Right of Way Rules for Designated Bike Lanes - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers

Right of Way Rules for Designated Bike Lanes


According to the most recently completed National Household Survey, almost 202,000 people said they used a bicycle to commute to work. Weather conditions and the distance individuals must travel to get to their jobs makes bicycle travel more popular within the downtown area of cities more popular than in outlining areas. The introduction of designated bicycle lanes as a way to improve safety on Toronto streets and roadways has created questions about the rules for riders and motorists particularly when it comes to yielding the right of way.

Bikeway overview and the introduction of cycle tracks

There are a number of different types of designated bike lanes in use in Toronto, including:

  • Multi-use paths
  • Dedicated bike lanes
  • Sharrows or shared lanes
  • Contra-flow bike lanes

Each of the different types of bike lane attempts to separate or control the interaction between bicycle riders and other vehicular traffic. One of the new designated bike lane designs city planners have developed are cycle tracks.

Cycle tracks are bike lanes separated, usually with a barrier of some sort, from the traffic on the adjacent roadway. The other types of bike lanes use markings painted on the pavement to control use of the lanes, but cycle tracks take it a step further to create a greater separation between a bicycle rider and other vehicles.

Cycle tracks are part of the street, so they should not be confused with multi-use paths. Multi-use paths are usually found in parks and other locations where they can be separated from adjacent roads by an expanse of land.

Right of way rules for bike lanes

Bicycle riders are held to many of the same rules of the road as other vehicles. This includes:

  • Obeying traffic laws
  • Keeping to the right side of the road unless otherwise directed
  • Signaling turns
  • Using caution when passing or overtaking other bicycles or vehicles

When a cyclist in a cycle track or other designed bike lane and the driver of a motor vehicle arrive at an intersection, right of way rules have been formulated to keep everyone safe. Cars and other vehicles turning across a bike lane must yield to bicycle ridersgoing straight ahead. If there is a traffic signal at the intersection drivers and bicycle riders must stop at a red light and yield to other vehicles and pedestrians making lawful use of the intersection.

If a car and a bicycle approach an intersection on a green light, the vehicle must yield the right of way to the bicycle before making a right turn. However, if an approaching bicycle rider approaches an intersection on a green light and a vehicle making a right turn is blocking the rider’s path, the bicyclist must yield to the turning vehicle.

Using good judgment along with right of way rules

Even under circumstances in which the law recognizes a bicycle rider’s right of way in a bike lane, safety dictates that good judgment and common sense should prevail. Cyclists should use extra caution when approaching on a vehicle’s right side because of blind spots that could prevent a driver from seeing a bicycle.

Finding an experienced lawyer when accidents happen

The personal injury lawyers at Diamond and Diamond provide experienced legal advice and superior representation to the victims of bicycle accidents and their families. Call our 24/7 personal injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to one of our team members. We offer free consultations and case evaluations and have offices located throughout Ontario.

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