Riding Bicycles Side by Side

CyclistBill 23 - 2023 has received first reading in our Legislative Assembly. The bill is an attempt to bring a bit more order into the interactions between drivers of motor vehicles and the operators of various types of alternative transportation, including bicycles. It does not change the current prohibition on riding bicycles side by side.

I've been asked to comment on two situations, a left turn at traffic lights that resulted in an interaction with police and another where a cautious driver was unable to pass a group of cyclists riding two abreast for a considerable distance.

Troubles Turning Left

The cyclist  was stopped by an officer who pulled him over for riding beside another cyclist while he was stopped at a red light in a left turn lane waiting to turn onto a bike lane. Prior to the red light they were riding single file.

After making a proper approach, they came to a stop to wait for the red light. The three riders moved to take up less room in the left turn lane and two could be considered side by side as they waited for the green light.

The officer warned him for riding side by side.

Unable to Pass

A group of cyclists in the lower mainland insists on riding side by side for 60 km, 30 km of which involves one driver's route home. She is unable to pass safely due to a double solid yellow line and the cyclist do not follow the slow driving rules.

She related an incident where an impatient driver behind her tried to pass in the face of oncoming traffic. The driver was unable to complete the pass safely and pushed his way into the middle of the cyclists to avoid a head on collision.

Current Law

The Motor Vehicle Act says that a cyclist "must not ride abreast of another person operating a cycle on the roadway." Remember that the roadway is the part of a highway designed for vehicular traffic and does not include the shoulder.

Some designated use lanes (bicycle lanes or mixed use trails) exclude vehicular traffic as well.

So, if one cyclist is riding on the roadway, another may not ride on either side of them. The only opportunity to ride two abreast is when both cyclists have room to do so using the shoulder or a bicycle lane and it is not otherwise regulated by a municipal bylaw.

This rule would not prohibit one cyclist passing another, subject to following the rules that govern making a pass.

I would also observe that the left turn situation described could be looked at as one rider passing another that was suspended in time by the red light. If they did not continue riding side by side after the green light, no enforcement would be necessary.

The video on the use of bike boxes produced by the City of Victoria actually shows two cyclists side by side in the box waiting for traffic lights to change.

And a pretty cheesy ticket in my opinion.

Motorcycles “pair up” at turns and stops.  I would have believed the same, safe principle applies to bicycles, especially on left turns.   We depart slightly staggered and fall into our staggered positions once motion is complete (turn/light) that is the professional taught so why would a copper not see the safety in that maneuver?  

Also, the definition of operating a bicycle abreast and the “roadway” are not clear and highly ambiguous.  I interpret it to imply “abreast” during the movement while traveling not while setting up to make a turn.  

I would support the cyclists to double up at turns (especially left & controlled) it is the safest and most visible position to execute the move and once complete, they return to their single file while traveling.  

I also think this officer did a poor job at exercising his discretion and doing some homework on the issue before rushing to give the guy a ticket.  I see so many without helmets or visible wear, lights, those are the ones being negligent and defiant of the rules/law. 

I made the same assumption that you did from the initial information supplied for the original article. The person involved corrected me, no ticket was written.

Firstly what an antiquated term no doubt going back to when warriors wore breast plates and advanced on the enemy “abreast”. Evidence of just how outdated our MVA is.

Sadly this violation penalizes the riders for taking the safest position on the roadway or would it be argued that the riders did not position themselves “as far right as practicable”?

Furthermore I would ask if they are “riding abreast” when they are stationary?

The spirit of this regulation is to allow overtaking vehicles to pass single file riders safely. I believe the ticket should only have been issued if the riders did not resume their single file formation after turning.

I did not know that abreast was illegal. I grew up in the Netherlands, where 2 abreast is allowed.

I must say I very much dislike this rule. I have been cycling with my kids since they were 4 yo, on Vancouver public roads, and always shield them by riding left of them.

I would not take a young kid biking in a file.

Talking about cyclist abreast: yesterday morning when I was heading to work a couple was riding side by side in front of my car on 15th St towards 10 ave, Bby. I couldn't pass due to traffic so I had a brief argument with them: why not riding in a single file (one behind another),at least in such hectic areas at peak hours ? Their answer was incredible: because 15th St is a ....bike lane !

That's it: some guys are not just indolents when they don't care about others, they are also against THE LAW !

Talking about having a child as a cyclist on the roadway: no, I never did and wouldn't do that, not even in the Netherlands or elsewhere.Besides that a kid is legal and must always cycle on the boardwalk and in its absence the road shoulder should be more than perfect while having the parent/ adult riding in parallel to shield him/her.

Just my 2 cents .....Safe cycling everyone and beware of morons !

So many rules to drive bikes now that the bike lanes are implemented. Drivers need a driver's license to drive, so they know the rules before they drive how come bike driver's don't need to pass an exam?

So the rules need to be in place so people are not killed. Who do we blame? People or the authority who is now reviewing new legislation to avoid accidents?

Should we citizens have higher expectations about traffic tules legislation issued by the authorities? There are so many road changes that have caused fatalities however the people making the rules is never to blame but the people who confused traffic lanes or that couldn't see a division in a rainy night.

An organization should be born to double check on the engineering aspects related to road rules written into law by people in power who may not have all the information needed to make changes.

So many rules to drive bikes now that the bike lanes are implemented. Drivers need a driver's license to drive, so they know the rules before they drive how come bike driver's don't need to pass an exam?

The key difference is that cyclists - or scooter riders, etc - can be of any age. And although many subjects are taught in schools, pedestrian or cyclist education in minimal.

But apparently the education ministry and government legislation don't share the same priorities. There is no gurantee that anybody 16 years of age has previously learned anything about how to behave safely on the road.

Legislation has to be updated to reflect road use; changes in the vehicles we operate, and the number of them on the road.

We have to hope that the legislation introduced out by the authorities is the 'best solution' - until they make further changes.

An organization should be born to double check on the engineering aspects related to road rules written into law by people in power who may not have all the information needed to make changes.

So now you want another layer of bureacracy to oversee this?

I think the current system of Municipal and Provincial control is the best bet. Though I detest the lack of support for reasonable speed on our arterial streets. You can't slow down everyone, everywhere, when the goal has to be efficiency as well as safety!

I have come close to hitting a bunch of cyclists on many occasions on hilly roads riding in packs or little herds. Getting the middle finger when I lightly toot the horn.

The police should be ticketing this behavior more often. Doesn't matter who is right or wrong when a cyclist gets hit by a vehicle the cyclist always loses.

I came to this site to confirm my impression that cycling two abreast is, indeed, illegal in BC. If I'm reading correctly, that is the case. However, when I point this out to pairs of cyclists coming towards me on narrow streets and bike paths, they clearly don't appreciate the information, and more than once I've been told dismissively to "F---- off!" when I mention it.
It seems to me that by informing them that their behaviour not only puts me (and other oncoming cyclists) in danger by forcing me/us to the side of the road (and dangerously close to car doors....), it may save them getting a ticket if they "mend their ways" before encountering a police officer.
I understand that they may prefer to do this so they can chat more easily while riding, but I find their degree of hostility to my information sharing somewhat baffling.