Road Cycling Basics

Commuting or simply going to places by bike in the city will almost certainly involve cycling on the road. You will navigate through lanes and traffic the same way as a motorcycle or a car does. Hitting the road with limited speed and fast-paced traffic around is intimidating for beginners, but there are always ways to navigate through safely and comfortably.

Road Rules for Cyclists

We have been taught to read basic signs and use traffic lights before we even enter primary school. For someone who has been a pedestrian for almost their whole life, basic rules keep yourself and others safe.


This indicates to other road users of your actions. Always hand signal before making turns and switching lanes. It is sometimes mandatory to make right-turn signals.

For starters it might be hard to brake while signalling. Try soft brakes while signalling, and practice balancing with hands performing signals.

Sometimes it might be unsafe to perform signallings, eg. when braking. This is one case where it is not necessary to signal. The best way is to signal early, way before you hit your brakes. It is especially true during rainy days where braking distances increase and other vehicles need more time to judge.

Signals may not be needed as well if your intention to turn is clearly stated, ie. if you are in a left/right turn lane (or a slip lane) in intersections

Look - Signal - Look

Also known as a "signal sandwich", this will be your favourite snack on the road. Before switching lanes or making turns, look back to check for conditions behind. Signal for a left or right, then look back again to check for conditions (and whether others acknowledge your signal). Conditions can change very rapidly on roads, so never rely on your memory and always do checks. Cutting right in front of others risk collision.

This is not very necessary for turnings (instead check for conditions ahead), but very useful to switch lanes safely. First check determines whether there is space to switch, and second check confirms that. Some drivers might speed through as you indicate your lane switching, or might miss your signal entirely.

Know your route

Prepare for turns and switches early, preferably a few intersections ahead. Many intersections in the city have turning lanes where turning is expected (or only possible) at certain lanes. Turning at other lanes risk obstructing other road users and cutting through traffic. You will also block others when right/left turn arrow traffic lights are used.

Missed your turn? Move on along traffic and reroute, or pull off onto the pavement, walk over as a pedestrian and carry on.

Overtaking and lane filtering

Always overtake on the left. After overtaking make sure there is a reasonable gap between the vehicle in front before merging back. In cities overtaking often involves turning or stationary vehicles only. When overtaking on a bicycle lane, look for oncoming traffic on the opposite lane.

At heavy traffic and intersections, lane filtering will save you a lot of time by skipping through traffic. Only do this in slow-moving or stationary traffic, and merge back whenever appropriate. Avoid stopping between lanes - merge back or stop at pedestrian crossing beyond the stop line. In some roads there are waiting boxes for cyclists (in pic) - use those

Stop for trams

At a tram stop or tram zone, stop before the tram when passengers are boarding or alighting. Only continue when doors are closed. Many tram stops have trams on the outer lane and it is necessary for passengers to cross through your lane in order to board.

Around trams (especially in Melbourne) it is sometimes mandatory to do hook turns. This is to avoid collision when cutting onto tram lanes.

Do not cycle on Light Rail tracks

Just... don't

Most light rail tracks have traffic lights to avoid collisions with an LRT vehicle when turning.

On rainy days steel rails will be slippery, which can be a tripping hazard for cyclists. Try not to cycle parallel to tracks and cross with caution.

Use bus lanes

Using bus lanes is ok. This excludes "bus only lanes" where it is strictly bus only. Most bus lanes only apply in specific hours and will be parked with vehicles outside of it, so it might be the best lane to be in.

Bus priority lights, or B lights, however, do not apply to cyclists. Cyclists must wait for a green light,


This is stupid but helmets are mandatory in Australia.

On-the-spot fines can be issued for non-compliance (except him)

Lane Positioning

Where should a cyclist go on a road? It depends on how wide the road is. Cyclists have the right to occupy one lane space, so it is always good to make good use of it and stay safe on the road.

Hitting the road

Heavy vehicles and buses - never overtake turning vehicles

Do not overtake large turning vehicles as they cannot see you. Many large vehicles require multiple lanes to turn, so wait for them to turn and carry on. Also, give way when large vehicles are indicating to switch lanes (especially buses pulling off a bus stop - sometimes giving way is mandatory by law).

Cycling in front of a large vehicle? Keep distance and make sure your actions are predictible.