I was recently stopped by an officer for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign. I was riding my bike very slowly around my neighbourhood. The officer didn’t give me a ticket, but said that if he had done so, the fine would be $95, and three points off my driving licence. I was very surprised to hear of the loss of points. Was the officer correct? — John, Windsor
If you get a ticket riding your bike, you’re not supposed to get demerits on your Ontario driver’s licence – as long as the ticket says you were on your bicycle, says Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation.
“Bicycle infractions are not applied to the driving record,” says MTO spokesman Bob Nichols in an email. “If the officer states on the ticket that a bicycle was used, the convicting court does not send the information to the Ministry of Transportation.”
Not coming to a complete stop at a stop violates section 136.1 of the Highway Traffic Act. While you’d still get the fine, the conviction wouldn’t appear on your Ontario driving abstract, which insurers look at when determining your premiums.
But not all traffic cops and prosecutors know that cyclists don’t get demerits, says a cycling advocacy group.
“We've heard from members who’ve had demerits on their licences for cycling offences, even though it’s not supposed to happen,” says Jared Kolb, executive director with Cycle Toronto. “There needs to be a major education campaign.”
Windsor Police initially told us that cyclists do get demerits. But spokesman Sgt. Matt D’Asti took a closer look at the HTA and confirmed demerits don’t apply to cyclists.
“What I found suggests demerit points only apply to a motor vehicle but a bicycle is not defined as a motor vehicle, so fines apply but demerits don’t accumulate.”
D’Asti says. "It’s probably not as clear as it could be – I haven’t written a traffic ticket in 25 years, but my understanding then was that demerits applied.”
Even though bicycles aren’t motor vehicles, they are still vehicles under the HTA. That means cyclists have to follow all traffic rules while on public roads, the MTO says.
Since 1982, the state of Idaho has allowed cyclists to treat stop signs like a yield. The policy’s been called the Idaho stop.
“Cyclists come to a complete stop if someone is there, but if they’re at the stop first they get the right of way,” Kolb says. “A bicycle is momentum propelled, and much of effort is when you’re first kicking off, so constant stops are a barrier to cyclists.”
Jason Meggs of the school of public health at the University of California, Berkely found a 14.5 per cent reduction in bicycle injuries the year after Idaho adopted the law.
There are no serious proposals to introduce the Idaho stop to Ontario, but Kolb says a small neighbourhood trial wouldn’t be a bad idea. Still, it doesn’t mean cyclists can just “blow though” intersections, Kolb says.
“It’s not just about cyclists, I rarely see drivers coming to a complete stop when they don’t have to,” Kolb says. “It’s about reducing congestion — we often hear politicians talking about getting cyclists off major arterials.”
“So if you want them on residential roads you have to take away barriers.”
Click here for more information: MTO defines e-bikes
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Clarification: An earlier version of this story stated motorized bicycles are motor vehicles under the HTA. Power-assist bicycles, in which the bicycle is motorized as needed but otherwise runs with pedal power, are not classified as motor vehicles.