Cyclists Passing on the Right

CyclistSomething must have struck a nerve lately as I have received a number of requests to deal with cyclists passing other traffic on the right hand side. One near miss on a right turn even had the cyclist shaking their fist and cursing the driver. No doubt cyclists have their issues with the behaviour of motor vehicle drivers but passing on the right is something cyclists do when in most cases they should not.

In British Columbia, cyclists have the same rights and duties as the driver of a motor vehicle. That means they must obey the same traffic rules and must be treated as if they were another car or truck on the highway. It also means that cyclists may receive a traffic ticket for traffic rule violations as well.

Our traffic rules generally forbid passing on the right. It may only be done if there is an available lane on the right, when a one way street is of sufficient width or when overtaking a vehicle signaling a left turn. However, one must do so safely and must not travel off the roadway. Roadway means the portion of the highway that is improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular traffic, but does not include the shoulder.

On highways that have a paved shoulder separated from the roadway by a solid white line, the cyclist must ride on it if it is practicable to do so. The courts have confirmed that cyclists may not legally pass by motor vehicle traffic on the right when riding here.

That said, make sure that you know the difference between the shoulder of the road and a cycle lane. If the cyclist is using a cycle lane to the driver's right, they are allowed to pass on the right.

Reference Links:


Right hook

One of the most important tips taught in any cycling safety course is avoiding the "right hook". While some of these are caused by motor vehicles overtaking a bike then immediately turning right in front of a bike, these and other incidents are best prevented by taking the full lane when riding through an intersection instead of passing on the right or riding on the far right

Submitted by E-mail

The cycling issue has been grief for me forever. I dont understand why cyclists are not licensed and insured, yet are allowed to ride "free-range" anywhere they like. As a road star driver with 26 years of driving experience, I am still frustrated with the constant  barrage of cyclist rights with no enforcement. Passing on the right, riding on pedestrian sidewalks, blowing lights through crosswalks, no safety gear, aggressive rude behavior, and on and on. Just another threat on the roadway for motorists. All this combined, add the fact that most cyclists cannot keep up with the flow of traffic which is usually at least twice as fast. They become dangerous obstacles like a dog wandering aimlessly on the highway. Eventually the dog gets run over or removed from the roadway by someone who has common sense and realizes it doesn't belong there! When will we see LICENSING, INSURANCE, and REAL LAW ENFORCEMENT????????

License, Insurance, Enforcement

The municipality is allowed to require licensing for bicycles, otherwise it would fall into ICBC's jurisdiction, but you would still need the appropriate law to be created by the politicians. At this point, no one in power sees the issue as worth consideration it would seem.

As for enforcement, that is an issue you will have to take up with your local police force. If you don't make an appointment to discuss it with the head of traffic enforcement, you could certainly write to them and ask why it is that you don't see regular enforcement.

Submitted by E-mail

A questions regarding 'cyclists passing on the right' from the perspective of the cyclist.  When biking down a 2-way street with designated bike lanes on each side, is it considered passing on the right (ergo illegal) to bike in your bike lane past cars that are stopped.  Most common example would be vehicles that are stopped at a red light and lined up some distance, while I continue inimpeded down my bike lane until reaching the red light, or biking past some of them before they start moving for a green light.  I had always considered this to be ok, but just wanted to clarify if I could.

Cycle Lanes

"Lane" is the magic word here. If the cyclist is riding in a designated bicycle lane, then there is a lane to the right of the vehicles that is available and the cylist may use it to pass. Obviously, exercise caution at intersections because it is very likely that drivers will not be looking for the cyclist prior to turning right.

Submitted by E-mail

I was recently involved in an accident when pulling into my driveway. I turned right into my driveway and the side of my vehicle was struck by a cyclist who was riding off road and passing behind parked cars as I approached. According to ICBC, I am 100% at fault and I now have a claim being filed against me. I showed the ICBC adjuster the article and I was basically told that cyclists can ride wherever they please and those rules do not apply to them, even though my vehicle was completely stopped when HE hit ME. I used a signal well in advance, did my shoulder check and did not drive unsafe or do anything illegal. None of these facts seem to matter. There is no fault what so ever being placed on this cyclist even though he was riding offroad where he cannot be seen.

Obviously I have an issue with this and I just wonder what your thoughts are. I think that it is wrong that ICBC can dispute an article written by a retired RCMP constable. Maybe I am wrong on this, but I was wondering if you had any comments on this incident.

Assessing Fault for a Collision

ICBC follows case law decided by the civil courts in BC when they assess responsibility for a collision. The Motor Vehicle Act or other applicable rules do play a part in forming that case law, but they are not the only consideration that the court uses to reach a decision.

I'm flattered to think that I would know more than ICBC, but that isn't the case. I only do my best to try and explain the traffic rules and don't have any real experience with the civil law I have just spoken of. Unfortunately, the only advice that I can give is that you may wish to take advantage of Lawyer Referral, a service of the Canadian Bar Association. You can get 30 minutes of legal advice from a lawyer who regularly practices in the area of law you need advice on for $25.00 plus taxes. This would give you a better idea of whether ICBC is dealing with you properly or not.

There are avenues of review for an adjuster's decision as well, Claims Assessment Review involves an external, impartial reviewer.

Cyclists passing on the right

I often see reference to the fact that it is illegal for cyclists to pass on the right.  However, I never see reference to motorists illegally passing cyclists.  When I am riding in a relatively wide (4m) curb lane, it is possible for motor vehicles to pass me in the lane, but there is no mention of this type of passing in the MVA except that passing must be done at a safe distanace though this rarely happens.  If lane is narrow (3m), then it is not possible for a motor vehicle and a bicycle to both occupy the lane at the same time. In this case the motor vehicle must pass in the adjacent lane and must first ascertain that this is safe and must signal intention to change lanes.  This also rarely happens and more often than not the motor vehicle passes at an unsafe distance without signalling intention to change lanes.  I encourager motor vehicle operators to pass cyclists at a safe distance (minimum 1m).

Law, and enforcement ... and judgment outcomes?

The recent fatal crash involving a cyclist using a dedicated Cycle Lane on West Esplanade in North Vancouver gave me pause for thought.

This may be a good time to consider MVA Section 203.

When opening door prohibited

203   (1)A person must not open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so.

(2)A person must not leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for longer than is necessary to load or unload passengers.

In a separate item on this site, ICBC statistics revealed that in 2016 (most recent info available) a scant 15 drivers were ticketed, out of a cast of thousands. It's my guess that these few tickets were only issued after the fact of a collision with another wheeled vehicle, caused by the illegal and dangerous behaviour of the driver of the parked vehicle.

So my question for our site host, who is just a whizz-bang guy at finding potentially precedent-setting judicial decisions and judgments, is this: has there been any action/determination by the courts in BC, in reference to Section 203? Also, do you think my guess is correct, inasmuch as the police don't seem very concerned with this issue compared to all the other tickets they hand out.

Case law on cycle passing on the right

The Bike Sense manual that educates cyclists in how to ride safely on page 19 makes the claim that case law is allowing cyclists to pass on the right even without a separate lane. Any thoughts on which cases the document is referencing? Is passing on the right in a single lane by cyclists really legal now?

Passing on the Right

Passing on the right under certain circumstances by both drivers and cyclists is allowed.

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