Q&A - Is Kelowna Re-Writing Road Law?

Q&A ImageHere is a link to the story called "Behind the Bike Box." My first reaction to this story is one of disgust, Is the City of Kelowna following BC road law in instituting this bike lane feature? Is the City of Kelowna trying to single-handedly redefine the Higways act? Does it not fly in the face of existing BC road law?

My personal comments would be along the lines of bike riders have a tendency to not follow the letter of road law as it already exists now. Now they are being given special treatment and priviledge that will only infuriate car drivers and raise road use frustrations because bikes are being given special priviledges and car drivers are loosing them (i.e. no right turn on red or having bike pass them along the curb on the right, then move in front of the vehicle and delay vehicles leaving the intersection on a green.) You can bet that some bike activists are going to take this to an extreme deliberately causing difficulties and road rage incisdents. According to this story a bike turning left at this special intersection could effectively bring all traffic in the same direction to an absolute standstill, possibly for at least a whole light cycle or possibly several if they were being stupid or unsure.

I read the article linked in the post and have only one issue with it and that is likely because the Motor Vehicle Act is outdated and needs to be amended to keep up with today's design practices.

Motorists are advised that they "...must stop behind the green bike box on red lights." Section 129 of the Motor Vehicle Act governs where to stop at an intersection with a red traffic signal:

Red light

129  (1) Subject to subsection (2), when a red light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal, the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection and facing the red light must cause it to stop before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, before entering the intersection, and subject to the provisions of subsection (3), must not cause the vehicle to proceed until a traffic control signal instructs the driver that he or she is permitted to do so.

In the case referred to, there is a marked stop line and a marked crosswalk. The stop line is important when you are facing a stop sign, but not a red light. So, the MVA does not require a driver to stop as indicated in the article.

I also read Kelowna's Traffic Bylaw No. 8120. There is no mention of this situation in the bylaw, nor did I expect to find it as the MVA specifies that:

Municipal powers

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

This is worth looking at though, as we are going to see more of it as measures to prompt drivers to make room for cyclists expand. The bike box is there for the cyclist to move into when they have the right of way to do so, wait for the green light and make the left turn. The green is to remind motorists to share with cyclists as the MVA requires that they do so:

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.

In this case it would mean that they are supposed to be occupying the left side of the lane before they turn left. This puts them in a very vulnerable position as drivers tend not to treat them as if the bicycle is another vehicle in front of them, even though the law requires drivers to do this.

In order to be thorough, I contacted ICBC and asked about this in relation to a driver's test. Would a driver be penalized for not stopping at this stop line if the bike box was unoccupied. A driver is not penalized when they follow the law is the answer I received.

So, in summary, if a cyclist wishes to turn left here, they may move into the bike box if they have the right of way and it is not already occupied by a vehicle. Vehicles  approaching from behind should wait patiently behind the bike box and then follow the cyclist though the intersection. Once the cyclist takes up the proper position on the right side after finishing the turn, the driver may pass if it is safe and proper to do so.


In reply to by DriveSmartBC

I messed up and deleted bradvr's follow up to my answer above. He asked about the City of Kelowna prohibiting right hand turns at this intersection. It is within 800 m of an arterial highway and his research indicates that permission from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure would be required to do this.

Lets look at powers conferred to the municipality by the Motor Vehicle Act:

Additional municipal powers

124.2  (1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3), the council of a municipality has the same powers to make bylaws or resolutions with respect to highways, other than arterial highways, in the municipality and their use by persons, organizations, vehicles or cycles or classes of persons, organizations, vehicles or cycles as the minister has to make regulations under section 209.1.

(2) A bylaw or resolution may be adopted under subsection (1) only if it is approved in writing by the minister responsible for the Transportation Act, or a person designated in writing by that minister

(a) if the highway, part of the highway or lane of the highway, or

(b) if the designated use highway or designated use lane

in respect of which the bylaw or resolution is to apply, is within 800 metres of an arterial highway or a provincial public highway, as those terms are defined in the Transportation Act.

(3) A municipality must not by bylaw or resolution under subsection (1), without the written approval of the minister responsible for the Transportation Act, take, authorize or permit any action in respect of a highway, part of a highway, lane, designated use highway or designated use lane, that would reduce the capacity of all or any part of an arterial highway or a provincial public highway, within the meaning of the Transportation Act, to move people or freight.

(4) For the purpose of subsection (3), an action would reduce the capacity of all or any part of an arterial highway or a provincial public highway to move people or freight if the action would alter traffic control conditions and traffic movement on a highway in such a way that fewer persons or less freight would be able to move on the highway in a given time period than were able to move on the highway in a comparable time period before the taking of the action.

Municipal powers

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

(a) the placing or erection of traffic control devices to give effect to this Act or a bylaw adopted under this section;

So, as long as the city has the permission of the MOTI, the no right turn on red sign has been posted legally and must be obeyed.

How do you know that the MOTI has consented? Probably the best place to ask would be through their Okanagan Shuswap District Office in Kelowna. These changes may also be published in Part 1 of the British Columbia Gazette which appears to require a subscription purchase to access on line. It may be worth inquiring at your local library if you are interested as these things are often available free of charge in public libraries.

Drivers also have a "tendency not to follow the letter of road law" - but with deadlier consequences. A City of Vancouver report recently found that drivers were at fault in 93% of car/bike collisions. While two wrongs don't make a right, it's important to keep things in perspective.

It's worth remembering that streets are for everyone - you own a car, not the road. Bicyclists have the right to safe passage. So, providing them with safe facilties is not "special treatment" or "privilege" - unlike driving a car, which actually is a privilege and not a right. Regarding the increase in road rage "caused" by bicyclists - how people deal with adversity is an individual responsibility and any sort of violence against any road user, under any circumstances, is inexcusable and unacceptable.

Finally, that first bike box in Kelowna three years ago was the beginning of what's become an amazing example of civic reimagining. Kelowna's commitment to better bike and pedestrian facilities acknowledge that, after a full century of myopic car-centric development, it's time the design of our roads provide a wider variety of safe options for all travelers.