Roundabouts - Sending Australian cyclists round the bend

Maybe today will bring a welcome change. A change that doesn’t see a vulnerable cyclist’s life catastrophically changed in the blink of an eye. At least this is what I tell myself every morning before reality hits, sadly delivering yet another bike rider who’s been hit by a car and come off second best – this time at a roundabout.

Roundabouts often cause considerable confusion and hazards to cyclists. Unfortunately, the design of roundabouts allows for motor vehicles to travel at higher speeds than bicycles which poses a significant risk to these vulnerable road users.  Not surprisingly, the severity of injuries suffered by cyclists increases with the speed limit.  Knowing how to successfully travel on roundabouts is key to bike riders feeling safe on our roads and negating the risks that motorists pose in this situation.

A 2017 AustRoads report[1] into bicycle safety at roundabouts found that not only does the design of roundabouts contribute to bicycle crashes but also that most of the collisions occur in speed zones of 60 km/h or less; and 63% on local roads with limits of 50km/h or less.

But is poor design and speed differentials the only contributing factors?

Unfortunately not.  Studies show that 80% of bicycle crashes in roundabouts involve a motorist failing to give way to a traveling cyclist, with the collision rates at roundabouts higher for cyclists compared to signalised intersections. Confusion around who should give way can lead to accidents, with peak motoring authorities such as the RACQ indicating that the number one question asked by road users is in relation to the rules on roundabouts. 

Australian road rules surrounding roundabouts vary from state to state, so it’s important road users educate themselves on the applicable laws before heading out on the road. 

Spotlight on Queensland

For anyone visiting or living on the Sunshine state, knowing the rules for Queensland roads is key to preparing for a good ride. 

Roundabouts with 2 or more marked lanes

Cyclists riding in the far left marked lane of a roundabout with 2 or more marked lanes, or the far left line of traffic in a roundabout with room for 2 or more lines of traffic, must give way to any vehicle leaving the roundabout.

Unlike motor vehicles, cyclists who want to turn right at two lane roundabouts can do so from either the left lane or the right lane.

When completing turns from the left lane, bicycle riders must give way to any vehicle that is crossing their path to exit the roundabout.  Watch out - failing to do this could result in a hefty $365 fine.

Roundabouts with only 1 marked lane

When entering a single-lane roundabout bike riders are allowed to take up the entire lane just like any other road user, even where a designated bicycle lane exists.  But it’s important for cyclists to position themselves at a point on the roundabout where they can choose the most appropriate and safe point of exit to avoid potential confusion and accidents from occurring. 

Signaling on roundabouts

Cyclists must signal right, before changing lanes in a roundabout. This can be done by placing your right arm out horizontally, your hand open, with your palm facing forward.  Failure to do this might not only result in a nasty accident but can also result in a fine of $73!

Keep a safe distance

In order to avoid a crash, it’s important cyclists maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of them in case they need to stop suddenly.  Cyclists should allow a distance of at least 2m between them and the back of the car in front of them when following the vehicle for more than 200m. 

Taking responsibility

Regardless of differences in state-based road rules, what is clear is that we as road users must all take responsibility for the safety of others on our roads.  Prevention is key to reducing the ever-increasing fatalities on Australian roads.  Motorists, be careful to check for bicycles when changing lanes, especially when leaving the roundabout – it could save a life.

For more information on traversing roundabouts in your state, visit:

VIC: https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/safety-and-road-rules/road-rules/a-to-z-of-road-rules/roundabouts 

QLD https://www.qld.gov.au/transport/safety/rules/wheeled-devices/bicycle/#roundabout

NSW: http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/roads/safety-rules/road-rules/roundabouts.html

SA:  http://mylicence.sa.gov.au/road-rules/the-drivers-handbook/roundabout

WA: http://www.roadrules.rsc.wa.gov.au/road-rules/roundabouts

NT: https://nt.gov.au/driving/safety/road-rules-in-nt/roundabouts

Tas: http://www.rsac.tas.gov.au/road-safety/misunderstood-road-rules/

Austroads, Bicycle Safety at Roundabouts, Aumann et al. (Sydney: AustRoads Ltd, May 2016), i.

TOPIC: Road rights
RELATED LEGAL SERVICES: Road accident injuries

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Beth Rolton

Maurice Blackburn Cairns
Beth Rolton is a Queensland Associate practising in Maurice Blackburn’s Cairns office. Beth holds a Bachelor in Laws with Honours from James Cook University, where was awarded a significant number of academic awards and commendations. She completed her Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the Queensland College of Law and joined Maurice Blackburn in 2014. Beth also holds a Bachelor of Education from Queensland University of Technology, and she spent more than a decade as a teacher before turning her sights to the law. This wealth of experience in the broader workforce is very useful when representing her clients. Beth brings a significant level of legal knowledge, together with a high degree of integrity and personal drive, to all her cases. Beth is drawn to practice law by a desire to help people pursue their rights to compensation. She maintains her determination to rise to the challenge of working within the confines of legislation that all too often removes the rights of clients to obtain fair compensation for damages caused by the negligent conduct of others. “I am passionate about the law, particularly enabling an injured person to pursue their rights to compensation. My first exposure to personal injury law cemented my aspiration to practice exclusively in an area that has since provided enormous personal and professional satisfaction,” says Beth. Memberships & accreditations Queensland Law Society member Australian Lawyers Alliance member Far North Queensland Law Association member Far North Medical and Legal Society member Cairns Business Women’s Club member ...

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