Smart Cyclists Ride on the Right Side of the Road

CyclistAs humans, we are predominantly right handed. In North America we drive on the right side, tend to walk on the right side and I suspect that this right side bias carries over into many other areas that we are not even aware of. I learned as a young police officer that if I was attempting to catch a driver that I had lost sight of I would be more successful if I turned right instead of left at the next intersection. A smart cyclist will take advantage of this situation by always riding on the right hand side.

A very high percentage of cycle crashes involve turning and crossing in traffic at intersections. These are often busy places where drivers are trying to track many moving objects at once and determine a safe path for their intended direction of travel. Cyclists tend to be a smaller target that other vehicles in traffic and tend to be ignored. If you are riding on the wrong side drivers are not looking for you there and this compounds the risk further. Wrong way riders can have up to four times the collision risk than those who ride properly on the right.

Riding on the sidewalk is also not safer than riding on the roadway. Drivers are watching for pedestrians on sidewalks, not fast moving bicycles. You can increase your risk by two to nine times if you ride on the sidewalk. There is also a significant risk of colliding with pedestrians.

Ride in a straight line and choose your lane position wisely. If you are travelling at the speed of surrounding traffic ride in the lane itself. If you are slower, ride on the right side but do not hug the curb. Drivers will try to take advantage of the room to squeeze by if you don't take control of the situation by riding in the lane where there is no paved shoulder.

Finally, be courteous. Like slow drivers, give others the chance to pass.

Reference Links:


MVA s. 182(2) states that cyclists "must ride as near as practical to the right side of the highway" and "must not ride on a sidewalk" or "a crosswalk" unless authorized by a bylaw or a sign.  The BC BikeSense website ( is an excellent source of information for cyclists.

A few weeks ago I was driving my van and stopped at a 4-way stop.  I looked right (no pedestrians) and then left (no oncoming vehicles) before turning right ... when a teenage cyclist (sans helmet) darted across the crosswalk in front of my van, causing me to slam on my brakes.  I had not expected a cyclist to be racing along the sidewalk and crosswalk.  It was fortunate that the bicycle and my van did not collide.  The teenage cyclist continued racing across the crosswalk and along the sidewalk on the other side of the intersection, apparently oblivious to the near-miss.  One of these days he will not be so lucky.

Does a car driver need to yield to a cyclist in a crosswalk the same as a pedestrian? Reading the motor vehicle act it would appear not so.

Yet I see drivers doing it all the time, creating big backlogs at places like Westbound on Mackenzie making a right turn onto the TCH at rush hour, exacerbating the long line of cars turning right, yielding to cyclists on the galloping goose who are often having to stop and wait immediately after the crosswalk on the traffic island before they cross Mackenzie.


You are correct, you are not obligated to yield to a cyclist in a crosswalk. You are, however, obligated to not collide with them.

In reply to by DriveSmartBC

... is to get off their bike and walk it.

That way Voila! they have turned themselves almost magically into pedestrians.

I grew up on a farm in Alberta back in the 1950’s and we were always taught that when on a road without sidewalks to walk so that we were facing the oncoming traffic.  The same advice was given with regard to riding a bicycle where there were no specific bicycle lanes.  The reason for this is that cars go much faster than a pedestrian and a cyclist and  by facing the oncoming traffic you could see what danger exists and take whatever steps are needed to avoid it.  If travelling in the same direction as the vehicles one may not notice the driver coming down the shoulder towards you and thus one could get hit from behind.  Such a thing recently happened here on the Comox Dyke road when a young lady was hit and thrown into a ditch where her calls for help were eventually heard by a young man across the water from where she lay. Had she been walking on the opposite side of the road, facing the traffic she would have seen any car coming towards her and potentially been able to avoid it.

Why are we not counselling pedestrians and cyclists to travel in a direction where they face toward potential dangers rather than travelling blind.  If a cyclist happens to approach a pedestrian travelling in the same direction the cyclists bell can warn the pedestrian if sounded early enough so that the pedestrian can take appropriate action and the cyclists can slow down and pass with safety.

I have for a long time wondered about this and would appreciate your opinion.

1) It is not safer to ride against the flow of traffic because drivers do not expect you to be there and may not look or may look and not see you there. Ditto with riding on the sidewalk.

2) I agree, it is safer to walk facing traffic when there is no sidewalk.

I too am sorry but I do not understand how the links in your blog answer my concerns.  The first link regarding Human Error in Road Accidents cites numerous reasons for the examples they cover but it does not address the issue of traveling towards a dangerous item being of greater risk than travelling in the same direction as that item and not being aware of its reducing proximity to the person at risk.

The second link relating to Safety Evidence for cycling contains the following but there is no evidence to this highlighted statement.  I dispute its validity and consider it to be false given that I KNOW that it is safer to look towards a threat than to walk away from it.  It is just common sense that if travelling along a road one sees a vehicle coming towards you, then one will get out of the way.  If you are facing away then one would not be aware that a vehicle is bearing down on oneself.

Cycling in the direction opposite to motor vehicle traffic

Riding in the direction opposite to motor vehicle traffic increases crash risk & injury severity – both at intersections & between intersections.

BC law

• Cyclists are required to travel on the same side of the street & in thesame direction as motor vehicles (except where indicated, e.g., on 2-way separated bike lanes)

The third link in your blog seems to refer to a web page that has been deleted or perhaps moved as I could not locate it.

I can understand that in urban areas where there are sidewalks and bike lanes it would make sense for all the bicycles to travel on the right hand side of the road, but when one gets outside of such an area into a region where there is less pedestrian and bicycle traffic, I firmly believe that pedestrians and cyclists are safer if they face towards oncoming traffic so that they will see what might hit them.