Using HOV Lanes
Vehicles containing more people than just the driver are a relative rarity on our highways. Some estimates place them at less than 10% of the total number of vehicles on the highway! In order to encourage the efficient movement of more people, High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes were created. There is an added benefit, filling up the vehicle means a "greener" journey as well.
HOV Lane Designation
Don't confuse HOV and Bus lane signs. The sign on the left above is an example of an HOV lane sign while the sign to the right of it identifies a bus lane. HOVs do not qualify to use bus lanes.
Which Vehicles Do Qualify for HOV Lane Use?
In order to use an HOV lane, you must qualify as a high occupancy vehicle, which in BC is defined as a bus or any other type of vehicle under 5,500 kg GVW carrying the required number of persons as indicated by the sign controlling the HOV lane. If you and your vehicle fit the definition, you may find yourself travelling at speed in the HOV lane while others that do not qualify must crawl along in the other lanes.
Motorcycles are exempted from having to qualify according to the sign and may use HOV lanes unless specifically prohibited by posted signs.
Electric vehicles that display an exemption decal are able to use HOV lanes as well, even if there is only one occupant.
Other exemptions include emergency vehicles, tow trucks responding to a breakdown or emergency, taxis (but not ride hailing vehicles) and cyclists.
Which Side of the Road?
In municipalities HOV lanes are on the right hand side of the street. On freeways they are on the left hand side.
Entering and Exiting HOV Lanes
You must enter and leave HOV lanes only when the line between lanes is a broken line. The solid line confines you to the lane otherwise.
There are exemptions for making turns to the right for non-HOV vehicles when the HOV lane is not part of a freeway. You may turn right into the HOV lane from a business premise or an intersection to access the highway containing the HOV lane. You may also occupy the HOV lane in order to turn right at the first intersection where the turn is permitted.
You may also find signs directing you to make a wide right turn to avoid entering designated curb lanes.