Tim Schewe

Tim Schewe

Drivesmart column: Rights and duties of cyclists

The rider of a bicycle is just like the driver of a car

By Tim Schewe

“Are there rules for riding bicycles?” a reader asks after narrowly missing a collision with a bicyclist. “They seem to ride wherever they feel like it. How is a driver supposed to know what bicycle riders are going to do?”

The most significant concept in the Motor Vehicle Act is that the rider of a bicycle is just like the driver of a car:

“183 (1) In addition to the duties imposed by this section, a person operating a cycle on a highway has the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle.”

There are some limitations, such as the cyclist must ride as nearly as practical to the right hand side of the highway, but is not expected to ride off of the pavement. In other words, motor vehicles and bicycles must share the road with each other.

The right is also to have the driver of a motor vehicle treat the cyclist in the same manner as they are required to treat the driver of another motor vehicle.

The duties that the cyclist has include the rules of the road that drivers are subject to. They must obey speed limits, stop at stop signs, ride on the correct side of the highway and give arm signals so that other traffic knows what the rider intends to do.

A number of specific duties are required of cyclists. Most are common sense, such as keeping at least one hand on the handlebars, being seated properly on the seat, carrying only the number of passengers that the bicycle is designed for and having proper lights and reflectors when riding at night.

Many people have the mistaken belief that cyclists must always ride in single file. This rule only applies to cycling on the roadway. One can ride on the roadway beside another cyclist using the shoulder.

Sidewalks and crosswalks must not be used by cyclists unless permitted by a bylaw or directed to do so by a sign.

The Motor Vehicle Act does not specifically take into account new active transportation infrastructure such as cycle lanes, bike boxes and the like. In fact, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure advised that they will not create these facilities on the highways that they are responsible for. Instead, these facilities are created by municipalities and regulated through bylaws.

So, unless a bylaw has been enacted to require it, cyclists do not have to use a cycle lane instead of the roadway when a cycle lane is present.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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