safe cycling in traffic


Here are some ideas to help you cycle safely and enjoy your ride!


Plan your ride. The shortest route may not be the best.

  • Choose a route with safe cycle paths where possible.
  • Wherever you can, avoid roads with fast moving motor vehicles, inadequate space for bikes and poor road surfaces.


Keep your bike in good condition. Before setting out for a ride check:

  • Tyres are properly inflated.
  • Wheels, seat stem and handlebars are tight and in the right position for you.
  • Brakes are properly adjusted; cables and brake shoes are in good condition.
  • A rear view mirror is a great safety aid.  Make sure it is correctly adjusted.
  • Bell or horn is working.
  • If riding in poor light – a reflector and flashing or steady red light at the rear of the bike and a flashing or steady white light at the front.

Heads up.

  • If you don’t need to ride in a racing position, consider setting up your bike so you can ride in a more upright position making it easier see the road ahead or look over your shoulder.


Be seen.

  • Wear bright coloured clothes or a high visibility vest with reflective strips.
  • Flags and wide mounted reflectors can help motorists see you.

Personal protection.

  • Wearing an approved helmet is required by law and may offer some protection in some accidents.
  • Glasses can protect your eyes from wind, rain, dirt and bugs. Tinted glasses can protect your eyes from glare.


Ride defensively.

  • Being in the right is little comfort if you are hit by a car.
  • Assume that you are invisible until a driver’s action show that they have seen you.
  • Assume that a motor vehicle will not give you adequate space or recognise your right of way until the vehicle shows that it is taking action to avoid you.
  • Always have a Plan B – go slow enough to stop in an emergency or make sure you leave space to steer out of trouble.
  • Defensive riding becomes second nature once you practice it for a while.
  • Wherever possible, gain eye contact with motorists and pedestrians to confirm what their actions are likely to be.

Be predictable.

  • Travel in a relatively straight line – position yourself to avoid parked cars or other obstacles well in advance so that you don’t weave in and out or swerve at the last moment.

Learn from experienced cyclists.

  • Ride with a buddy or join an NCM group ride – talk about and practice safe cycling techniques.

Build respect and tolerance.

  • Inadequate infrastructure provides opportunities for conflict between bikes, cars and pedestrians.  Responding to an aggressive motorist with aggression is likely to make them more aggressive to all cyclists – so just let it go. Avoid conflict and save your energy for campaigning for better cycling infrastructure.

Avoid blind spots.

  • You may not be visible in the rear view mirrors of a motor vehicle ahead of you so be prepared for it to turn in front of you to park or turn left.
  • A motor vehicle immediately behind you can probably see you. But a second vehicle immediately behind it may not be able to see you. As the first vehicle passes you the second vehicle may approach without realising you are there. Make sure you have adequate room to move left as the second vehicle approaches.
  • Vehicles entering from side streets may be unable to see you because they are looking for larger vehicles or if a vehicle is passing you.

Don’t ride too close to parked cars.

  • You may collide with a car door opening in front of you.
  • You may swerve to avoid a car door and run into traffic coming up behind you.
  • Always allow room to avoid an opening door and look for indicators of drivers about to open their door.
  • Use your bell, horn or voice to warn drivers in parked cars as you approach, but still allow room to avoid an opening door.

Use designated bike lanes unless impractical or unsafe.

  • Road rules require cyclists to use signposted bike lanes when provided.
  • Bike pictures painted on the road accompanied with a “bike lane” signpost are intended to designate a bike lane but poor design or bad parking may mean that it may be safer, and legal, not to ride in these lanes.
  • Many bike pictures painted on Newcastle’s roads are unsignposted and Road Rules 153, 144 & 247 advise not to ride in them because they are not proper bike lanes.  Bike pictures on the road positioned where a parked car door opens is a very dangerous place to ride because of crashing into opening doors.

Maintain the safest lane position.

  • If the road is wide enough, keep left to allow motor vehicles to pass you safely.
  • If the road is not wide enough to allow motor vehicles to pass you safely, either stop and pull over to allow vehicles to pass or, when no vehicles are approaching from behind, signal, and then occupy the centre of the lane to prevent vehicles from attempting to pass you.
  • At roundabouts – keep left and give way to vehicles that want to cross in front of you to exit, or occupy the lane and negotiate the roundabout in the same way a motor vehicle would.
  • Inexperienced cyclists often “hug the curb” and wonder why cars pass so close. Experienced cyclists let traffic pass when they can but occupy the lane when needed for safety. Occupying the lane by a single rider, or two riders abreast, is legal but preventing drivers from passing can cause aggravation, so be considerate and move left to let motorists pass as soon as it is safe to do so.

Manage poor road conditions.

  • Watch out for grates, potholes, stones and kerbs that can stop you in your tracks.
  • Ridges, grooves or cracks in the road surface can cause “tram-lining” forcing your front wheel to track along the fault in the road.
  • Oil, water or sand can cause sliding.
  • Painted surfaces can be exceptionally slippery.
  • In wet weather conditions regularly “touch” your brakes to help keep them dry and working well when needed.

Use a hook turn to turn right at a busy intersection.

  • A hook turn avoids sitting in the centre lane while waiting to turn right and avoids having to turn right in front of oncoming traffic.
  • To perform a hook turn, pull over to the left when entering the intersection, joining traffic approaching from the side street. Proceed through the intersection (to the street that was to your right) when safe to do so.

Give way to pedestrians.

  • On shared cycle paths use your bell to warn pedestrians when approaching and slow down when passing. Show pedestrians the same courtesy we would like car drivers to show cyclists.
  • It is illegal for cyclists to ride on footpaths unless younger than 12 or accompanying a child younger than 12.
  • If you must travel along a footpath, dismount and walk your bike.

Obey traffic rules.

  • Cyclists must follow the same road rules as motorists. There are a small number of exceptions and some additional rules for cyclists.
  • NSW road rules can be viewed here.

For further information on safe cycling in traffic:

NSW road rules

NSW RTA handbook for bicycle riders

 Posted by at 5:56 pm