This coming Friday, May 21st is Bike to Work Day in Canada, with the goal of promoting cycling as an alternate commuter option to reduce carbon emissions and encourage healthy activity. Many cyclists will be taking to the roads to participate, in addition to the thousands of people who regularly cycle on Ottawa’s roads each day. Data compiled by Statistics Canada in 2016 showed a near 90% increase in commuting by bike between 1999 and 2016.
Whether you regularly cycle on Ontario roads, are planning to join Friday’s initiative festivities, or generally commute by car, this is a great time to refresh yourself on the road safety rules in Ontario. Regardless of how you travel, the following information will help you better understand the rules for cyclists and drivers so you can more safely share the road.
Road Safety Tips for Cyclists
Under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, bikes are considered “vehicles”, no different than a car or truck. Cyclists are therefore required to obey all traffic laws and have many of the same rights and responsibilities as drivers. Some notable exceptions applicable specifically to cyclists include:
- cyclists must use lights and reflective materials when cycling in the dark or where they would otherwise not be visible at a distance of 150 metres or less (for instance, while cycling in foggy conditions);
- cyclists must ride as close to the right edge of the road as they safely can;
- cyclists can ride on most roads, except for controlled-access highways, pedestrian crossovers, and within crosswalks;
- cyclists are expected to use hand signals when stopping or turning;
- cyclists must obey bicycle-specific traffic lights at intersections, where installed. Otherwise, cyclists must follow the “standard” traffic lights.
If you are unfamiliar with Ontario’s rules for cyclists, you should review “Cycling Skills: Ontario’s Guide to Safe Cycling”, available at Cycling Skills (gov.on.ca). This document includes instruction regarding cycling hand signals, which both drivers and cyclists should be familiar with.
What Drivers in Ontario Need to Know About Bike Safety
Drivers are not always as attentive as they should be when it comes to cyclists. Drivers must remain vigilant to keep themselves and cyclists safe. Two common issues that arise when cyclists and drivers share the road are “dooring” and ignoring distance requirements, both of which can create serious accidents and injuries.
“Dooring” means opening a vehicle door without ensuring it is safe to do so. Dooring accidents often occur when a person parks their car on the street and opens their driver’s side door without checking for cyclists. What might seem like a simple mistake can lead to a serious accident if a cyclist is approaching a parked vehicle and is unable to stop in time before colliding with the door. In addition to the likelihood of injuries to the cyclist, drivers can be fined $365.00 (including a victim surcharge and court fee) and three demerit points if they are convicted of “dooring”. If a driver contests the charge and loses, they can be fined up to $1,000.00.
Drivers can also be fined – or worse, cause a serious bicycle accident – by failing to observe the appropriate distance requirements. Drivers are required to leave at least a one-metre distance when passing a cyclist on the road. If a driver fails to provide enough space in this situation, they can be fined $110.00 (including a victim surcharge and court fee). If a driver contests the charge and loses, they can be fined up to $500.00 and two demerit points.
Road Safety Tips for Drivers
Drivers can pose a serious threat to cyclists if they fail to observe the rules around road safety. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times, and give each person the space they need to navigate the roadway safely. Drivers should keep the following rules in mind whenever sharing space with cyclists:
- Give cyclists plenty of space on the road (and remember that you can be fined for ignoring distance requirements);
- Exercise extreme caution when parking or opening a car door (again, remember that you can be fined for opening your vehicle door when it is unsafe to do so); and
- Understand the rules of the road relating to cyclists – understanding bicycle signalling and the unique rules for cyclists will ultimately make you a better, safer driver. Reviewing the “Cycling Skills” document linked above is a good first step to increasing your awareness of cyclists while driving.
Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Ottawa, Eastern Ontario and North Bay
At Tierney Stauffer LLP, we know first-hand how vulnerable cyclists are on the roads and how serious bicycle accidents can be from our decades of collective personal injury experience. Cyclists who get into accidents involving cars or trucks are more vulnerable to suffering very serious injuries. If you are a cyclist who was involved in an accident involving a motor vehicle, we can help you recover accident benefits to which you may be entitled under your own or the driver’s insurance plan and help you seek compensation for your medical expenses and financial losses.
At Tierney Stauffer LLP, we recognize that no two bicycle accidents or accident victims are the same, which is why we give each claim the personalized attention needed to bring about the best possible resolution. Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers.