Q&A - Cyclists, Pedestrians and Pathways

Q&A ImageFor years I've thought about sending this question to you. This is regarding the issue of "walk on left, ride on right". I have always understood that on any road/path with no sidewalk that is shared by pedestrians and vehicles (including bicycles), the pedestrians should keep to the left facing traffic, and the vehicles keep to the right.

I checked with colleagues at work, ranging in age from 20 something to 60 something - they all agreed. However, I can't tell you how often I have been verbally abused and run off the path/road as a pedestrian sticking to the left. I am told I am on the wrong side!

On 3 occasions bicycles have intentionally nearly hit me to make their point that I was on the wrong side! I have a friend who reports similar incidents. Please, please, please can we have articles, campaigns, whatever it takes to re-educate people about safe walking and riding!

Lets start right at the beginning and examine what a highway is. There are two definitions that we must consider and the first is in the Transportation Act:

"highway" means a public street, road, trail, lane, bridge, trestle, tunnel, ferry landing, ferry approach, any other public way or any other land or improvement that becomes or has become a highway by any of the following:

(a) deposit of a subdivision, reference or explanatory plan in a land title office under section 107 of the Land Title Act;

(b) a public expenditure to which section 42 applies;

(c) a common law dedication made by the government or any other person;

(d) declaration, by notice in the Gazette, made before December 24, 1987;

(e) in the case of a road, colouring, outlining or designating the road on a record in such a way that section 13 or 57 of the Land Act applies to that road;

(f) an order under section 56 (2) of this Act;

(g) any other prescribed means;

The second is found in the Motor Vehicle Act:

"highway" includes

(a) every highway within the meaning of the Transportation Act,

(b) every road, street, lane or right of way designed or intended for or used by the general public for the passage of vehicles, and

(c) every private place or passageway to which the public, for the purpose of the parking or servicing of vehicles, has access or is invited,

but does not include an industrial road;

As you can see, walking and cycling paths are considered to be a highway by the former and are included in the rulemaking for the latter. This is important because the "which side to use" rules are made in the Motor Vehicle Act.

Pedestrian walking along highway

182  (1) If there is a sidewalk that is reasonably passable on either or both sides of a highway, a pedestrian must not walk on a roadway.

(2) If there is no sidewalk, a pedestrian walking along or on a highway must walk only on the extreme left side of the roadway or the shoulder of the highway, facing traffic approaching from the opposite direction.

Rights and duties of operator of cycle

183  (1) In addition to the duties imposed by this section, a person operating a cycle on a highway has the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle.

(2) A person operating a cycle

(a) must not ride on a sidewalk unless authorized by a bylaw made under section 124 or unless otherwise directed by a sign,

(b) must not, for the purpose of crossing a highway, ride on a crosswalk unless authorized to do so by a bylaw made under section 124 or unless otherwise directed by a sign,

(c) must, subject to paragraph (a), ride as near as practicable to the right side of the highway,

(d) must not ride abreast of another person operating a cycle on the roadway,

(e) must keep at least one hand on the handlebars,

(f) must not ride other than on or astride a regular seat of the cycle,

(g) must not use the cycle to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed and equipped, and

(h) must not ride a cycle on a highway where signs prohibit their use.

So, as you have observed, pedestrians walk on the left facing traffic and cyclists ride on the right. The allows each to see the other and make way as necessary.

Pathways within municipalities may be controlled by a bylaw:

Municipal powers

124  (1) The council of a municipality may, by bylaw not inconsistent with or derogatory to this Part, provide for the following:

(b) the regulation, control or prohibition of pedestrian traffic, ridden or herded animals, vehicular traffic and traffic by other conveyances, either singly or together, on sidewalks, walkways or boulevards, or in or on lanes or ways separating the rear property lines of parcels of land fronting on highways running more or less parallel to and on each side of the lanes or ways, and at intersections of the lanes or ways with each other or with highways;

(n) the regulation or prohibition of pedestrian traffic on highways other than at crosswalks;

(t) the regulation and control of persons using roller skates, sleighs, skates, skis or other similar means of conveyance on highways in the municipality and the closing of a highway or highways or part of them to permit the use of roller skates, sleighs, skates, skis or other similar means of conveyance;

(v) the use, in places, under conditions and in circumstances specified by the bylaw, of sidewalks and crosswalks by persons riding cycles.

It is possible that rules exist (and are different in each municipality) that control how cyclists and pedestrians use paths and walkways. This could include something such as pedestrians being required to use one side and cyclists the other, but if this were the case I would hope that some sort of signs or markings would be present to tell users this.