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City Cycling Rules in New Zealand

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Don’t Be a Psychopath, Use the Cycle Path!

Ahh, the quiet New Zealand countryside: feel the smooth tarmac under your bike tyres. Not a car in sight… Is the completely opposite experience to what you will have in the hustling and bustling cities of New Zealand! Getting around a city by bike can be efficient and, let’s be honest, so much cheaper than investing in a car. Whether you’re using your bike to commute to work, or hired a bike to make your way out to some awesome outer city bike park, cycling in a New Zealand city may have some slightly different rules than what you may be used to at home. For instance, did you know that you could get fined if you don’t wear a bike helmet? With that in mind, we’ve put this guide together of the city cycling rules in New Zealand.

The rules are put in place for the obvious reason of “keeping cyclists safe”, yadda yadda… But we’re guessing you’ve read this far because perhaps you are a responsible cyclist who might just value your life? That would be a good reason to keep on reading.

What You and Your Bike Need to Wear

Yes, your bike needs to wear accessories too, but let’s start with the cyclist.

In New Zealand, it is mandatory to wear a helmet. If caught, you could get an infringement fee of NZ$55 and a maximum of penalty NZ$1000 on conviction. Although not compulsory, it is safer to wear brightly coloured or reflective clothing to be seen.

As for your bike, it is mandatory to have a red or yellow reflector on the back of the bike and good brakes. You also need lights on your bike for night or low-visibility: a white or yellow headlamp on the front, a steady or flashing rear red light, and yellow pedal reflectors.

For more tips on how to backpack around New Zealand with a bike, check out Mountain Biking in New Zealand: A Complete Guide.

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Cycling on the Road

Generally, the same road rules apply between cyclists and cars, which you can read up on in How to Drive in New Zealand. However, there are a few cyclist-specific tips to remember:

  • Always ride single-file and keep to the left
  • Use hand signals to indicate where you are going
  • Ride in a straight line rather than weaving in and out of parked cars
  • Comply with the give way signs, stop signs and red lights
  • Give yourself plenty of room between you and parked cars to avoid ‘the opening door zone’.

See more tips in 12 Safe Driving Tips for New Zealand.

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Places with Cycling Restrictions

In New Zealand, you cannot cycle on:

  • Motorways (unless there is a dedicated cycleway that runs alongside it)
  • Footpaths (unless a sign states otherwise)
  • Parks in a small number of locations for safety and environment protection. These will be signposted.
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Cycling on Bus and Transit Lanes

Cyclists can use bus lanes and transit lanes at any time including the times stated on the signs. However, if a sign says: “Bus Only”, then cyclists can only use the bus lane outside of the stated times. Be mindful of these tips when cycling in bus and transit lanes:

  • Ride straight and left
  • Where possible, let buses and other traffic pass
  • Look out for buses pulling in and out of bus stops. If a bus is indicating to pull out, don’t try to pass it. If it is indicating to pull in, don’t pass on the left-hand side.
  • Watch out at intersections: vehicles can travel up to 50 metres in a bus or transit lane before turning into or out of a side road.
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Cycling on Shared Paths

Some cycleways in New Zealand cities are shared with pedestrian footpaths, which means although you are on an awesome speedy bike, you can’t be a dick to pedestrians. However, what you can do is:

  • Keep left
  • Slow down when passing pedestrians
  • If a pedestrian looks unaware of your presence and is in the way, call out or ring your bell approximately 30 metres before reaching them
  • Ride at a speed suitable for the conditions, for example, slowly if there is a lot of foot traffic
  • Respect the rules of pedestrian and cycleway crossings. Slow down as you approach crossings to give drivers time to see you.


Fascinating Stuff!

Find Out More About Cycling in New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the world’s best playgrounds for cyclists. So if you are a pedal pushing enthusiast then you might be interested in these awesome cycling locations.


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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