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.

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/