Inspections of websites carrying safety messages aimed mostly at Ontario cyclists showed many with false advice or misrepresentation of where on a roadway cyclists may legally ride.
The Vehicular Cyclist has identified websites of the provincial government, two municipal governments, and a couple of non-profits. In some cases the directions offered, if followed, would put cyclists at risk. The Vehicular Cyclist contacted all the organizations and asked each to correct errors in law carried on their respective webpages.
These were met with mixed results. The most intransigent to deal with has been the Ministry of Transport of Ontario (MTO). Attempts to get it to eliminate
material that if followed can put inexperienced and unskilled cyclists at risk have failed to get ministry bureaucrats to make necessary corrections.
1. On MTO's webpage - Bicycle Safety under Riding on the right - it is stated,
"You must stay as close to the right edge of the road whenever possible". Nowhere in Ontario's Highway Traffic Act (HTA) is there such a requirement. Section 147(1) Slow Vehicles law states that any vehicle (incl a bicycle) travelling upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at that time and place shall, where practicable, be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic or ...". Section 148 Overtaking rules makes it clear in sub-section (5) that vehicle operators (incl.cyclists) when being passed must drive to the right (not the left) but anyway are not required to leave more than half of the roadway free.
*** Update June 2022 *** It took a long time but MTO has modified this aspect of its site. While it has removed erroneous interpretations of the law, it still endorses the principle that cyclists should get out of the way of motorists with the advice that cyclists should stay as close to the right side of the road as they can when being passed. If followed, it would be inviting motorists to make illegal close passes in the same lane. Savvy cyclists know that the safest way to discourage a close pass is to cycle in the right side wheel track or farther to the left - not farther to the right. This is known as "taking the lane" and is consistent with the rules of the road.
2. MTO's - Drivers Handbook under Sharing the road with cyclists it is stated that cyclists "travelling at a lower speed than other traffic are expected to ride about one metre from the curb or parked cars, or as close as practical to the right-hand edge of the road when there is no curb". This misrepresents the Slow Vehicles law Section 147 for the same reason as in 1. above. "Any vehicle travelling upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at that time and place shall, where practicable, be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic OR as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway". (OR capitalized for emphasis).
First, the word practicable in the law has been written as practical in the website text. They have different meanings. But worse, the author omitted to mention that merely a cyclist riding "in the right-hand lane then available for traffic" is satisfisfying the requirements of the law without restriction.
MTO was non-responsive to a request to have this error corrected.
Apparently MTO's communications bureaucrats
don't tolerate having their interpretation of the traffic law questioned (March 19). A post containing a link to actual wording of the HIghway Traffic Act was deleted by Facebook,
apparently at the behest of MTO bureaucrats.
3. City of Ottawa It was 1994 when the old Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton abolished it's prohibition against cycling two abreast. It was in response to lobbying by a coalition of local cycling organizations including the Ottawa Bicycle Club and Citizens for Safe Cycling. Despite that vestiges of the old attitude towards cyclists to get out of the way of motorists still prevail. For example, in Cycling Safety under Rules of the road it is stated, "Cyclists are to ride as close as practicable (i.e., no closer than 1.0 metre) to the right curb of the roadway except when ... Riding alongside another cyclist in a manner that does not impede the normal movement of traffic".
The City's first phrase is false for the reason in #1 above. In the case of not impeding "the normal movement of traffic", there is no law governing cyclists. S.132 Unnecessary slow driving applies to MOTOR vehicles only.
The City was first requested to modify these aspects of its site in 2013 but bureaucratic intransigence seems to prevail.
*** Update July 2019 *** The City updated its page by removing the offending section and replaced it with a link to the Province's website.
4. City of Toronto - Sixth diagram on Cycling and the Law(now removed) depicts a situation with cyclists riding two abreast. All cyclists in this diagram are riding legally in the right lane as required by S.147 and to the right as required by S.148. Toronto abolished its single file by-law in 2013. The City has indicated that it will review this aspect of its site.
Following our solicitations, the City replaced the offending page, now Cycling and the Law
5. Cycle Toronto (CT), an advocacy group, has an on-line Cyclist Handbook (old version). On p.11 under Ride next to a friend it is stated, "You may ride next to another cyclist and take up an entire traffic lane. If a faster vehicle wishes to pass on the left, you must move into single file". This is blatantly false. There is no requirement to ride single file in the HTA or among City of Toronto by-laws. There is nothing that can be interpreted as such.
The Vehicular Cyclist suggested CT amend the entry to read, "If a faster vehicle wishes to pass on the left, you should consider riding single file out of courtesy to other road users but only if it is safe to do so."
6. The Canadian Automobile Association on it's national website under The Fundamentals,
it instructs cyclists to ride single file. While there may be laws in some Canadian jurisdictions that require cyclists to ride in such a manner, this is not the case for all of Canada.
Neither Ontario nor Saskatchewan prohibit side-by-side cycling. In many cases such advice if followed could increase the risk to cyclists. No road user is required to adhere to laws which place them at increased danger.
The CAA had indicated that it would review this aspect of its site, but despite being reminded, the CAA has not corrected it.
*** Update May 2021 *** CAA has amended its website by removing its advice to ride single file.
THE ONTARIO HIGHWAY TRAFFIC ACT
Relevant sections of the Act are,
S.132 Unnecessary slow driving (ie Impeding traffic) - this applies to MOTOR vehicles only.
S.147 Slow moving vehicles - this is the only section of the HTA that mentions driving close to the edge of the roadway. On laned roads there is another option however, which is to drive in the right lane. Only if a road is not divided into lanes, eg a dirt road, does driving close to the edge of the roadway become a requirement. On all other roads it is optional.
S.148(5) On being passed - the person being passed is not obliged to leave more than one half of the roadway free.
S.148(6) Requires cyclists to turn out to right while being passed (not the left) - it is silent on where to the right. It does not say a cyclist must ride near edge of road. Turning out to right recognizes we drive on the right side of the road in Ontario as elsewhere in North America. The wording is virtually the same as S.148(2) which applies to all vehicles including cyclists. S.148(6) additionally states that the overtaking vehicle must be driven to be turned out to the left as far as necessary as to avoid a collision. S.148(2) is never interpreted to mean a motor vehicle must be driven near the edge of the road while being passed, so why would S.148(6) be interpreted so for cyclists?