This post is further to my post New speed limit when passing emergency vehicles in Victoria (June 20, 2017). Today’s correspondent says:
This morning at 0530hrs (still darkish) I was driving on a 100KPH Victorian country highway. I saw two red flashing lights ahead of me. I started to slow down to 40KM with traffic behind me building up quickly. As I go closer It was found that the red flashing lights were push bike riders. That leads me to the questions:
- Are bikes allowed to have red flashing lights?
- What if these bikes were police bikes, which Vicroads state on their Web site that bikes are vehicles, do I need to slow to 40KPH?
The obligation to register a vehicle applies to vehicles that are required to comply with the Australian Design Rules (Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 (Cth); Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2009 (Vic) cl 14 and Schedule 2). Without chasing it down chapter and verse I think it is safe to assume that a bicycle is not required to comply with the Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2009 (Vic) even though a bicycle is a vehicle, but not a motor vehicle (Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) s 3). It follows that the rules about lights, and in particular the rules that prohibit flashing lights set out in Schedule 2 of the Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2009 (Vic) do not apply to bicycles.
When riding at night a bicycle rider must display, either on themselves or the bicycle (Road Safety Road Rules 2017 (Vic) r 259):
(a) a flashing or steady white light that is clearly visible for at least 200 metres from the front of the bicycle; and
(b) a flashing or steady red light that is clearly visible for at least 200 metres from the rear of the bicycle; and
(c) a red reflector that is clearly visible for at least 50 metres from the rear of the bicycle when light is projected onto it by a vehicle’s headlight on low-beam.
That allows me to answer the first question which was ‘1. Are bikes allowed to have red flashing lights?’ The answer to that question is ‘yes’.
That leads to the second question, ‘What if these bikes were police bikes… Do I need to slow to 40KPH?’ For the purposes of the Road Safety Road Rules 2017 (Vic) the term vehicle includes a bicycle (r 15). Rule 79A(1) of the Road Safety Road Rules says:
A driver approaching a stationary or slow-moving police vehicle, emergency vehicle, enforcement vehicle or escort vehicle that is displaying a flashing blue, red or magenta light (whether or not it is also displaying other lights) or sounding an alarm must drive at a speed at which the driver can, if necessary, stop safely before passing the vehicle.
The driver must also ‘give way to any police officer, emergency worker, enforcement vehicle worker or escort vehicle worker on foot in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle’ (r 79A(2)).
It follows that a police bicycle is a police vehicle so yes, if the bikes had been police bicycles there would be an obligation to slow down. Victoria Ambulance has Bicycle Response Paramedics and the conclusion would be the same for them too. Giving way to police or paramedics on bicycles is also consistent with the rule requiring a driver to give way to police on foot.
It does however raise the anomaly that if police or ambulance bicycles have flashing red rear lights that they use to comply with r 259 then it does impose an obligation on drivers to slow down when passing them, even if there is no emergency. One could argue that if they were patrolling at regular speed for a bicycle then they are not a ‘slow moving’ bicycle, even if they are moving slower than the motor traffic. Putting that argument aside, slowing down would be safe for the bicyclist but it is an anomaly as drivers can zoom past other cyclists at the speed limit. Further, from a distance and at night, depending on the uniform, it may be impossible to tell if the bicycle ahead is being ridden by a police officer or paramedic, or someone else. The police and Ambulance Victoria could avoid that problem by only using a steady, not a flashing, red light if they ride their bicycles at night.
That still doesn’t help drivers who see a red flashing light and can’t tell whether it’s a bicycle or an emergency vehicle. If it makes them slow down even though it turns out that it is a non-police cyclist that is safer for the cyclist, but can no doubt lead to room for confusion.
I was asked
- Are bikes allowed to have red flashing lights? And
- What if these bikes were police bikes… Do I need to slow to 40KPH?
My answer to question 1 is ‘yes’. My answer to question 2 is probably, but if they are riding ‘normally’ (not slowly or stopped) then that is perhaps not what r 79A was meant to solve so arguably the answer is ‘no’. The safer answer is however, ‘yes’ and if the police have got off their bikes so the bikes are stopped, and police are attending to their duties on the roadside the answer is clearly ‘yes’.