Cycling and the Law

Single File Cycling vs Two Abreast Cycling

The Ontario Highway Traffic Act considers bicycles to be vehicles.  The Ontario Traffic Act does not explicitly forbid side by side cycling. However, two sections of the Act could reasonably be interpreted as forbidding the practice under certain circumstances.

Ontario Highway Traffic Act Sections 148(2) and 148(6) require vehicles to "turn out to the right to allow the vehicle to pass" when being passed by vehicles travelling at a higher rate of speed.

The wording of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act requires that slow moving vehicles (cyclists) move to the right, but this is only when being passed.  The move to the right is to facilitate the space to allow a faster vehicle to safely pass. Nothing in the wording of these sections of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act suggests that cycling single file is the only way to comply with law.


Example 1 - Roadways Where There Are Multiple Lanes Which Motorists May Use To Pass

If a roadway has multiple lanes which a motorists may use to pass slower moving vehicles, then a motorist should allow slower moving vehicles (such as cyclists) to use the lane on the right , while using a lane (or lanes) to the left of this lane for the purpose of passing.

   

Example 2 - Roadways With One Lane In Each Direction That Has No Oncoming Traffic

If the roadway being shared is quiet and no vehicles are approaching in the opposite direction it may be appropriate for a faster moving motor vehicle pass slower moving vehicles (such as cyclists) by using the oncoming lane.  Some examples where this may be appropriate include quite residential streets or rural roads at a time of day when there is little traffic.

   

Roadway Or Traffic Where It Is Not Possible For A Faster Vehicle To Pass

On a road where the travel lane is wide enough for a passing vehicle to safely share the lane with a cyclist, but a motorist cannot pass use another travel lane which is free of traffic, in order to comply with the law cyclists must as close to right as practicable, position themselves in single file and allow the faster vehicle to pass.

   

The Highway Traffic Act And Sharing The Road

Rules for Passing

 

According to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, when vehicle meets a person travelling on a bicycle, they must allow the cyclist sufficient room on the roadway to pass. If there is insufficient room for the faster vehicle to safely pass on the left, then they must yield to the cyclist. Learn more.

Hand/Arm Signals

 

Section 142 of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act requires cyclists to use hand/arm signals if the operation of another vehicle is affected by a cyclist.

Signalling leading up to a turn or lane change allows communicating between road users so that they are aware of the intended movement of the cyclist.

Basic Expectations Of All Road Users

 

  • stop for red lights and stop signs and comply with all other signs
  • ride in the designated direction on one-way streets
  • before turning, look behind and signal the turn.
  • yield or stop for pedestrians at crosswalks
  • stop and identify themselves to police when required.