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My friend flipped off a police cruiser coming in our direction. I was on a bike and he was walking. The police cruiser pulled over, the officer got out and asked to see my identification as per the Highway Traffic Act. Am I obliged to show them ? Also, they tried charging me for operating a "vehicle" without ID. Do I need ID when riding a bicycle? I would really appreciate your input as I feel my rights were violated. - Chen, Toronto

You have the right to remain silent if police stop you for breaking the law on your Schwinn - but you still have to let them know who you are somehow.

"A piece of ID is not necessarily required, but Section 218 of Ontario's Highway Traffic Act (HTA) requires the cyclist identify themselves to the officer by giving one's correct name and address," said Const. Clint Stibbe with Toronto police Traffic Services in an e-mail. "If the cyclist fails to identify themselves, the officer may place the person under arrest."

Bikes are vehicles under Ontario's Highway Traffic Act - but there's no rule saying you have to carry a driver's licence, or any other ID, on one.

"Since there is no obligation on a cyclist to carry documentation, an oral response is sufficient," said Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) spokesman Bob Nichols in an e-mail. "A cyclist could show a driver's licence for the purpose of identifying himself or herself if the cyclist is carrying one but is not required to do so."

But, you're only required to identify yourself if police see you breaking the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) or any local traffic bylaw, the MTO said.

Police can hold you until they're satisfied that you are who you say you are. You can also be fined $110. The rules are similar across Canada.

The rights answer

Generally, cyclists have to follow the same rules as drivers and face the same fines. But, in every province except Quebec, cyclists don't get demerits and offences don't show up on their driving records.

But if a cop doesn't think you've broken traffic laws, there are no grounds to stop you or demand identification in the first place, said the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).

"In this case, it's unclear whether the cyclist was violating any laws or bylaws - if not, the police would not have had grounds under the HTA to demand the cyclist stop and identify himself," said Laura Berger, CCLA interim policing and public safety program director, in an e-mail.

Across Canada, police must respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and human rights legislation, Berger said. That means they can't target cyclists or pedestrians "because of factors like race, age or disability."

And what about your pal who flipped off a police cruiser? There's no law against swearing at police or giving them the finger, Stibbe said.

But, if somebody else complains, you could be charged under Section 175 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Will Ontario's new rules against carding, which start next year, have any effect on cyclists?

"Not that I'm aware of - the HTA governs the requirements of when a vehicle can be stopped and identification demanded," Stibbe said. "Officers can demand identification… documents, check for driver sobriety and check the mechanical fitness of the vehicles."

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.

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