Painted Lines, Arrows and Symbols

Laned RoadwayOur government spends about $11.3 million each year to paint the markings on our highways. These painted lines and symbols guide us by setting our lateral position in the roadway, telling us when we can and cannot change that position and may also prohibit driving in some lanes by marking use criteria.

These markings are known as traffic control devices and their indications must be obeyed.

Yellow lines separate traffic traveling in opposite directions.

yellow highway line examples

Both a single broken yellow line and a single solid yellow line permit a driver to pass an overtaken vehicle if the pass can be made in safety.

The combination of a solid yellow line and a broken yellow line means that you may pass if the broken yellow line is on your side and it is safe to pass.

A double solid yellow line requires a driver to stay to the right of it at all times. The only exemption to this is when you are entering or leaving the highway and you do not unreasonably affect other traffic.

A reversible lane is marked with a double broken yellow line at each side. The direction of traffic using these lanes is controlled by traffic signals.

The two way left turn lanes have a combination yellow solid and yellow broken line at each side.

White lines separate traffic traveling in the same direction. They also define stopping positions, crosswalks and the shoulders of the highway.

white highway line examples

A single solid white line forbids changing from one lane to the other.

A single broken white line allows a driver to change lanes if it is safe to do so.

Drivers must stop before the front of their vehicle crosses the white stop line.

Crosswalks may be marked by a series of solid white lines parallel to the sides of the road or by two solid white lines perpendicular to the sides of the road.

other highway marking examples

The white diamond and cyclist symbols indicate that the lane is a designated use lane. You may only drive in a lane marked with a diamond if you meet the requirements indicated by signs posted with the lane. Bicycle lanes are for cyclists only and they must ride in the same direction as the adjacent lane.

White arrows show what traffic using that lane must do. An example would be a single arrow that points left. Traffic in that lane must turn left.

The last stop in our tour is the painted yellow traffic island. You must keep to the right and not drive on or over them.

Generally speaking, when you read the Motor Vehicle Act & Regulations pursuant thereto, there's an obvious logic in the way that things are written, including the caveats and exceptions. 

A double solid yellow line requires a driver to stay to the right of it at all times. The only exemption to this is when you are entering or leaving the highway and you do not unreasonably affect other traffic.

But not here, apparently.

Let's suppose that you're driving along a rural highway, one lane each way and no shoulder. Following the contour of the land, there are frequent curves and limited vision even between the straight sections, so there's a double solid yellow line. Only makes sense.

Scenario: the driver ahead runs out of gas (or at least his car does) so he inevitably stops in front of you. After a moment, he gets out, opens the trunk, hauls out his empty gas can, and walks away up the road toward the nearest gas station, 10 kilometers away.

There are no nearby driveways to turn into, in order to get away from this situation by heading back the other way. But the section ahead is straight for several hundred metres, with a clear unobstructed view.

So your only option - unless you're happy to sit there with traffic inevitably stacking up behind you, while your view around the stalled vehicle is adequate to pass, cautiously - is to make a Reverse Turn (unless there's a bylaw prohibiting). Which seems kinda stupid, really.

On Gabriola most of our paved roads are one lane in each direction with narrow shoulders. Some have a white edging which helps considerably at night. Many of those same roads have a yellow center line, either solid or broken.

Two years ago the local maintenance contractor announced they ran out of money for painting white or yellow so were not going to complete the job that year!

I attended the end of season meeting with provincial rep along with a rep from the contractor and at least had an opportunity to express my personal frustration of the situation as being unacceptable.

Last year we got new maintenance contractor and the first thing they did was paint all paved roads appropriately.

Bike lanes came into being well after all the testing I've ever had as a driver and I'm fortunate we have no bike lanes on Gabriola although we do gave a lot of bikes.

When I drive in one of the "big" cities I often feel uncomfortable around roads with bike lanes because I don't know when or if I can ride in them, particularly at intersections.

I'm sure with all the information at our fingertips there must be a primer of basic do's and dont's related to cars and bike lanes.

Another new rule is hand held devices and the driver. I know changes were recently made and similar to bike lane info is there a basic rule of thumb I can find as a driver?