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view of door zone in miller street pyrmont sydney

Cycling in Sydney: You are not legally required to ride in the door zone!

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Welcome to Sydney, Australia, featured battleground in the Cars vs The Rest culture war. Sydney has many 'door zone' cycle paths, and many beginner cyclists believe they have to use them.

As with many cities, Sydney has seen a resurgence in transport cycling as other transport modes have become less efficient. A result is that the car-clogged, glass-strewn streets of Sydney have become festooned with countless kilometres of 'shoulder lanes', otherwise known as 'door zone' cycle paths, the box-ticking bureaucrat’s bike path of choice.

Legions of bright-eyed beginner cyclists have taken to the roads, and many, good citizens, ride in the door zones. They do so in the belief they are legally obliged to, something no doubt cultivated by the psychopaths behind the whole idea. And who knows how many of those beginner cyclists have come to grief? The bureaucrats have justified the use of door zone cycle paths, fully conscious of the danger, on the grounds that it encourages more people to cycle; the increase in numbers can then be used to justify the cost of more appropriate infrastructure (i.e. for the survivors). How's that for utilitarianism gone rampant?

empty door zone car door blocking door zone cyclist riding clear of door zone silly cyclist riding in door zone
motor vehicles delay traffic image

Anyway, in recent years the culprits suffered a guilt attack (more likely litigation attack) and they have been quietly removing the offending pavement markings. This process is far from complete (how difficult is it?), and many good citizens are still betting their necks in car-door roulette. At least one Sydney council, The City of Sydney, is these days advising cyclists to not ride in the door zone; it summarises the relevant law as follows:

It is not a legal requirement to use a shoulder lane – bike riders have every right to take the [general traffic] lane.

So, if you are a beginner cyclist, be aware that you don't have to ride in the door zone. You can – and I think you should – use the adjacent general traffic lane, and as much of it as you need. The general traffic lane is there for all vehicles, not just motor vehicles, so don't hesitate to use it. However, if the righteous wrath of the impatient motorist brings to mind ruler-wielding nuns, consider riding 'along the line'. The whole thing is well summarised by AdamM on the Sydney Cyclist website:

You should never ride closer to a parked car than the solid white line if you want to maximise your safety on the road. Those roads would be safer to cycle on if they had no cycle lane than with the lanes that are painted there. And even that is giving passing cars licence to try and squeeze past you when they possibly shouldn't. In the absence of infrastructure that provides for safe cycling, it's up to you as an individual to ride in such a way that you are safe. If that means cars are held up for a few hundred metres, then so be it.