

Yes. This is one of the simplest ways to stay safe when cycling. When it comes to helmets, the law is clear: all cyclists regardless of age, plus any passengers (such as children in bike seats), must wear an approved helmet and it must be done up securely. 

When buying a helmet, check the interior for a label stating it complies with the Australian Standards. Make sure it fits snugly but comfortably. When done up correctly, it should not be possible to move the helmet forward on your head.

By law, you also must wear an approved helmet if you’re riding a scooter or e-scooter. Helmet laws apply when riding on the road, footpath, in car parks, in bike lanes, on shared paths and in parks. 

What are the rules for motorists interacting with cyclists?

Motorists must leave at least one metre between them and cyclists when overtaking if driving 60kph or less. If driving faster than 60kph, motorists must leave at least 1.5 metres of space.

Keep in mind that cyclists can legally take up an entire traffic lane, which may be the safest option on narrow roads where there is no bike lane present. 

Can cyclists ride on the footpath?

Children aged 12 and under can ride their bike on footpaths. An adult or teenager can also ride on the footpath if accompanying a child under 12, or if they’re riding with a child attached to their bike (i.e., in a child’s bike seat or similar).  

Riders over 12 can also ride on the footpath if they have a medical condition or disability that makes riding on the road difficult (you’ll need to carry a medical certificate indicating this condition while riding). A person accompanying someone with a medical condition or disability can ride on the footpath too.


A car driving next to a cyclist on a suburban street

Motorists must keep 1-1.5 metres distance from cyclists depending on how fast they're driving. Image: Matt Harvey

What roads can cyclists ride on? Can cyclists ride on freeways?

Cyclists can ride on the road unless signs say otherwise. However, when riding on a road with a marked bicycle lane, cyclists must ride in the bicycle lane unless it is impracticable to do so.

Cyclists are also not allowed on urban freeways or on any other freeway that has signage prohibiting cyclists (though they can ride within the shoulder on some regional freeways if appropriately signed). 

Bus lanes can be used by cyclists unless a sign prohibits it. 

Does a bicycle need to have lights and reflectors? 

Working bike lights and reflectors are required for riding at night or in bad weather. This means a white light on the front, plus a red light and red reflector on the back. The lights can be either flashing or static, but must be visible from 200 metres away, and the reflector from 50 metres. 

Reflective clothing is not a legal requirement, but it is recommended by VicRoads that you make yourself as visible as possible, for which reflective clothing can help with keeping you safe. 

To be considered roadworthy in general, your bike must also have at least one working brake, plus a working bell, horn, or other warning device. 

What are the rules for motorists who need to cross a bike lane to make a left-hand turn?

Motorists can enter bike lanes from up to 50 metres away to make a turn or park when permitted but must give way to cyclists when doing so.

In the instance where a motorist wishes to turn left, they must give way to a cyclist travelling straight if crossing a marked bike lane.

If a motorist wishes to turn left and there is no bike lane, or the bike lane does not continue into the intersection, then the cyclist must give way to a turning vehicle that is signalling.

Dooring is one of the most significant hazards for cyclists. RACV therefore supports the inclusion of the ‘Dutch Reach’ technique in the Victorian road rules handbook and learner driver materials, where motorists use their left hand to open their driver’s side door as a technique to remember to check for oncoming cyclists. 


family bike ride

Helmets must be worn by all bike riders. Image: Supplied. 

Can cyclists ride two-abreast? 

Cyclists are legally allowed to ride two abreast (two riders cycling next to each other) in both single and multi-lane roads in Victoria. When travelling two abreast, cyclists should be no more than 1.5 metres apart, and no more than two cyclists can ride parallel next to each other (a third may do so temporarily to overtake).  

Where there is a bike lane (and it is practicable to use), cyclists must use it.

Can I wear headphones or use my phone while cycling?  

Just like with motor vehicles, it is illegal to use your phone or other portable device such as a smartwatch while cycling. Exceptions to this rule include briefly touching the device to receive or make a call, or using the phone audio player, and using the GPS systems so long as these functions can be operated hands-free and the phone is contained within a commercially-designed phone mount securely affixed to the bike.  

It is not illegal to wear headphones while cycling, but you should make sure they don’t interfere with your ability to hear and safely react to the traffic around you. 


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