horse and cart in bicycle lane

Horsing around town

Paint is cheap, sadly enforcement isn’t in the budget, let alone real infrastructure. One of the two vehicle lanes heading northbound on the landmark Princes Bridge was repurposed as a bicycle lane by painting some new linework amidst much noise from the motoring interest groups, who missed that the bridge’s only exit is through a set of traffic lights that limit throughput to less than half of the saturation flow of the single lane. Follow that with some very dubious statistics using seasonally adjusted usage figures to claim an increase in cycling and what should be a non issue remains simmering in Melbourne. Legitimate complaints however continue of the behaviour of the horse and cart operators who take advantage of the queuing traffic to pass them in the bicycle lane and offer an express route along the 500m from the arts precinct at one end of the bridge and the transport hub at the other.

horse and cart in bicycle lane

Here the driver of the carriage can be seen failing to give way as they cut back into the traffic queue that they should be flowing in to avoid a van parked across the entire 3m (10 foot) width of the lane and buffer, parked in this no stopping area to load their cargo of a bicycle! The City of Melbourne council who licence the carriage operators appear to deflect any responsibility and defer any decisions to Police rather than acting on simple evidence as here. Police are the only officers with authority to enforce the road rules but their complete lack of visibility/enforcement/interest ensures traffic compliance and road safety in Melbourne remains notional. Permitting the operators of these carriages the council needs to take responsibility for their operating in a legal manner and exclude licenses from those who flaunt the road rules.

And in closing to sadly dispel another of those wonderful anecdotes of Australian mythology:

15 What is a vehicle

(2) However, a reference in these Rules (except in this Division) to a vehicle
(a) includes a reference to
(i) an animal that is being ridden or is drawing a vehicle; and

and

17 Who is a rider
(1) A rider is the person who is riding a motor bike, bicycle, animal or animal-drawn vehicle.

where

19 References to driver includes rider etc.
Unless otherwise expressly stated a reference in these Rules (except in this Division) to a driver includes a reference to a rider, and a reference in these Rules (except in this Division) to driving includes a reference to riding.

So there are no special exemptions or give way rules applying to the interactions between horses, horse drawn vehicles, and any other vehicles other than a controversial and very narrow in application rule for making hook turns from the left lane of a multilane roundabout:

119 Giving way by the rider of a bicycle or animal to a vehicle leaving a roundabout
The rider of a bicycle or animal who is 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 (other than motor bikes, bicycles or animals), must give way to any vehicle leaving the roundabout.

Where the confusion comes from is the practice of droving, which is still practised on some rural roads (though was once commonplace in Melbourne) and in its current form rather than closing the road special signs are erected handing the road over to animals with cars as a guest.

give way to stock sign

402 Giving way to stock
(1) If a give way to stock sign similar to Diagram 1 applies to a length of road, a driver of a vehicle must take such action as is reasonably necessary to avoid a collision with any animal under control on the length of road.

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