Rights and Duties of Cycle Operators

Cyclist"Are there rules for riding bicycles?" a reader asks after narrowly missing a collision with a bicyclist. "They seem to ride wherever they feel like it. How is a driver supposed to know what bicycle riders are going to do?"

The most significant concept in the Motor Vehicle Act is that the rider of a bicycle is just like the driver of a car:

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.

Share the Road

There are some limitations, such as the cyclist must ride as nearly as practical to the right hand side of the highway, but is not expected to ride off of the pavement. In other words, motor vehicles and bicycles must share the road with each other.

The right is also to have the driver of a motor vehicle treat the cyclist in the same manner as they are required treat the driver of another motor vehicle.

Follow the Traffic Rules

The duties that the cyclist has include the rules of the road that drivers are subject to. They must obey speed limits, stop at stop signs, ride on the correct side of the highway and give arm signals so that other traffic knows what the rider intends to do.

Specific Duties

A number of specific duties are required of cyclists. Most are common sense, such as keeping at least one hand on the handlebars, being seated properly on the seat, carrying only the number of passengers that the bicycle is designed for and having proper lights and reflectors when riding at night.

Riding Single File

Many people have the mistaken belief that cyclists must always ride in single file. This rule only applies if one or both riders are cycling on the roadway. If there is room on the shoulder for both, cyclists may ride side by side.

Sidewalks and Crosswalks

Sidewalks and crosswalks must not be used by cyclists unless permitted by a by-law or directed to do so by a sign.

Bicycle Lanes

The Motor Vehicle Act does not specifically take into account new active transportation infrastructure such as cycle lanes, bike boxes and the like. In fact, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure advised that they will not create these facilities on the highways that they are responsible for. Instead, these facilities are created by municipalities and regulated through bylaws.

So, unless a bylaw has been enacted to require it, cyclists do not have to use a cycle lane instead of the roadway when a cycle lane is present.

Note that 183 says "vehicle" not "motor vehicle", maybe this has been changed since 2004.

"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."

 

Update: I assumed that drivers or cyclists had to contact police if the damage threshold was exceed, I was wrong; see https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/collisions/i-have-report-collision-dont-i

"Under the new rules, police will be free to clear collision scenes where there are no injuries and the damage does not exceed $10,000 before filing a written report. The law will apply to all vehicle types. Under the previous law, officers had to complete a written report on any collision where damage exceeded $1,000 before any vehicles could be removed from the road. For motorcycles the threshold was $600 and for bicycles it was $100." per https://vancouverisland.ctvnews.ca/province-says-new-reporting-protocols-will-clear-collision-scenes-faster-1.4328445   

The concept of two-tonne high speed vehicles sharing space with “vehicles” that mass 200kg at best, is an extraordinary departure from common sense.  Given how our roadways operate at present, to put bicycles in a position of competing for equal space with semi trucks is nearly criminally negligent.  Bicyclists are entitled to go about their business without fear of collisions.  I think that is nearly impossible to accomplish without structural changes to our roadways, traffic flow, traffic laws and at the very least massive cuts to speed limits.

This requires a change in public policy.  For years, I have heard people say something along the lines of, if they can have mostly bicycles in city/country X, we should be able to do that here.  Well the empirical evidence shows that it isn’t happening, and is not very likely to happen without policy changes.  So, all a political candidate need do is state that all urban speed limits will be reduced to the average speed cyclists travel, that cyclists will have the right-of-way, and any collision between a cyclist and a vehicle operator will result in criminal charges.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Obviously, if road users were 'competing' with each other, the heaviest/fastest would win, but the carnage would be unacceptable!

Bicyclists are entitled to go about their business without fear of collisions.

But surely all road users should be able to go about their business without fear of collisions? Pedestrians, most particularly! I recently noticed that at the newly created roundabout near Qualicum Beach (where the Island Highway/19A is intersected by Memorial/Hwy 4), the traffic engineers have added specific Yield signs specifying that Cyclists are required to yield right-of-way to Pedestrians using the crosswalks that precede that roundabout. Isn't it interesting, that while all motorists are presumed to know how to deal with pedestrians at marked crosswalks, the traffic engineers felt compelled to spell it out for all those (select your own adjective) cyclists approaching this situation? It maybe says something about cyclists and their average mentality,  do you think?

For years, I have heard people say something along the lines of, if they can have mostly bicycles in city/country X, we should be able to do that here.  Well the empirical evidence shows that it isn’t happening, and is not very likely to happen without policy changes.

The thing about city/country X, is that they will typically have an established system in place that both separates cyclists and other traffic, and a mindset to match (ie following the rules, and giving right of way whenever needed). Could be Amsterdam, Beijing, or Copenhagen. Whereas, here in Canada (in common with countries like Australia, the UK, or the US - and lots of other countries with long-established road networks) the accommodation of cyclists has been retro-engineered into the existing structure.

In London, England the cycle lanes (which are on the left of course) are often protected by a 4" hard curb, in order to prevent the bus and lorry drivers from cutting the corner and squishing them, as an interesting example.

This is the whole engineering challenge - and most of the responsibility for dealing with it seems to fall on the motorists, even though the cyclists are the most vulnerable. Which almost defies common sense ... although many cynics might consider that a prequisite for cyclists, perhaps.

In West Vancouver, there are only two arterial routes going east/west. One is Marine Drive, a very scenic but narrow, twisty road with many changes in elevation and blind curves. I wouldn't ride a bicycle along there if you paid me! Yet many cyclists choose to, and have done so for years; no doubt, some of them actually live in that area, but many others simply choose to ride along it just for their own enjoyment. The other is Highway 1, a 90 km/h multi-lane high speed high volume route with excellent sightlines that typifies the other extreme. So the traffic engineers have actually specified the shoulders of that highway as a bicycle route (with all the warning signs prior to the exits/entrances) in order to try and motivate cyclists to stay off the low road, for the safety and efficiency of all road users.

So, all a political candidate need do is state that all urban speed limits will be reduced to the average speed cyclists travel, that cyclists will have the right-of-way, and any collision between a cyclist and a vehicle operator will result in criminal charges.

Good luck with that! The fact is - from what I have seen over the last 50+ years behind the wheel (and sometimes behind the handlebars) - the police don't give a damn. Or maybe it's their political masters, of course. But evidently, they don't care about pedestrians who break the law, and neither do they care about cyclists who break the law. And apparently, we now live in a culture where this is OK.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

For too many years the focus has been on giving motorized vehicles primacy on the roads with little thought to anything else. And you can see that attitude reflected in people saying that bikes shouldn't be on the roads or they should pay for their own space.

Any political player who gets up and says that the era of car supremacy will get laughed off by the majority sadly. We've become convinced that to have a good quality of life requires a car, even if the small number of people who have gone carless are typically happier and more organized.

"People" should be able to go about their business without the fear of collisions, no matter the mode of travel. Though only people in cars have government mandated safety features to keep them safe, the rest are expected to take personal responsibility, and when someone suggests we should make changes to roadway design so that when people in cars make mistakes it doesn't result in a vulnerable road user dying everyone screams that it's not intuitive (false) or way too expensive (how costly is injury and death?)

The population has to change their attitude, politcal will is chickensh**

I too have experienced cyclists making manoeuvres contrary to the regulations. What we do not hear is drivers of motor vehicles getting hurt because of this. Perhaps there is an example or two, but the usual story when someone is hurt or killed … it is the cyclist. This speaks to a greater level of consideration and care falling to the operator of the motor vehicle, if not for the cyclist, then for ourselves, so we do not need to carry the burden of someones death by our actions.

I find it odd that we do not have any licensing for cyclists within the cities. My take on that is that the financial costs of mistakes is relatively small and the number of dead is usually limited to one. Cyclists lives are not valued highly, although motorcars losing lanes might argue otherwise. I think that mandatory training, to learn the rules of the road and some of the bike specific safety considerations, would go a long way to improve cyclist behaviours. I also think that there should be a piece for drivers, to help them to understand the gravity of the situation.

Yes, when a person on a bicycle makes a mistake they get killed, and when a person in a car makes a mistake someone else dies.

That speaks to responsibility of the operator, yet people in cars still distract themselves or make other choices. How's that training program working?

Sorry, don't mean to be glib but all road users need to know what to expect of others and we're missing that. In our society everyone drives a car and that seems to be what everyone asprires to do from a young age. Our attitude is that until then you ride a bike, but who teaches you? Not mommy or daddy who are busy driving their car all over the place. Once you get your license, well, time to put the bike away.

We need to take the bike seriously as a mode of transportation, the first step is creating more separated safe infrastructure to keep modes apart as much as possible. When we can start enabling more safe cycling possible and the numbers are up there then we can start getting the kids on bikes with their parents and include the education into the primary schools.

Most people on bikes are drivers also, or have their license to show they passed their training to learn the rules of the road. But bicycles are not cars and people make choices based on their mode, both in cars and on bicycles.

And when a person on a bike does something outside the normal expected pattern your brain notices it, otherwise the bicycle fades into the background. For many people this creates a larger than actual group of "bad cyclists". Studies have shown that people on bikes break the law at about the same rate as people in cars.

1. If cyclists are required to over the rules of the road and have the same rights as vehicles, why are we not enforcing a driver's license program on cyclists before first allowing them to share the roadways?

2. Why are cyclists allowed to ride side by side? With 1 vehicle and 1 cyclists side by side there is already just enough room in a lane for the faster vehicle to pass by, when there are 2 cyclists, the vehicle is then having to move into the opposite lane to pass, creating an unsafe situation for all involved.

3. I often see cyclists riding backwards in traffic on the opposite side of the lane. If a vehicle is to make a turn, this creates a dangerous situation where the cyclists is not following the flow of traffic and can easily cause accidents due to the fact it's not always easy to see a cyclist coming down the side of the roadway in the wrong direction when riding on the side of the road, especially at corners with bad visibility to to snowbanks, hedges, other parked cars. This goes back to my first point, why do they not have to pass a driver's (or perhaps cyclist) licensing program the same as other drivers?

4. What about the new electric bikes and scooters? They can arguable keep up with traffic speeds but also don't require a driver's licensing program to operate. How are we all to be expect that each person on the road knows the rules and therefore shares the same rights? From my observations, if a vehicle strikes a cyclist, the driver of the vehicle are almost always at fault. How is this fair in situations mentioned above with 2 side by side cyclists and a vehicle hugging the yellow line but clips one? Or when one is riding down the wrong direction?

Perhaps it's time to require cyclists to be licensed, especially now that more people are using bikes with the advent of the electric bikes, scooters, those insane 1 wheels (how are those even legal??) and other gadgets...

1. The majority of people riding bicycles out there are already licensed to drive a vehicle. 

2. It's actually best if people in cars treat people on bicycles as if they were also 2m wide, passing with plenty of room just like they would other vehicles on the road. Ever had 3000lbs of metal whiz by you 30kph faster within arms-length? Passing a person on a bicycle requires the same judgement as passing a person in a car, make sure it's safe for everyone on the road. They are not allowed to ride side-by-side in the road, though they are allowed to be side-by-side if one of them is on the shoulder of the road. 

3. There are people who think if they can see the danger ahead they are safer, it's not true, but some people believe it. Also, there are plenty of road users, both in cars and on bikes, that don't seem to think about all the consequences their decision could have. Collisions occur when someone gets surprised, no one wants to be that surprise.

4. E-bikes and e-scooters are limited to 32kph by law, anything above that is considered a motor vehicle and requires insurance and a license.

And for your scenario of a car clipping a cyclist while hugging the yellow line, any officer will tell you that the person in the car was at fault, they didn't pass safely. Treat bicycles like any other vehicle on the road, if you're going to pass, move into the other lane just as you would for any slower moving vehicle. 

I teach people when they should take the lane, which is anytime that it is too narrow for a car to pass and allow for a 1.5m between the bike and car without the bicycle being squished up against the edge of the roadway. This can be a construction zone, a narrow residential street, or even when getting ready to make a left turn. 

No, licensing would be another barrier that would trap people in cars, it's not worth the effort. And looking at how well the driver's license program is at keeping people from making mistakes in a car you can see that it's not the tool you might think it is.

 

Let's consider the premise of this thread.

Are there rules for riding bicycles?" a reader asks after narrowly missing a collision with a bicyclist. "They seem to ride wherever they feel like it. How is a driver supposed to know what bicycle riders are going to do?"

The most significant concept in the Motor Vehicle Act is that the rider of a bicycle is just like the driver of a car:

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.

So the value, or effectiveness, of requiring cyclists to be licensed deserves consideration. Not this:

1. The majority of people riding bicycles out there are already licensed to drive a vehicle. 

I would surmise that this is meer conjecture. Are there statistics that have ascertained the percentage of pedestrians, or cyclists, who happen to also hold a valid driver license?

Meanwhile, we have to consider why many road users think that cyclists should be licensed. So let's look at the whole system - drivers, of anything, are required to be licensed and for the category of vehicle they're operating. (Heck, airplane pilots are have similar requirements.)

As a consequence of both motorists' and pedestrians' subjective observation of the behaviour of many cyclist's on the road - or sidewalk - there is an expectation that cyclists will be required to hold a license at least for their category of vehicle.

Requiring road users to hold a license makes them as responsible for their behaviour as though they were driving a vehicle. And just as ticketable, if they choose to ignore the rules. Obviously, the driver demerit points would be on their driving record, with potential fines etc.

It's worth consideration that bicycles are faster than ever (in some cases more motorized than ever) with better brakes, tires, and handling. 

But in many cases, unfortunately, cyclists show little regard for those other road users, it's as if they're never held responsible, and face no consequences if they ignore the safety of others, the rules of the road, or the actual traffic flow. But then ... 

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I'm not 'anti-cyclist' - far from it! Fact is, 'good cyclists' are like 'good drivers': we never notice them really. They pretty much follow the rules and work with every other road user in a positive way.

But at this point in time, when cyclists world over are being enabled - legally, at least - it's also time for many of them to be held responsible for their behaviour.

Time for a Class 9 license? As automobiles become ever more redundant, then maybe the answer is yes, eh?

Here's one study:

https://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/2009/10/survey_90_percent_of_oregon_bi.html

From this page: https://can.org.nz/cycling-facts

"FICTION: MOTORISTS AND CYCLISTS DON’T GET ON.

FACTS: NOT TRUE. THE TWO GROUPS ARE ALSO NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE.

Most adults who cycle also drive, and a third of motorists also cycle. This means there’s a good level of understanding between the groups with each willing to share the road and treat the other with respect. Road raging drivers and cyclists are the small exception to the rule that get all the attention."

So no, not mere conjecture ... 

Another fun fact, people who ride a bike on a regular basis are better drivers:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/carltonreid/2018/10/09/cyclists-are-better-drivers-than-motorists-finds-study/

If you look at the behaviour of people in cars, who have been licensed, they don't all seem to be operating in a responsible manner  so saying that making a person on a bike get a license doesn't seem like it would have the effect you seem to imply ... 

Cyclists are held to account, they get tickets, they get stopped ... it doesn't take a license for that ... 

Licensing cyclists has been brought up time and again, each time shot down for the fact that it would cost more than it would benefit, no one has figured out how it would apply to kids ... and putting that requirement on cycling would end up with fewer cyclists whereas most realize we need more people on bikes not less ... 

And while drivers and pedestrians might feel that subjective observations validate a reason for calling for licensing cyclists the objective studies conclude that both modes of travel, cars and bikes break the law at the same rate:

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/study-shows-drivers-and-cyclists-break-the-law-at-about-the-same-rate/ar-AAOVYO7

And the reasons for doing things that cyclists do might surprise you:

https://www.cyclingutah.com/advocacy/study-scofflaw-bicycling-illegal-but-rational-why-do-cyclists-break-the-rules/