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driving concerns

I was unable to stop at a stop sign on my bicycle, and I got a $110 ticket. The officer who gave me the ticket said I would not get any demerits on my licence. But after I paid the ticket, I received a letter from Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation saying that I now have three demerits. Can I get them removed? – Vikas, Brampton

What happens on your bicycle should stay on your bicycle.

You can get traffic tickets on your bike, but they’re not supposed to affect your driver’s licence or insurance rates.

“A bike is considered a vehicle as opposed to a motor vehicle,” said Patrick Brown, a Toronto-based lawyer who specializes in bike accidents. “So when it comes to getting demerit points and tickets going on your driving record, that doesn’t take place if you’re on your bike.”

Cyclists have to follow the same rules as drivers.

If you get a ticket driving a car or riding a motorbike, it goes on your driving record, Insurance can use it to raise your rates.

Some offences, including failing to stop for a stop sign, come with demerits. Demerits don’t affect your insurance rates, but they’re strikes against your driving record – if you get too many, your licence could be suspended.

“Demerit points are applied against an individual with a full driver’s licence when operating a motor vehicle or streetcar,” said Michael O’Morrow, senior issues adviser with Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation (MTO), in an e-mail.

So, you shouldn’t get them on a bicycle, e-bike, mobility scooter, kick scooter or hoverboard because they’re not considered motor-vehicles under the Highway Traffic Act, O’Morrow said.

While the rules vary by province, many are similar. In British Columbia and Quebec, for instance, cycling offences don’t appear on your record or come with demerit points.

Ticket to ride?

So how does the province know that you were on your bike? It should say it on the ticket.

“On provincial offences tickets in Ontario, there’s a box that says ‘motor vehicle involved,’” Brown said, “You have to make sure that no is checked off – or that cops write on the ticket that it’s a bike – so it’s apparent that you weren’t in a car.”

If that’s not marked, the “automatic assumption when they fire it off to the MTO” is that you were driving and you’ll get demerits.

The easiest way to prevent this is to check the ticket before you pay it. If that box isn’t checked, then contact the officer or the court, Brown said.

If the ticket clearly showed you were on a bike and you got demerits anyway, then you can email the MTO’s driver-control section with your name, date of birth and driver’s licence number, O’Morrow said.

“The driver-control section will provide advice on how to remove this ticket from the reader’s record if it took place on a bicycle,” O’Morrow said.

But what if your ticket doesn’t show that you were on a bike, and you’ve already paid the fine?

You should call the court office and explain the situation, Brown said.

“They might just say, ‘Well, the ticket says you were driving,’” Brown said. “Because, really, anybody could try to make that excuse.”

If they don’t buy that you were biking, your only option would be to reopen the case, if it’s less than 15 days since you learned of the conviction. Or, if it’s less than 30 days after the conviction, you could file an appeal.

To do that, you might need a lawyer, and it could cost time and plenty of money, Brown said.

Would it be worth it? It depends. If the demerits get your licence suspended and you need to drive for work, for instance, then it might be.

Name and address only

To keep your licence and driving record safe, Brown suggests not giving your licence to police when you’re pulled over on a bicycle.

“You don’t have to show a driver’s licence in Ontario, you just have to give your name and address,” Brown said. “I don’t carry mine with me [on a bike] – I don’t want the officer to have the ticket connected to my driver’s licence in any way.”

But some officers may ask cyclists for licences anyway.

“While you do not require a driver’s license to be out riding your bike, a person may be asked to present one in the form of ID when stopped, which can result in receiving demerits when they should not,” said Keagan Gartz, executive director of Cycle Toronto, in an e-mail.

Have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com and put ‘Driving Concerns’ in your subject line. Emails without the correct subject line may not be answered. Canada’s a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

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