Q&A - Stopping in the middle of a lane change

Q&A ImageI notice a habit of Vancouver drivers is that when they are turning right, and the right hand lane is used for parking and/or cycling, they will casually pull halfway into the right-hand lane and then stop (either for a red light, or to yield to a crosswalk).

Even the 3rd or 4th car in a lineup waiting to turn right will do this: stopping on the dashed line.

I know it is illegal to stop inside of an intersection. Is there any law, precedent, or authoritative safety recommendation about stopping in the middle of a lane change?

Lane changing is covered in Section 151 (driving in laned traffic) of the MVA. If stopping during the lane change is necessary (such as to avoid colliding with a stopped vehicle or other traffic ahead in that lane) then obviously a driver should do so.

But it's worth noting this bit:

(e) when approaching an intersection intending to turn right must drive the vehicle in the lane nearest to the right hand side of the roadway,

Far too many drivers are lazy/sloppy with their vehicle positioning, and make a minimal effort with their steering in order to get properly into the lane before turning. This all too often, and unnecessarily, blocks traffic in the lane they're leaving from proceeding on its way.

This whole area is better covered by Section 165, which governs turn positioning. Essentially, a driver is required to be adjacent to the edge of the roadway prior to the turn. Probably the worst miscreants are those turning left from a one-way street; they will often jam everything behind them as they wait for the pedestrians to clear, simply because they didn't bother setting up for the turn properly and legally.

I know it is illegal to stop inside of an intersection.

You may think you 'know' this, but actually it ain't so. Take a look at Section 189 (when stopping prohibited), particularly the beginning:

Except when necessary to avoid conflict with traffic or to comply with the law

The fact is, to avoid conflict with pedestrians, drivers frequently have to stop in an intersection; left-turning vehicles also having to avoid conflict with oncoming traffic, of course.

From interest, what has triggered your inquiry? Have you been involved in a collision, or are you just frustrated by the lack of traffic flow downtown perhaps?

The laws do exist to enable/encourage traffic flow. Unfortunately, there's little useful policing going on. This has led to pedestrians continuing to enter the crosswalks long after the 'Don't Walk' signal has turned on (totally illegal, totally screws up everybody else) and drivers making little effort to get out of the way when waiting to complete a turn.


Waiting for traffic to clear or for people to cross a crosswalk before turning is one thing. But blocking an intersection in the middle of rush hour traffic is entirely different and I see that almost every single day. That should noted. The thing is many people see a green light and they think 'safe' and 'legal to go' but they don't think of much else beyond that. Like the fact that the light could change while they are in the intersection or that an emergency vechicle might need to get by.  I once saw someone get hit by a police vechicle because they were blocking the intersection. I've actually had people honk  and yell profanties at me because I refuse to move out into the middle of the intersection. If there is no space in the lane after the intersection, sorry, but I'm not budging. 


Thanks for all this info, and sorry it's taken me this long to get back to you.

Yes, my post was triggered by people driving across two lanes downtown. Specifically, I bike downtown to get to work, and the designated cycling lane on Burrard St always seems to be blocked by people driving in it, even though it is not a turning lane, nor is it a driving lane. It's a common frustration for me.

I know the law, safety, and common practice are often three very separate things when it comes to BC roads and this seems to be another example of that.

Sameji, you bring up an interesting point. To refresh my memory (as a motorist, I generally try to avoid using the two-way streets to get through town), I just got on Giggle Earth to take an overview and street view.

This would be my reading of the situation, but frankly our site host seems to have more depth of knowledge about bike lanes, already published on this site. That southbound bike lane is physically protected by planters in the end blocks of town, but for most of the rest of it it's all separated by dotted white lines, which can be crossed by other vehicles; and it's necessary to allow drivers to park, or buses to get into bus stops, or vehicles to access the hotel entrances, the hospital, and so on. So they couldn't practically use solid white line separators as it's so necessary for vehicles to have access.

Those green bike boxes are meant to be left open for cyclists though, and they do have a few of those along there. I can understand your frustration with this as a cyclist, and I'm sure some motorists could pay a little more attention to the space around them and who's using it before moving across that bike lane. They certainly shouldn't be travelling in it, either.