09 June 2009

Rock and Rules - Wider, Longer, Higher

Svajerløb 2009: Kid Transport
I recieved an email from Aaron regarding new rules for bicycles in South Australia. On the Bicycle Victoria website there is this article:

Rules threaten cargo bikes
21 May 2009. Road rules controlling bikes in South Australia appear to ban cargo bikes and any other bike wider than 700 millimetres.

In South Australia right now size matters when it comes to bikes. A Bicycle Victoria member Dan Kortschak noticed these sentences from the official South Australia publication “Cycling and the Law” [opens as a .pdf]:

“The overall width of any equipment or load carried on a bicycle must not exceed 700 millimetres”

“The handlebars must be... no more than 700 millimetres wide.”

This means that many styles of bicycle of increasing popularity such as cargo bikes and cruisers with wide handlebars could be seen as illegal for use on South Australian roads.

I wondered how these rules compare with the Danish traffic regulation concerning bicycles. Perhaps Bicycle Victoria can use them in their work. It's good to have Best Practice to refer to.

Here's what I learned:

- A cycle can have a maximum of four wheels. Trailers can have a maximum of two wheels.
- Bicycles must not be wider than 1 metre.
- The handlebars must not exceed 70 cm in width.
- Cycles with more than two wheels [cargo bikes], however, are allowed a maximum width of 1.25 metres.
- Bicycles, including a trailer, must not exceed 3.5 metres in length.
- It is permitted to attach a trailer or a sidecar on bicycles.

So, the Bicycle Victoria article is right about how the South Australian laws restrict cargo bikes, but the handlebar width is the same in Denmark.

I just took a measuring tape and measured out 70 cm. It's massive wide. I've never ridden a bike with handlebars THAT wide.

The funny thing is that there are no rules about the HEIGHT of a bicycle so the Tall Bikes Gang are as safe as a safe thing.

While we're at it, here are some other Danish traffic regulations regarding the bicycle, all of them virtually completely and utterly unenforced because the police have better things to do with their time.

Number of Persons
- A bicycle can be used by a maximum of three persons, as well as two children under eight. [I'm assuming this includes cargo bikes, otherwise this would make for some crowded bicycles]
- There can be a maximum of two children in a trailer.
- If there are passengers on the bicycle, the driver must be over 15 years old.

- A bicycle must have two independent brakes, one on the front wheel and one on the back. Cargo bikes must also have a parking brake.
- A bicycle must have, between sunset and sunrise, front and back lights that can be seen from a distance of at least 300 metres. The lights must also be visible from the sides. Blinking lights are allowed. Here's more about the bike light regulations.
- A bicycle must be equipped with a bell. Horns, etc, may not be used.
- A bicycle must be equipped with a white reflector on the front and a red reflector on the back, two yellow reflectors on the pedals which are visible from behind and at least one reflector visible from the side. Alternatively it is permitted to have wheels with built-in reflectors. It is allowed to mount more than one reflector.


henryinamsterdam said...

Hoi Mikael,
What a truly pointless and limiting law that serves nobody's interests. Anybody can drive a gigantic automobile but bicycles have to be narrow, even though they don't even have more than a handful of painted lines on the roads pretending to be bike lanes.

Two wheeled cargo bikes aren't affected since they're almost all narrower than 70cm but a 3-wheeler narrower than 70cm is just too tippy to be useful.

There's a Christiania dealer in Australia but his bikes (85cm wide) are now apparently illegal, at least in some regions.

But do they actually enforce this law?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I can see it now ... a measuring tape becoming a standard issue equipment for the police. ;)

Anonymous said...

>>What about people driving bikes especially designed for disabled persons as mentioned below? This bikes are probably more than 70cm...

>>By the way: your website was mentioned on the biggest Austrian news website!!!

spiderleggreen said...

At least it'll gives cops something to do. Keep em off drugs.

Melbourne Cyclist said...

Sigh. Honestly, this entire country is too flipping American in its approach to road use, it really is. Melbourne (where I live) likes to think of itself as a 'European' city, cosmopolitan, diverse, full of arts & culture, but when it comes to roads it's LA all the way baby.

I seriously hope that this law doesn't get enforced as far as cargo bikes go, and is just kept for people doing/carrying silly things on bicycles (mostly because I was planning on getting a cargo bike once I have kids, so that I can continue not owning a car!). Hopefully all the police have the same approach as the Victorian Police Bicycle Patrol Unit - there's only five of them, but those guys are great, lots of common sense going on, and very pro-sharing-the-road.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, in my experience in Perth, West Australia, they DID take the time to enforce the laws. It was reassuring that the police stopped kids that were riding on the sidewalk (legally, bicycles must be walked, not ridden on the sidewalk, and one must wear a helmet even if riding at walking pace).

Funny how you can never get police attendance when you need it, but they're quick to hand out $50 fines for breaking one of the above two laws.

Aaron said...

I am yet to find any mention of this 'law' anywhere in a officially gazetted piece of legislation or regulation (apart from the publication produced by SA Govt). I am no lawyer but if Google can't find it I am hoping no police officer can, so maybe enforcement will be well down the list of priorities!

Also just to note the 70cm 'rule' relates to handlebar width - not the bike width. Christiania's may be safe as my actual handlebar width is only 63cm but the bike is about 85.

Overall though it is disappointing that Govt seem to be promoting cycling on one hand and then having silly rules that could discourage people from doing it on the other.

Mikael said...

aaron: i realise the 70 cm is the handlebar thing. is your Christiania bike really only 85 cm? thought they were wider.

1.25 m is the width limit here, to accomodate for wide cargo bikes and bikes with sidecars, even though i've never seen one of those.

Aaron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron said...

Mikael - yes 85cm overall width for the Christiania. Any wider and I would have problems fitting through obstacles on Canberra bike paths!

I was referring to earlier comments when I pointed out the 70cm width was for handlebars. However as pointed out the SA publication also says "The overall width of any equipment or load carried on a
bicycle must not exceed 700 millimetres". Would the 'box' on a Christiania count as a 'load'? So they seem to be saying anything wider then 700 is bad somehow? Just ridiculous.

Mikael said...

indeed. people who think up these rules are rarely people with expertise in the area. the guy probably just looked at his dusty bike in his garage and went inside to spit out a page filled with 'rules'.

Anonymous said...

Even the bell law I find absurd. They exist, completely unenforced, in many, maybe most, jurisdictions. It's just as easy to say 'excuse me' than to ring a bell, and more polite too.

Mikael said...

the whole point of this post is that saying "excuse me" has little effect. But the bell - in established bike cultures anyway - is an effective tool.

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying bells are absurd.
If people like bells, fair enough, they can have them. But making them mandatory is just as absurd as making helmets mandatory. Surely one can choose how one alerts other people to your presence.

Anneke said...

bells are also required by law in the Netherlands, just like lights and reflecting tyres. It makes sense, if you can't warn anyone to get out of your way with a bell you'll have to do an awfull lot of shouting, especially in Amsterdam with all the hapless tourists wandering in your way. Besides, aren't cars required to have a horn?

the_boy_who_loves_pasta said...

A lot of downhill bikes are running bars over 700mm now. I've seen young racers running bars almost 800mm wide (not the best for dodging between trees in my opinion, but the lads who run them post pretty good times). But then downhill race bikes aren't designed for road use.

Most Adelaide cops don't know any of the rules regarding bikes any way, so I'd be shocked if one pulled out a tape measure to check bar width. I used to carry rolled blueprints around, often almost a metre wide, and never got pulled over.