Turning Left: Who has right of way?

As any cyclist who rides on the road knows, vehicles turning left across your path are an issue.

A driver may not use a bike lane except in specified circumstances, and even then the law states:

“You must give way to cyclists already in the bicycle lane. ”  https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/safety-and-road-rules/road-rules/a-to-z-of-road-rules/bicycles This means that any vehicle which passes a cyclist then turns across his or her path is in the wrong.

However, the rules for bicycles also state:

What to do when a vehicle is turning left

Cyclists must not ride on the left sign of a vehicle that is:

  • indicating to the left
  • turning left at an intersection

Tips for cyclists: if a car is indicating to turn left, ride in the traffic lane behind the turning vehicle.  https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/safety-and-road-rules/road-rules/a-to-z-of-road-rules/bicycles

This leads to ambiguity.

Pedal Power (Canberra’s cyclist advocacy group) have clarified this law where the bike lane is painted green.

http://www.pedalpower.org.au/news/did-you-know-about-coloured-bicycle-lanes/

stating from a legal opinion:

“Coloured bicycle lanes at intersections are to remind motorists that this section of the roadway is a travel lane for bicycle riders. The marking highlights the existence of the ‘bicycle lane’ to motorists and the ‘right of way’ legally provided to the cyclist by a ‘bicycle lane’. Therefore, where you see a bicycle lane and particularly a green coloured area at an intersection, be on the lookout for cyclists. If a cyclist is in the bicycle lane, motorists must give way.”

Still confused? 

As cyclists, we are vulnerable.  A small scratch to a car’s duco could be a cyclist death or serious injury.   Make your own safety first priority.

  • Be seen – wear high vis clothing, and make sure you have lights at night.
  • At problem intersections, scan behind for faster turning traffic, especially where there is a slip lane or roundabout.
  • Never presume you have been seen – try to make eye contact.  Make your intention to cycle through the intersection clear.
  • Be prepared to give way, even if technically you know you have ‘right of way’.

Pedal Power ACT has a regular e-newsletter.  It’s well worth subscribing.  http://www.pedalpower.org.au/

 

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3 thoughts on “Turning Left: Who has right of way?

  1. Instead of clarifying a road rule from an interstate non-credible source, why wouldn’t you get advice from VicPol or VicRoads. As luck would have it, I know the answer already and it’s totally at odds with what is written here (for Victoria). The rule states words similar to a bike must not ride passed or overtake a vehicle (regardless of any lanes) if the vehicle is indicating and in the process of turning left. Even if there is a bike lane present it makes no difference to the bike being required to give way if the bike is riding passed slower moving vehicles, there is no exception in the rule stating “unless a bike is riding in a bike lane”. For the sake of demonstrating how a through movement is required to give way to a turn across their path, that law is near identically worded as for when heavy vehicles turn left. This is relevant because a truck can perform a left turn from the second lane of a road, across a marked straight through lane, and vehicles (inc bikes) are not allowed to pass or overtake the truck while a turn is performed. The wording in the road rule is fundamentally identical to the bike overtaking on left rule and is a relevant example because it looks at scenarios where a turn is performed across another lane (not from within it). Going back to the original rule query, so we’ve established that how the bike lane is marked is totally irrelevant, there is no exception to the rule stating that riders in a bike lanes are exempt from giving way in that situation. The only scenario not mentioned is when vehicles approach from behind and overtake the bike, note then the rule does not apply, as the bike is not overtaking or passing anybody, but is instead being subject to an overtake. It is possible in that instance to expect a vehicle to wait for the bike instead. If a collision were to occur you would then be obviously caught in a very messy argument about fault unless there is video evidence or a reliable witness.

    • You have missed the point. The issue is when, at a red light, a line of vehicles is stationary. If there is a bike lane, then cyclists passing these vehicles are not passing other vehicles in the act of turning left – these vehicles are indicating, but not in the act. The safest course for cyclists (and one which is legal) is to ride to the front, then take off in front position when the lights change. This is hugely improved if there is a bike box in front of motorised traffic.
      (Once the line of vehicles begins to move, the cyclist naturally becomes part of the traffic flow, and must give way to vehicles ahead indicating and turning left. You correctly make the point that one should expect that vehicles behind the cyclist should wait rather than passing and turning left across his/her path. However, as in all things cycling, there’s a point where assertiveness and the law, cede place to common sense and staying alive.)

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