Skip to main content
driving concerns

Ola Dusegård/Getty Images/iStockphoto

A friend from spin class got a ticket for driving his bike on the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge in the car lane instead of the designated bike lane (the other bikers were too slow). He’s wondering if he can fight it because bikes are supposed to be able to ride on the road, aren’t they? – Jenn, Halifax

By cycling with traffic when there was a bike lane, he’ll likely be designated to pay a fine.

“In Nova Scotia, according to the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA), you are required to use the bike lane when available,” Corporal Lisa Croteau, Halifax district RCMP spokesperson, said in an e-mail.

Section 171.3 of Nova Scotia’s MVA states: “Where a roadway has a bicycle lane for bicycles travelling in the same direction that a cyclist is travelling, the cyclist shall ride in the bicycle lane unless it is impracticable to do so.”

There’s a $151.25 fine for the first offence, and it goes up from there. Would slowpoke cyclists make a lane “impracticable?” Probably not.

“I think the spirit of the term in the legislation allows the rider some judgment and ability to leave the bike lane if it’s unsafe,” Steve Bedard of Bicycle Nova Scotia replied by e-mail. “It usually refers to road surface conditions in the bike lanes, or debris and hazards like loose gravel or broken glass.”

The Macdonald bridge, which connects Halifax and Dartmouth, also has its own ban on riding a bike in traffic. That bylaw, which also bans riding horses and carrying dynamite across the bridge, comes with a $151.25 fine.

“In 2018 we issued no tickets,” Alison MacDonald, Halifax Harbour Bridges spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. “There are very few tickets issued because very few people attempt to bike on the road deck.”

PEI also requires you to use a bike lane if there is one.

FOLLOW THE SIGNS

While the rules vary by province – and by municipality – most other places let cyclists ride on the road even when there’s a bike lane.

“It is the choice of the individual who is riding the bicycle and where they wish to ride, whether it is within a designated bike lane or with regular traffic,” Andy Wilson, national program manager for Can-Bike, Cycling Canada’s education program, said by e-mail.

But if there’s a sign banning cyclists from a particular road, you have to follow it.

For instance, Deerfoot Trail in Calgary, the 400-series highways in Ontario, and the Lion’s Gate Bridge in Vancouver all ban cyclists from the roadway.

Wherever you ride, you still have to follow most of the same rules of the road, and pay the same fines, as drivers.

“In Nova Scotia, riders are encouraged to conduct themselves on roadways as though they were a vehicle,” Bedard said. “(That includes) staying off the sidewalk when on your bike, favouring the centre of the lane when road conditions or debris on the far right of the lane make cycling unsafe… and obeying traffic signs.”

KEEP TO THE RIGHT

That doesn’t mean bikes can behave exactly like cars.

In most places, including Nova Scotia, you have to cycle as close to the right curb as you safely can, unless you’re turning left.

“If there are two or three lanes and the bike is in the middle lane and not turning left, we can issue a ticket ($80 plus fees) for not driving to the far right,” said Captain Paul Leduc, a Sûreté du Québec spokesperson.

Even though Quebec doesn’t specifically require cyclists to use bike lanes, if you don’t use one, you could get a ticket for not cycling to the right, Leduc added. “The law is a little grey there. It just says you have to stay to the right.”

When there is a protected bike lane, it might be a good idea to use it, police say.

In 2017, the most recent year with stats available, there were 36 cyclists killed across Canada in collisions with cars.

“To me, it would just make more sense to be safe and use the bike lane because it’s barricaded,” said Constable Jason Taylor of Calgary Police’s traffic section. “Drivers don’t (watch out for) pedestrians and cyclists as much as we should because they’re not as big as the rest of us.”

Have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com. Canada’s a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up for the weekly Drive newsletter, delivered to your inbox for free. Follow us on Instagram, @globedrive.