Sharing the road – cyclist and motorist responsibilities
Through cooperation and respect, motorists and cyclists can share the road safely.
Cyclists have the same rights as motorists and also the same responsibility to follow the same rules. Following are the Three Rs of safe cycling:
- Same Roads: Motor vehicles and bicycles share the same roads.
- Same Rights: As a cyclist, you have a right to your space on the road. The key is to understand your rights and follow them consistently.
- Same Rules: Other than the difference in a cyclist’s position on the road, cyclists have to follow the same rules of the road as motorists including obeying all signs and traffic control devices.
By understanding and practising the Three Rs, you can help ensure your own safety and, at the same time, help motorists understand your intentions.
Motorists should always follow the rules of the road and ensure that cyclists are given the courtesy and space they require to ride safely.
Here are some basic responsibilities for cyclists and motorists:
Your responsibilities as a cyclist
- Ride respectfully – the same traffic laws that apply to motorists also apply to you.
- Use hand signals and eye contact to communicate your actions to motorists.
- Obey traffic control signals and signs.
- Ride in a straight line and do not weave between parked cars.
- Do not ride on the sidewalk.
- Ride single file when riding with other cyclists.
- Ride as closely as practicable to the right hand boundary of the road.
- Increase your visibility by wearing brightly coloured clothing.
- Use a white front light and a red rear light in low light conditions.
"As close as practicable"
The law requires cyclists to ride in the same direction as other traffic and position themselves "as close as practicable" to the right edge or curb of the roadway. However, it's important to note that The Highway Traffic Act does not define "as close as practicable".
Experienced cyclists recommend riding approximately one metre (3 ft.) away from the curb to maintain a straight line and avoid hazards such as potholes, wide cracks, service covers, debris and puddles. To avoid unnecessary conflicts with motorists, cyclists should use their best judgment when determining how far away from the curb to ride and when it may be necessary to ride closer to the middle of the lane.
Your responsibilities as a motorist
Motorists can help reduce the number of bicycle and motor vehicle crashes, injuries and fatalities by understanding cyclists' positioning on the road and following some important traffic tips:
- Reduce your speed when encountering cyclists.
- Leave a safe following distance in case the cyclist needs to stop suddenly.
- Try not to use your car horn as it can be very loud and startling to a cyclist.
- Recognize the hazards that cyclists may face (e.g. debris on the road) and give them plenty of space. Experienced cyclists recommend that motorists provide at least one metre (3 ft.) of clearance. Depending on circumstances and the cyclist’s position, you may need to change lanes to pass safely.
- Be cautious and respectful of cyclists and other road users.
- When turning left, watch for and yield to oncoming cyclists just as you would to oncoming motorists.
- When turning right, yield to any cyclist traveling on your right. Do not try to pass a cyclist if you are planning to turn right at the next intersection or driveway.
- When passing cyclists, treat them as you would a slow-moving vehicle. Do not tailgate and always pass at a safe distance.
- Children on bicycles can be unpredictable. Expect the unexpected and slow down.
- Look for cyclists before opening your car doors.
Understanding a cyclist's position on the road
According to The Highway Traffic Act, cyclists are required to ride as close as practicable to the right hand boundary of the lane and/or road. However, there are certain times when cyclists may choose to be further away from the right side of the road or ride closer to the middle of the lane. These include:
- When approaching adverse road conditions such as potholes, puddles or construction.
- When passing parked vehicles where additional space is required to stay clear of the door zone.
- When making a left turn. In this case, experienced cyclists recommend riding closer to the centre of the turning lane. This will prevent a motorist from passing within the same lane as the cyclist makes the turn.
- When the right lane is intended for right turns only and you are intending to go straight, you should remain in the adjacent lane and carry on through the intersection.
- When there is slower moving or stopped traffic in the right hand lane, you are allowed to pass on the left as long as it is safe to do so. In this situation, you would occupy a position closer to the centre of the passing lane while completing the pass and then return to the right edge of the lane when the pass is completed.
- When cycling on one-way streets with more than three lanes of traffic.
When passing a cyclist
Drivers should pass a cyclist only when it is safe to do so. Cycling advocacy groups suggest providing at least one metre of clearance. This may require drivers to change lanes in order to pass safely. Extra caution must be exercised and additional space may be required when passing cyclists in highway travel situations.
There are some situations where it is not safe to pass a cyclist including:
- In construction zones where traffic is reduced to one narrow lane.
- In lanes with narrow widths that do not permit passing at a safe distance.
- In a yield lane.
Caution and additional space may be required when passing cyclists at high rates of speed.
The Highway Traffic Act does not specify how close cyclists should ride near the right edge of the roadway or the clearance drivers must give a cyclist when travelling alongside or passing them. By using common sense and following the rules of the road, cyclists and drivers can make streets safer for everyone.
Watch this short video about the importance of sharing the road.