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Behind-the-Wheel

The rights and the duties of cyclists when riding on the road

Rules of the road for cyclists

"Are there rules for riding bicycles?" a reader asked 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 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. The 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 by-law 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 has advised it 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.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



More Behind the Wheel articles

About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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