Why is that Cyclist in my Lane? A Question of Cycling Safety

We get a lot of questions and comments about cycling safety here at the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, so in our ongoing effort to improve the safety of cyclists (and other travellers), here’s another important reminder to look out for them and explain why you might see them riding in front of you as you drive.

Dont Ride Here
Cyclists: don’t ride too close. Any of these doors could open at any time.

Often, there’s a bike lane or shoulder for cyclists to ride on, so they’re out of the way of traffic, and it’s easy to drive by them. But sometimes it’s not practicable for a cyclist to ride out of the way or even near the right side of the lane.

There could be a number of different reasons for this, but usually it’s because the lane is too narrow to let them move over safely. Sometimes this isn’t obvious. In the picture above, for example, a car should be able to squeeze by a cyclist, as long as the cyclist is riding well to the right.

But consider this: your average car door extends about a metre or so from the vehicle. That means cyclists need to keep a minimum of one metre between them and any parked car. That helps them avoid being doored, which is about as much fun as it sounds.

So what about when there’s a gap between parked cars, like in the picture below? Shouldn’t the cyclist move over and let cars past?

Dont Ride Here 2

Actually, no. If it’s just a small gap, the safest thing for a cyclist to do is to ride in a predictable manner. That means riding a straight line, out of the range of any car doors and in the lane with regular traffic.

All this isn’t to say cyclists should always be riding with motor vehicles. Since cyclists are generally slower than other vehicles, they need to be moving over and letting traffic past whenever it’s safe to do so.

Do you have any bike other safety questions? Leave us a comment below or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter and let us know.

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Page 1 of 10 comments on “Why is that Cyclist in my Lane? A Question of Cycling Safety”

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  1. When I need to go straight but the right lane is a right TURN LANE, & there is a left turn only lane coming toward me at that same light, do I ride (or stop)in the left lane, behind /in front of vehicles? Or do I stay to the furthest right, in the Tight Turn Lane?
    It seems dangerous to be between vehicles

    • Hi JD – thanks for your message. Without knowing the exact details of this scenario, we encourage you to travel behind or in front of the vehicles in the through lane. Do not cycle in right-turn or left-turn lanes if you intend to continue straight through, unless indicated by road markings or signs. ICBC in conjunction with Bike Sense BC prepared a manual for cyclist safety, which you can find here: https://www.bccc.bc.ca/bike-sense-7-contents.
      Hope this is helpful!

  2. It is my understanding that cyclists are not allowed to ride on a sidewalk and that cyclists have a ‘right to the road’ as much as a car. If a cyclists moves over and allows all traffic to pass, they could be sitting at the side of the road for a very long time.

  3. What do we do since we live in a small community on Salt Spring Island, every summer the roads are filled with cyclists, they behave rudely, act self entitled, do not follow the rules of the road. (hardly ever stopping at stop signs or four way intersections. We do not have bike lanes here except for one area near Ganges. They continually cause dangerous situations here, we have alot of blind corners and choppy pavement at the sides of the road and little to no shoulder. The reason I say they act entitled is because they claim they have a right to be in the way and potentially cause an accident. They do not require license plates so they cannot be held accountable for their actions. My wife was on the way home from the beach the other day with our toddler in the car and there were two cyclists in the road, there was no way to pass safely so she honked for them to move over, but there was not adequate room to do so, she had the car stopped, one of the cyclists got mad she had honked at him and blocked the car with his bike and came around to the driver’s side door screaming at her making our baby cry and kicked the side of the car, she then managed to get by them a drove away scared, we called the RCMP and were told that these sort of violent attacks happen to motorists here every single day. There is no recourse for us to charge anyone and it would only be a mischief charge anyway. Why don’t our laws protect motorists from these inconsiderate maniacs? If they want to share the road they should have to have plates so they can be charged properly like any motorist would. I believe we should have signs put up by our government telling cyclist that if there is no bike lane they must have a license plate displayed, otherwise maybe we need a government who is willing to protect my wife and child from such attacks. Sbhe is afriad to drive now. Thanks cyclists!

    • Hello Gerald – we are sorry to hear about this road rage incident on Salt Spring Island. Some people (cyclists and motorists alike) can just be real jerks. We asked our traffic engineers about licensing cyclists and they let us know that at this time, the government is not looking at licensing cyclists, as it would deter a large number of potential cyclists (i.e. children) from being able to access this type of transportation and our goal is to encourage as many people as possible to use bicycles as a mode of transport if possible. While cyclists don’t require licensing, they are obliged to follow the same set of rules that govern motorists and, while we are responsible for enacting legislation for the BC MVA, the RCMP are responsible for enforcing it. We have do install signage encouraging motorists and cyclists to share the road, whenever it is possible to do so. We also understand that, on narrower roads such as those found on Salt Spring, it might not always be possible. We hope that your wife feels better and is back behind the wheel soon. 🙂

  4. Hi There seems some confusion in our group about were to ride legally. I have read the information on your site but have some questions. There are 3 things referred to, highway, roadway, white lines,
    -The roadway seams to be defined at the area between the white lines and not the shoulder correct?
    -The Highway seems to be defined as the paved area including the shoulder or is everything to the right of the white line a shoulder and not part of a roadway?
    -The law says a cyclist is supposed to ride to the far right of the roadway but to the left of the white line and as close to the white line that is safe or practical correct?
    -how is a shoulder defined?
    Many Thanks