(i) they allow pedal cyclists unrestricted use of the right hand lane where the speed limit is less than 90 km/hr;
(ii) they do not require cyclists to use the left lane of roads which are marked with more than two lanes for traffic travelling in one direction;
(iii) they do not require pedal cyclists to keep as far as practicable to the left of the left hand lane where a carriageway is marked with two or more lanes for traffic travelling in one direction.
The Road Traffic Code ought to be amended to rectify these matters.
Prepared by Ted Leech LLB (Hons.), B. Comm
Telephone: 9293 8170
Regulation 113 now provides (as far as is relevant):
(1) In this regulation —
"marked lane" does not include —
(a) a lane set aside exclusively for vehicles making a left or right turn;
(b) a special purpose lane; or
(c) any other lane that is not for the use of general traffic on the carriageway;
"right lane" , in relation to 2 or more marked lanes that are available exclusively for vehicles travelling in the same direction, means the marked lane that is further or furthest to the right side of the carriageway.
(2) This regulation applies to a driver driving on a carriageway that has 2 or more marked lanes available exclusively for vehicles travelling in the same direction where —
(a) the speed limit is 90 km/h or more; or
(b) a "keep left unless overtaking" sign applies to that part of the carriageway,
(3) A driver shall not drive the vehicle in the right lane unless —
(a) the driver is turning right, or making a U turn from the centre of the road, and is giving a right turn signal;
(b) the driver is overtaking;
(c) a "left lane must turn left" sign or left traffic arrows apply to any other lane, and the driver is not turning left,
(d) the driver is required to drive in the right lane under regulation 137;
(e) the driver is avoiding an obstruction; or
(f) the traffic in each other lane travelling in the same direction is congested.
If I recall correctly, sometime prior to 1997 there was no restriction on which lane a driver could drive in at any speed. This was patently annoying when drivers would stay in the right hand lane at relatively slow speeds where the speed limit was, say 100 km/hr.
There was then a debate in
The issues here are quintessentially practical. In an area where the speed limit is 50, 60 or 70 km/hr, the roads are generally in residential or built up areas with limited visibility to the left of the road and there are generally houses on the left, trees and signs at the edge of the road obstructing vision of a footpath and events just off the road such as children playing, and abutting driveways. To my way of thinking, in such areas, it makes sense to travel in the right hand lane most of the time (depending on local considerations) so that the driver has maximum vision of events to the left of the carriageway and hence maximum time to react to any hazard.
However, where the speed limit is 80 km/hr or greater, there are usually no or very few houses or driveways to the left of the carriageway and so traffic should generally travel in the left hand lane allowing faster traffic to overtake in the right hand lane.
In 2000 after the reign of Mr Falconer was over and possibly because of Australian road traffic regulations uniformity, the rule was changed so that drivers only had to keep left where the speed limit was 90 km/hr or greater. I think that 80 km/hr is the better rule but the argument is only one of degree and I do not intend to cavil with the 90 km/hr rule. That is the way the law stands at present and is set out above.
However, in changing the rule, no special provisions were
enacted for bicycles. It follows that a
bicyclist (or two of them together Reg.
130) may occupy a lane other than the left hand lane on roads that have a
speed limit of less than 90 km/hr. A
bicycle can therefore occupy the right hand lane of a road where there are two
lanes for traffic travelling in that direction, such as
It might be objected that this problem is solved by Reg.
219 which reads: “(1) The rider of a
bicycle shall not unreasonably obstruct or prevent the free passage of a
vehicle or pedestrian by moving into the path of the vehicle or a
pedestrian.”. I have no idea what evil
this regulation is supposed to address but it cannot be used as a general
application to prevent obstruction because the offence is not complete unless
the ride “moves into the path of …”. If,
for example, a cyclist occupies the right hand lane on the
It may also be objected that this problem is surmounted by Reg. 108 (2) which reads: “(2) A driver shall not unreasonably obstruct the path of another driver or a pedestrian.”. However, the operation of sub regulation (2) is governed by sub regulation (3):
(3) In sub regulation (2), a driver does not unreasonably obstruct the path of another driver or a pedestrian only because —
(b) the driver is driving more slowly than other vehicles (unless the driver is driving abnormally slowly in the circumstances).
Example of a driver driving abnormally slowly.
A driver driving at a speed of 20 km/h on a length of carriageway to which a speed-limit of 80 km/h applies when there is no reason for the driver to drive at that speed on the length of carriageway.
It is possible that this subsection could be interpreted as the remedy to the problem but in my opinion it could not be said that a bicycle is travelling abnormally slowly if it is travelling at the normal speed that bicycles travel at under the prevailing circumstances. Therefore a bicycle would come within the exception described in sub regulation (3).
Therefore, bicycle riders have a right to use whichever lane
they choose (where the speed limit is less than 90 km/hr) and they may ride
wherever they choose within their chosen lane.
It is no answer to say that nobody would be so stupid as to ride in the
manner suggested because if that rationale was valid there would be no need for
a Road Traffic Code at all. If pedal
cyclists decided to exercise their right to use the right hand lane on
In my submission the Road Traffic Code ought to be amended so that pedal cyclists are restricted to using the left hand lane where there are two lanes for traffic travelling in the same direction irrespective of the local speed limit.
The above discussion implicitly assumes that there are only
two lanes for traffic travelling in the same direction. Where there are more than two, such as
In my submission the Road Traffic Code ought to be amended so that pedal cyclists are restricted to using the left hand lane where there are more than two lanes for traffic travelling in the same direction irrespective of the local speed limit.
Currently bicyclists, like all other road users, may position themselves anywhere within the lane where there are two or more marked lanes for traffic travelling in the same direction. It is indeed a rare case when a cyclist does other than ride as close as practicable to the left hand side of the left hand lane (except when riding abreast or preparing to make a right turn). The reason that nearly all bicyclists adopt that position is because it is manifestly sensible.
As far as I know the only argument there is for bicyclists not keeping as close as practicable to the left hand side of the left lane is that it allegedly forces overtaking motorists to move completely into the right hand lane instead of just slightly straddling the lane and allowing only minimal clearance between the left hand side of the car and the bicyclist. However, in practice, some motorists are likely to leave too small a safety distance wherever the bicyclist is riding. Allowing cyclist to ride on the right hand side of the left hand lane is only likely to lead to an increase in the frustration levels of motorists and an increase in the risk level the motorist is likely to adopt to get past the bicyclist.
In my submission the Road Traffic Code ought to be amended so that pedal cyclists are restricted to remaining as far to the left as practicable in the left hand lane irrespective of speed limits or number of lanes.
This paper was compiled using information from any or all of the following sources and no others (unless explicitly stated);
The Road Traffic Code
2000 and amendments current until
The Road Traffic Code
1975 reprinted as at
“Drive Safe: A
“How to Pass Your
Driving Assessment: A Candidate’s Guide
to the Practical Driving Assessment” Transport, published by The Road
Safety Council of Western Australia