What are the rights and obligations of cyclists and motorists if the cyclist should choose to ride on the highway under snowy winter conditions? Uncleared pathways and cycling routes were forcing cyclists to choose to ride on the plowed streets of one Vancouver Island municipality resulting in a number of inquiries at city hall. Should cyclists be using the streets in winter time?
The legal answer to that question is yes, cyclists have every right to ride on the streets at any time of the year. In fact, they have the same rights and duties as the driver of any other vehicle on our highways. They must ride as closely as practical to the right side of the highway, which in winter may mean riding in the right side cleared track left by vehicle traffic. Expect to find cyclists using left turn lanes and crossing between them and the right side as well.
What happens when a vehicle driver overtakes a cyclist in these circumstances? The answer should be obvious, treat the cycle as you would any other motor vehicle. Follow at a safe distance, pass when permitted and leave a generous safety margin as you go by.
My major concern is that motorists will not grant the privileges that the cyclist is entitled to. Cycling in winter conditions is challenging enough without needing to contend with selfish drivers. Even though you have the right to cycle in winter conditions, discretion may dictate using another mode of transportation to preserve life and limb.