Cycling on shoulders

      by Avery Burdett

      What is the legal status in Ontario of a cyclist riding a bike on the shoulder?

      This is a question that arises periodically among those interested in cycling and the law. My own interest was peaked when I read in the Coronerís investigation into the deaths of cyclists in the province that the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) stipulates, "a cyclist is not legally permitted to use the paved shoulder of a highway ...". This was contrary to my understanding.

      In order to find out it is necessary to realize that the Highway Traffic Act defines the shoulder as part of the highway but not part of the roadway. Also a bicycle is defined as a vehicle, so a cyclist is a driver of a vehicle and must follow the same rules as are laid out for other drivers unless stated otherwise.

      I could find no explicit blanket prohibition of driving on the shoulder in the HTA.

      Sec 151(5) prohibits driving on the shoulders of Kings Highways such as 400 series freeways and other designated provincial highways (numbered 2 to 148).
      Sec 148(5) requires a driver of a vehicle to pass on the left but sec 150 says that a driver of a motor vehicle must not drive off the roadway (and on to the shoulder) to pass, but permits use of the shoulder if it is paved. It doesnít mention cyclists which is curious given they are required like motorists to pass on the left.

      The prohibitions against using a shoulder appear to be only while passing or only while on a Kings Highway. Stated another way, you can drive on a shoulder most anytime except while passing other vehicles.

      This conclusion is consistent with the principle that you can do just about anything on a highway in Ontario unless a sign or the HTA instructs you otherwise.

December 2012
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