The One Thing Drivers and Cyclists Need to Know

Photo courtesy of John Luton, Capital Bike and Walk Society, Victoria, BC
Photo courtesy of John Luton, Capital Bike and Walk Society, Victoria, BC

There’s been some confusion over the years as to exactly where bicycles fit on our roads. Do they stay on the shoulder (or bike lane if it’s there)? Do they ride with or against traffic? Are they allowed to ride on the road?

Here’s what you need to know:

People riding a bicycle have the same rights and responsibilities as those driving a motor vehicle 

Since bicycles are generally slower than regular traffic, they are supposed to move as far to the right as practicable, as is the case with all slower-moving vehicles, so other traffic can safely pass.

But that doesn’t mean you’ll always find cyclists at the side of the road. In fact, it can be safer for them at times to take the centre lane. This is especially true when the road is narrow and there are hazards where they would normally ride. While we work to keep our roads safe and clear, cyclists could face any number of potential dangers that could force a cyclist from the side of the road, like pot holes, or branches and debris.

Parked cars can be particularly perilous, and you should expect cyclists to be riding at least a metre away from them to avoid being hit by a door that suddenly swings open (something that’s common enough to have its own name – being “doored“). In fact, as of September 2020, anyone opening the door of a parked car when it is not reasonably safe to do so will face an increased fine of $368.  This new fine is about quadruple the current fine of $81, which is among the lowest in Canada.

The more cyclists are treated like any other vehicle, the easier and safer it becomes for them to share the road with cars and trucks. Here are a few more tips for  you cyclists out there who want to be treated like other vehicles:

  • Be visible. Motor vehicles have lights, and lots of them, so equip your bike with front lights (white) and rear lights (red). It’s not just for visibility – it’s the law. And don’t forget to wear reflective clothing to be sure drivers can see you.
  • Signal. Just like you would as if you were driving a car. And leave some time between signalling and acting to give those around you a chance to know what you’re doing.
  • Ride predictably. Stick to the rules of the road and, as much as possible, ride in a straight line. Weaving in and out of parked cars, for example, can make your movements harder to anticipate and increases the risk of an accident.

If you’d like to learn more about cycling safety, the BikeSense website is a wealth of information, and is well worth a look.

Do you have a tip for making the road a better place for drivers and cyclists? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Page 1 of 19 comments on “The One Thing Drivers and Cyclists Need to Know”

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  1. I don’t have a problem with bicyclists sharing the roads with motor vehicles.
    What I DO have a problem with is that they’re allowed to do so without a license or insurance. Bicycles should have visible plates with valid insurance tags so they can be held accountable for ignoring or breaking the rules of the road, just like drivers of motor vehicles.
    If they want the privilege of using the roads, then shouldn’t they be licensed and insured for everyone’s safety?

    Reply
    • Hello Kerry and thank you for your message.

      At this time, the ministry is not advocating for licensing of bicycles in an effort to promote people of all ages (including children) to use their bikes for transportation.

      We work closely with ICBC and the BC RCMP to educate school age children on the rules of the road, in an effort to ensure that cyclists are aware of their responsibilities in sharing the road with motor vehicles.

      We hope that this information is helpful. Safe travels.

      Reply
  2. Can you confirm if the rail trail shared pathway, in the okanagan, is considered a highway? Or if only a part of it is? Or none of it?

    Reply
  3. I don’t have a problem with better roads for everyone. The only people consulted for safer biking are cyclists, professional long time Drivers should also be on the list! We have a lot of opinions.

    Reply
  4. Are cyclists allowed to cross the highway on a cross WALK? They ride on the goose trail at a fast speed, then do not signal their intention to cross or continue on the trail, expecting cars turning left to know well ahead of them approaching the cross WALK, then, if I turn and they decide to RIDE on the crossWALK make angry gestures. Also, on the goose when I’m walking the dogs, there are often two cyclists oncoming riding abreast, someone dings from behind me, expecting me to hit the ditch so they don’t have to slow down and pass when safe to do so?., then ride between the other two bikes and me and my two dogs, often brushing me (during a pandemic, no less!) then cursing at me. I live with my backyard touching the goose trail and at the crosswalk of Atkins and see alot/ hear a lot of swearing. I have to admit it is ironic when cyclists on the road yell at cyclist ignoring the stop sign on the goose trail. Saddly, I predict a few deaths and/or serious injuries as the population climbs.

    Reply
    • Hello Susan,

      Thanks for your comment. Cyclists are required to follow the rules of the road just like motorists. Unfortunately, while we are responsible for setting regulations for the province, the BC RCMP is responsible for enforcing them. If you have concerns about cyclist behaviour, we encourage you to share your concern with the BC RCMP or local municipal police detachment.

      Reply
  5. I would like to see more education and enforcement on the use of front and back lights for cyclists at all times of the day. I commute to work on a regular basis, noting that especially at dawn and dusk it is difficult to always see oncoming cyclists which wouldn’t be such a problem if they had a front lights. With e-bikes travelling at higher than normal speeds, and the acceptable maximum speed of 32 km/hour on dedicated cycling lanes, it is in the best interest of all riders if we, like automobiles, make front and back lights mandatory on all bikes in BC.

    Reply
    • Hello Danielle and thanks for your comments. While we are responsible for creating legislation for the BC MVA, the BC RCMP, and other local jurisdictions, are responsible for enforcing that legislation. A large part of our job here at TranBC is to educate the travelling public, and we will most certainly try to include cyclist illumination in any of of our messaging, to raise awareness among motorists and cyclists alike.

      Reply
  6. Great post. I used to be checking continuously this blog and I’m
    impressed! Extremely helpful info specially the closing section ??
    I maintain such info much. I was looking for this particular info for a long time.
    Thanks and best of luck.

    Reply
  7. I think a little public awareness campaign geared toward drivers and the safety of cyclists should be considered for our city.

    Ask any driver and they can probably provide a long list of annoying facts about sharing the road with cyclists but let’s try to remember, there are pro’s too!

    -every cyclist on the road is one less car to contend with;
    -every cyclist on the road is less pollution;
    -cyclists, especially all the daily commuters, patrol the streets and back lanes of our neighbourhoods and are often the ones disturbing attemps of thefts by their presence;
    -cyclists are often the ones jumping off their bikes to help a pedestrain;
    -cyclists are not TRYING to be annoying by taking up too much road but they have learned that pedestrian and drivers think nothing of opening car doors, without checking for bike traffic, or darting out between cars to cross,mid block on a street….so it’s sheer necessity.
    -cyclists are fitter and therefore are less of a burden on healthcare;

    But finally, there will always be jerky cyclists, clearly breaking rules and causing chaos, but take away the bike and they’d be jerks driving around recklessly in a car!

    Reply
  8. Don’t cycle up the right side of cars waiting at a red light or stop sign. Hold your place in the queue and avoid a collision with someone turning right. Plus, the cars who carefully passed you earlier won’t have to pass you again.

    Reply