The law regarding cyclists and left-turning drivers

Written by Julia Arena from Andersons Solicitors.

By law, cyclists are required to keep as far left as possible on our roadways, and the construction of bike lanes on the left-hand side of the road aids in allowing cyclists to abide by this rule. Flowing from a cyclist’s position on the far left-hand side of the road is the entitlement that bikes are the only vehicles on our roadways permitted to overtake other vehicles on the left.
This entitlement does, however, cause significant confusion about who has right of way particularly in circumstances where a motorist signals to turn left at an intersection and a cyclist is travelling straight.

What does the law say about who should give way to whom when turning left?
The Australian Road Rules state a bike must not pass or overtake on the left of any vehicle that is:

  1. Giving a left change of direction signal; and
  2. Has started turning left.

A bicycle rider may, however, pass or overtake a vehicle on the left when the vehicle is:

  1. Giving a left change of direction signal; and
  2. Is stationary or moving forward before starting to turn left.

The current penalty for a bicycle rider overtaking to the left of a vehicle that has started turning left is a $60.00 expiation fee, plus a $60.00 victims of crime levy, adding to a total penalty of $120.00.
Ultimately, cyclists and motorists will be required to negotiate who will give way to whom in any given circumstance. Both parties should proceed with caution and be prepared to give way even where they believe they many have the right of way.

How to avoid left-turn side swipe collisions
Advice for Motorists

  • Pay attention and be sure to look out for cyclists.
  • Check your speed and approach intersections with caution.
  • Remember that a cyclist is permitted to overtake you where you are in a stationary position or moving forward to begin turning left.

Advice for Cyclists

  • Cycle cautiously – don’t assume a motorist has seen you.
  • Check your speed.
  • Wear brightly coloured clothing to ensure visibility.
  • Remember that you are not permitted to overtake a vehicle on the left that has already started turning left.

More about Andersons Solicitors.

Andersons has provided legal service to tens and thousands of South Australians for over 50 yearsOriginally based in Port Adelaide, Andersons has significantly expanded over the 50 years with full-time office locations in the Adelaide CBD, Morphett Vale, Port Adelaide and Murray Bridge over 50 staff. Andersons aim to service your needs in the most comfortable, most pain-free way as possible.

If you are a Bike SA member and have a legal question, get in touch with Julia Arena from Andersons Solicitors. Bike SA members get their first meeting free and will receive 10% off legal services.

2 Comments. Leave new

Gavin Blieschke
September 28, 2019 1:38 am

Your initial statement that “By law, cyclists are required to keep as far left as possible on our roadways” is incorrect. I think you will find that the legislation uses the word “practicable”, rather than “possible”. This makes a huge difference. For example, it may be POSSIBLE to ride through glass and potholes, but it is not PRACTICABLE.

The SA Government takes this a step further on their website by recommending that cyclists “Keep to the left and ride AT LEAST ONE METRE CLEAR OF of the kerb and parked cars”.


In general with GB above, I think most commuting cyclists would agree it’s far safer to pass a left turning car on the right hand side, rather than the left. Again here it is much more practicable (Ie safer to avoid getting injured or killed) to pass on the right, and avoid presenting motorists with a situation they are highly unused to dealing with.

I have seen many less experienced cyclists nearly get crushed passing stationary cars on the left. In many cases the car starts moving when a cyclist is halfway along its length which should allow the cyclist to pass legally per law above but makes no difference as the car will often not see them.


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