The laws motorists should be aware of when sharing the road with cyclists

The laws all motorists should be aware of when sharing the road with cyclists

 With the weekly bike traffic in South Australia has increased by 56 per cent over the last 10 years, there are a few laws all motorists should be aware of when it comes to sharing the road with cyclists.

Is there a specific distance that motorists need to maintain when passing a bicycle?

 Yes, in fact, it is an offence to fail to keep a ‘sufficient distance’ when overtaking a cyclist. ‘Sufficient distance’ is defined as the distance between the furthermost point to the right of the bike and the furthermost point to the left of the driver’s vehicle.

When travelling at 60km/h an hour and under, this distance is at least 1 metre.

When travelling over 60km/h the distance is 1.5 metres.

In order to comply with these rules, drivers are permitted to drive to the right of a dividing line when overtaking, provided they have a clear view of any approaching traffic and can do so safely.

The penalty for drivers who fail to adhere to this law will incur a $287 fine, a $60 victims of crime levy and 2 demerit points.

Can motorists drive in the bike lane?

 As a general rule, the answer is no—but there are some exceptions:

Other road users are permitted to use the bike lane when:

  • The bike lane is not in operation
  • Stopping in an emergency
  • Entering or leaving the road from a private property or private area, including a parking lane or another road (only for up to 50 metres)
  • Overtaking a vehicle turning right or making a U-turn (only for up to 50 metres)
  • Avoiding an obstruction (only for up to 50 metres)
  • Driving a bus or taxi picking up or dropping off passengers (only for up to 50 metres)

Motorists who drive in a bicycle lane for reasons other than the above exceptions will incur a $245 fine and will be required to pay an additional $60 victims of crime levy. Motorists who stop in a bicycle lane will be subject to the same penalty.

This article has been written by Andersons Solicitors Law Clerk, Julia Arena and settled by Senior Partner, Dion McCaffrie.

Photo by Eduardo Enrietti on Unsplash

Tags: andersons, cyclist, law,

8 Comments. Leave new

It’s fine to tell motorists the law. As a cyclist I notice a few motorists that drive without consideration. However I also see many cyclists that ride without considering others. It is common to see cyclists riding 4 or more abreast and outside the bike lane and continuing even after being asked by the group leader and had ‘car back’ calls. Cyclists on shared paths ride at speed thinking that they have right of way. In fact we are required to slow down and give way to pedestrians. If we want to be respected we need to give it first. I believe that bike S.A. needs to be active educating the cyclists. Then we may be able to expect respect from drivers.


Sorry Bob I agree with the sentiment of your comment but “It is common to see cyclists riding 4 or more abreast” !? I don’t buy that. I take abreast to mean 4 riders lined across the road and directly beside each other. I have been riding solo and in bunches for many years without seeing that happen. Perhaps you mean 2 riders riding abreast but 2 riders behind riding abreast and misaligned with the 2 in front which is not 4 abreast.


I ride in a number of social groups under the umbrella of bikesa. ride leaders regularly remind people where single is required and double is acceptable. I often see the road taken over by chatting cyclists and calls from behind ‘car back car back’ to little avail. I want to see cyclists be able to ride safely I do see a few motorists that are extremely, agressivley anti cyclist. I believe that as BikeSA we can benifit more by getting our members to ride respectively and obey the laws THEN work on motorists.
I also see people on shared paths that have no idea what to do when they hear a bell or have dogs not on a lead nor under effective control. I ride these slowly and find they can be an inconvenience there are a few cyclists that try to ride these shared paths fast. Not only are dogs required to be on leads Cyclists are required to slow down.

Marcus Micheaux
November 6, 2018 5:15 am

I ride my bike with a mirror, so I can anticipate driver behaviour. Cars regularly misjudge the behaviour of riders – ride predictably but also accept the common driver behaviours, such as turning left across a bike lane, not indicating, stopping suddenly in front of you & passing close at squeeze points. The LAW will not help in these situations. Always read the road ahead for escape routes and beware of choppy road surfaces.


What’s the point of laws that are not either: 1. accepted by drivers; 2. complied with; or 3. enforced? The 1 m/ 1.5 m rule is effectively a joke. If the road is narrow or has no verge we are simply obstacles and that distance is ignored very often. I and many other cyclists I know are having to make the choice of riding on or outside the left-hand lane line to “stay out the way” or ride a foot or more inside that line to force motorists not to squeeze us while overtaking – which they will do anyway quite often. Many drivers are either ignoring the rules they know exist, are completely ignorant of those laws or are actively intimidating us on a daily basis. I’m having to spend more and more time looking backwards as a result.

Cars often don’t treat us as vehicles and will not slow down even when a car is coming the other way, forcing cars on the other side to give them room (if they bother to give us any distance). Many act still as if they’re not allowed to cross centre lines and try to pass within the remaining lane space. If I’m not riding on or outside the line I’m often abused or met with horn blasts. I’ve been given no room whatsoever being buzzed at 80 km/h+ despite trying to stay out of gravel/debris/potholes on the side of the road. I’ve also been literally run off the road where a verge doesn’t exist. It’s unacceptable; no wonder there’s a partisan “war” going on.

There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that police are not interested in footage taken by bike cameras showing these instances, and I’ve taken to not having a camera again as evidence is pointless and I can’t keep it rolling for the entire ride anyway. How are police, if they are interested in pursuing these laws as vehemently as they do speeding, enforcing it unless they happen to be directly behind each incident, and if they don’t take camera footage as evidence and prosecute? I’ve seen police vehicles commit the same offences!

It’s all well and good to show drivers laws they should know and obey, but if they don’t do that, and there’s no consequence, what’s the point? Not all drivers are bad, but so many are that there’s a clear problem here. Maybe we should be pointing out the misconceptions of all the apparent cyclist “bad behaviour” which are being used to inflame and misinform drivers… i.e. maybe there’s a reason I’m not cycling inside a white line, or in the middle of a bike lane? Also, can’t we get the information out there which dispels the commonly-used antagonism about registration and how “drivers’ rego pays for roads but cyclists don’t”? This seems to be the basis for most of this angst and intimidation. The government is no-where near as vocal about cyclists well-being as they should be; we’re vulnerable road users and cars are weapons.


Lack of enforcement is a serious problem.
2018 Case Study: Angas Street, east of Victoria Square, a car parked on the bicycle lane even though the bicycle lane was in operation and being used by cyclist. The cyclist was blocked, and the vehicle driver refused to move on and clear the bicycle lane. Instead of booking the vehicle driver and fining him, the SAPOL officer driving past who witnessed the driver blocking a bicycle lane in use, pulled the cyclist over and read the cyclist the riot act for staying in the bicycle lane and repeatedly telling the car driver to get the hell out of the bicycle lane.
The obstructing vehicle REMAINED parked blocking the cycle lane, the police officer didn’t require them to stop blocking the bicycle lane and did not fine them. The cyclist resorted to the footpath, which had no vehicles blocking it, and the police officer drove off.

Marcus Micheaux
November 6, 2018 5:22 am

Accept that the Rider could have gone around the cyclist. It’s the unfortunate reality of my 46 years of cycling.
The officer was more concerned about the situation verbally escalating.
Motorist behaviour is generally brilliant compared to the early 70’s when we were never treated as equal road users


This law is good for both motorists and cyclists


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