Do Bike Lanes Confuse Drivers?

Bike Lane SignI hate to admit it, but bicycle lanes confuse me. The Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) defines them as a designated use lane that is part of the highway, but not part of the roadway. Both the province and municipalities are able to create designated use lanes and restrict who may use them through legislation. You might be surprised about what this might mean for both cyclists and drivers.

For the driver, the concept of roadway suddenly becomes very important. Roadway includes the lanes motor vehicles drive in and the area where they park at the side of the highway that is not the shoulder. So, if you approach an intersection intending to make a right turn, your pre-turn position is dependent on whether there is a curb or parking is available to the right of the bicycle lane or not. If not, you must remain to the left of the bicycle lane. If so, and it is practical to do so, you must move onto the parking area or next to the curb before you turn.

For the cyclist, it is forbidden to ride other than single file when using the roadway. If the shoulder of the highway or the cycle lane is wide enough, there is no rule that prohibits riding side by side there unless a bylaw directs otherwise.

If the highway shoulder is paved and passable, a cyclist must ride on it. If not, they are allowed to use the right hand edge of the roadway. The MVA does not require the use of cycle lanes if present and I have not found a municipal bylaw that requires their use either.

The bottom line? It's probably best that cyclists use bicycle lanes if they are present and drivers should exercise extra caution, especially when turning. The cyclist may see their bicycle lane as being clear and pass you on the right.

Reference Links:

While it is generally advisable for cyclists to use bicycle lanes, that is not always the case and the cyclist should frequently evaluate the best place on the road to be. Obstructions like parked cars, debris and pot-holes on the bike lane are obvious reasons not be be on the bike lane, but these are not the only reasons to avoid them. When a approaching an intersection and to go straight through it is often better for the cyclist to be out in a main straight-through traffic lane rather than in a right-hand bicycle lane. This positioning makes the cyclist more visible and less likely to be struck by a right-turning overtaking vehicle, and may allow vehicles approaching from behind to turn right without added waiting. After going through the intersection the cyclist should usually return to the bicycle lane. It goes without saying that a cyclist turning left should not do so from a bicycle lane on the right side of the road. 

If a bicycle lane at the side of a regular traffic lane is intended for 2-way bike traffic, it not advisable to use it in the opposite direction of the adjacent traffic lane, since doing can be just as dangerous as cycling the wrong way on a road without a bike lane. This wrong way cycling may not be a problem if the 2-way bike lane is separated by barriers or kerbs, provided that the kerbs or barriers are not interrupted for driveways and intersections which is rare.  Drivers pulling out of a driveway typically expect vehicles, whether bicycles or motor vehicles, to approach from the right on the far side of the road, not on the near side crossing the driveway, and therefore often fail to check. 

Over the years improvements to bike lane deisgn have been made but there are still some older poorly designed bike lanes, and some strange planning habits remain. The 2-way "urban parkway" at the side of a road provides examples, some bad and some OK - Burnaby please note.

In a nearby city, the bike lanes may or may not have the stenciled bicycle image.  Vehicles are allowed to park in lanes that are marked.  At intersections, the bike lane (as denoted by a single solid line) magically disappears and becomes a right turn lane for vehicles.  Is it just me or is there no rhyme or reason to this system?  It looks more like city council made a knee-jerk reaction to accomodate the more vocal cyclists.