Cyclists Must Obey the Rules of the Road Too

      by Avery Burdett

      Under the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) of Ontario, the definition of a vehicle includes a bicycle. A driver of a bicycle has the same rights and responsibilities as a motorist. Like motorists, a cyclist must follow the rules of the road as specified in the HTA. The HTA is consistent with John Forester's (*) belief that cyclists fare better when they operate on the road in a vehicular manner. This is because cyclists are less likely to get into conflict with motor vehicles when their intentions are predictable and their movements are substantially the same as other vehicles.

      Unfortunately, far too many cyclists in Canada do not operate their bicycles as a vehicle but rather behave as though they have neither rights nor responsibilities on the road. This phenomenon can be traced to both misinterpretation and lack of understanding of the law as it affects cyclists. In this series of articles, I shall discuss some of the common mistakes made by cyclists in relation to Ontario's traffic laws and the risks they create. The first two are improper lane positioning at intersections, and riding in crosswalks from bike paths (strictly speaking these are not bike paths but rather recreation paths for use by different types of users).

      Improper Lane Choice

      Section 154 (1)(c) requires drivers to move in the direction designated for the lane they are in. This includes cyclists. Despite this, it is common at any multi-lane intersection to observe cyclists riding straight through from the "right turn only" lane, usually from the right hand side of the painted line separating the through and turn lane. A cyclist who practises this typically does it out of fear of being hit from behind by a motorized vehicle moving through the intersection. In reality, there is more to fear from being in the "right turn only" lane. The cyclist not only impedes right turning vehicles, but also risks being struck by vehicles crossing his path because vehicle drivers will assume that he is going to turn right from the turn lane. Should a collision occur, it is likely that the cyclist will be held liable.

      Riding in Crosswalks from Bike Paths

      Section 144 (29) forbids riding in crosswalks. The law makes no destinction between crosswalks at bike path/roadway intersections and crosswalks at regular intersections. Therefore cyclists using bike paths should be dismounting at intersections and walking their bicycles in the crosswalk. Few do.

      When a bike path intersects at the intersection of roadways, navigation for cyclists becomes more complex. Not only is there the normal traffic flow on the road, but there is the two-way bike path traffic heading in any one of three directions to contend with. Intersections are where the largest number of car/bike collisions occur. The addition of a bike path at an intersection explains why more car/bike collisions occur on bike paths than on the adjacent roadways.

      (*) John Forester is author of Effective Cycling and North America's leading bicycle transportation engineer.

      Originally published in the Spokesperson, the newsletter of the Ottawa Bicycle Club March 1997.

March 1998
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