The HIGHWAY TRAFFIC ACT
Cyclists Must Obey the Rules of the Road Too
by Avery Burdett
Under the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) of Ontario, the definition of
a vehicle includes a bicycle. A driver of a bicycle has the same
rights and responsibilities as a motorist. Like motorists, a
cyclist must follow the rules of the road as specified in the HTA.
The HTA is consistent with John Forester's (*) belief that cyclists
fare better when they operate on the road in a vehicular manner.
This is because cyclists are less likely to get into conflict with
motor vehicles when their intentions are predictable and their
movements are substantially the same as other vehicles.
Unfortunately, far too many cyclists in Canada do not operate their
bicycles as a vehicle but rather behave as though they have neither
rights nor responsibilities on the road. This phenomenon can be
traced to both misinterpretation and lack of understanding of the
law as it affects cyclists. In this series of articles, I shall
discuss some of the common mistakes made by cyclists in relation to
Ontario's traffic laws and the risks they create. The first two are
improper lane positioning at intersections, and riding in
crosswalks from bike paths (strictly speaking these are not bike
paths but rather recreation paths for use by different types of
Improper Lane Choice
Section 154 (1)(c) requires drivers to move in the direction
designated for the lane they are in. This includes cyclists.
Despite this, it is common at any multi-lane intersection to
observe cyclists riding straight through from the "right turn only"
lane, usually from the right hand side of the painted line
separating the through and turn lane. A cyclist who practises this
typically does it out of fear of being hit from behind by a
motorized vehicle moving through the intersection. In reality,
there is more to fear from being in the "right turn only" lane. The
cyclist not only impedes right turning vehicles, but also risks
being struck by vehicles crossing his path because vehicle drivers
will assume that he is going to turn right from the turn lane.
Should a collision occur, it is likely that the cyclist will be
Riding in Crosswalks from Bike Paths
Section 144 (29) forbids riding in crosswalks. The law makes no
destinction between crosswalks at bike path/roadway intersections
and crosswalks at regular intersections. Therefore cyclists using
bike paths should be dismounting at intersections and walking their
bicycles in the crosswalk. Few do.
When a bike path intersects at the intersection of roadways, navigation
for cyclists becomes more complex. Not only is there the normal
traffic flow on the road, but there is the two-way bike path
traffic heading in any one of three directions to contend with.
Intersections are where the largest number of car/bike collisions
occur. The addition of a bike path at an intersection explains why
more car/bike collisions occur on bike paths than on the adjacent
(*) John Forester is author of Effective Cycling and North
America's leading bicycle transportation engineer.
Originally published in the Spokesperson, the newsletter of the Ottawa Bicycle Club March 1997.