Bicycle safety

To keep everyone safe, both cyclists and motorists need to consider each other and share the road safely.

Cyclists and motorists are more vulnerable on the road because:

  • they have less protection than other motorists
  • are more likely to be injured in the event of a crash.

Cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as other road users.

It is important that all cyclists obey the road rules.

You can read the following guides for more information:

Cycling safety fact sheet PDF (456.5 KB)
Cycline safety brochure PDF (1.9 MB)

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Approved bike helmets provide improved protection in case of an accident or crash with another rider, pedestrian or vehicle.

Your helmet must meet the Australian standards as well as being properly fitted and fastened.

If you're 17 or under, you must wear an approved helmet if you're riding on a public place or footpath.

If you're over 17, you are not required to wear a helmet on a public place or footpath unless riding on the road.

However, to keep everyone safer regardless of age, it is best to always wear a helmet.

Helmet safety check

The helmet must meet all of the following:

  • have an Australian Standards sticker
  • not be broken or damaged
  • fit snugly and must not be too tight or too loose
  • cover the forehead and temples
  • have a chinstrap clip that is not broken and fastens firmly.

Check the rider can put the helmet on and buckle up the clip.

How to fit a child's helmet

A helmet should fit snugly.

A helmet that is too small will not protect the head properly and you should purchase the next size helmet.

Carefully measure your child's head using a tape measure. The tape measure should sit just above their eyes and ears.

Check the helmet size listed on the display box to find a helmet that best suits your child's head measurement.

Manufacturers provide pads that can be attached to the inside of the helmet. Use the thicker pads to get a snug fit. As your child grows replace these with the thinner pads or purchase helmets which have adjustable rear head locks for a better fit.

Check the helmet fits

You should follow these steps:

Step 1. Place the helmet on your child's head checking that it fits snugly.

Step 2. Adjust the straps over the ears and do up the buckle - it should sit straight on your child's head with room for one finger under the chin strap.

Step 3. Place your palm under the front of the helmet and push up and back - the helmet should not move.

For maximum protection the helmet must be a snug fit and securely fastened. If a helmet is loose it increases the risk of injury.

All of the following are the minimum you must have on your bike:

  • a bell or horn in good working order
  • a white reflector at front
  • a brakes that works
  • a red reflector at the rear.

If you are riding at night you must have a white front light and red rear light.

Bike safety checklist

You should check all of the following:

  1. The seat is the right height and stable so it does not tip or twist.
  2. The wheels do not turn when the brakes are applied and there are no loose or broken spokes.
  3. The tyres are hard and no worn patches or bulges can be seen and the valves are straight and capped.
  4. The pedals are in good condition and spin freely.
  5. The chain works smoothly without sticking and is clean.
  6. There is a white reflector on the front and red reflector on the back of the bike, and yellow reflectors on the wheels.

The bike is the correct size if your child can straddle the bike and they have at least their toes touching the ground on both sides and can reach the handlebars.

If you are 16 or older, you may carry a person under 10 in a bicycle trailer if it is safe and the child is wearing a fastened helmet.

All of the below are some main road rules cyclists must follow:

  • ride your bicycle correctly with a least one hand on the handlebars while in motion
  • sit astride or stand on the seat facing forwards - unless the bike is designed otherwise
  • always ride on the left unless overtaking or giving way to pedestrians
  • you must not ride more than two bicycles abreast on a road
  • you must use correct signals to turn left or right and to stop
  • keep more than 2m from the rear of a vehicle
  • do not hold onto a moving vehicle while riding
  • do not overtake on the left of a vehicle if the vehicle is moving and indicating to turn left
  • use the left lane of a roundabout when you are turning right - providing you give way to all exiting traffic
  • ride with an approved helmet if you are 17 years or riding on the road.

If you don't follow these rules, you may face cycling offences and penalties.

You must follow these rules to make sure you safely share the footpath or bike path with other users:

  • keep to the left of any oncoming bicycle rider or pedestrian
  • give way to pedestrians
  • use your bell or horn to warn others, especially when riding up behind them.

You are permitted to ride slowly across a road on a children's crossing or pedestrian crossing.

Riding slowly means at a walking pace.

You must do the following:

  • give way to pedestrians on crossings
  • only ride across a signalised crossing if it is showing a green bicycle and/ or green pedestrian crossing light.

Riding on the road

You must follow these rules:

  • ride close to the far left side of the road
  • obey all road rules including traffic signs, lights and road markings
  • always give hand signals to indicate which direction you are about to travel
  • don't ride past, or overtake, to the left of a vehicle that is turning left
  • don't cause a traffic hazard by moving into the path of a driver or pedestrian
  • don't carry a load that flaps, sways or overhangs the sides, front or back of the bicycle.

Riding your bike at night or in poor weather conditions

You must use all of the following on your bike to make sure other road users can clearly see you on the road:

  • front light - a flashing or steady white light that is clearly visible for at least 200m
  • rear light - a flashing or steady red light that is clearly visible for at least 200m
  • rear red reflector –-that is clearly visible for at least 50m from the rear of the bicycle.

Drivers must be aware and respectful of riders on the road.

Drivers should always look for cyclists and expect the unexpected.

Drivers must do all of the following:

  • keep a safe distance and leave at least 1m when overtaking cyclists if travelling under 60km/h
  • leave at least 1.5m if travelling more than 60km/h
  • look for cyclists' hand signals so you are aware of their intentions
  • watch for pedestrians and cyclists when leaving or entering a driveway
  • cyclists can legally ride two abreast - be patient as you approach and overtake only when safe
  • give cyclists space when sharing the road as sometimes they need to ride out of a lane to avoid a hazard or obstacle.

When passing a cyclist, you are permitted to:

  • move across lanes or straddle lanes  - where a vehicle is positioned over lane lines
  • drive to the right of the middle of the road
  • cross over or drive to the right of the dividing line, including double solid lines
  • drive on or over continuous lines around a painted island
  • drive on a dividing strip that is at the same level as the road.

These exemptions only apply if you have a clear view of any approaching traffic and it safe to do so.

For more information, view the Wider of the Rider video on the Towards Zero Road Safety NT website.

You can turn right from either the left or right lane of a multi-lane roundabout. If you use the left lane, you must give way to any vehicle leaving the roundabout.

You can turn right at an intersection by making a hook turn unless prohibited by a sign on the road.

It is important that children learn the road rules and about bike safety before riding on the road.

Free bike education lessons are available to schools during school hours at the:

  • Parap Road Safety Centre in Darwin (term two and term three)
  • Newland Park Safety Centre in Alice Springs.

Most schools in the NT run classes through the road safety centres. Educators can book a bike safety lesson.

Parents in Darwin can also use the Parap Road Safety Centre's miniature road system outside of school hours if they want their child to experience what it is like to ride on the road with street signs. There is no fee to use the road system.

Many urban and regional roads in the Northern Territory are used regularly by heavy vehicles, including trucks, buses and road trains to transport goods.

When riding with heavy vehicles, remember that they:

  • are longer than other vehicles and take more time and distance to stop
  • need more room to turn at intersections and roundabouts
  • have ‘blind spots’ where the driver may not be able to see other road users.

You should avoid riding on the inside of turning vehicles.

If you want to cycle in a remote area, make sure you plan ahead.

Remote areas, towns and communities in the NT may be hundreds of kilometres apart.

When planning a long distance cycling journey, find out where you can access water and basic services.

Allow time for repairs and unexpected events, and plan for emergencies.

You should do the following:

  • check road and weather conditions
  • know the distances between towns
  • always wear a correctly fitted, fastened and approved helmet
  • be visible and wear bright, light-coloured clothing that provides protection from the sun
  • be aware of road trains and heavy vehicles
  • carry a bike repair kit, food, and plenty of water - stay hydrated
  • avoid riding at night.

Last updated: 20 November 2019

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