Sharing the Road With Cyclists - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers

Sharing the Road With Cyclists

We’ve all been there. You have had a long day and you just want to get home, have some dinner and then get started on a long night of chores and housework. You sit patiently at the red light, waiting to be freed by that little green arrow, indicating you can make your left-turn safely, ahead of oncoming traffic. Salvation arrives as the green arrow lights up and you begin to make your final turn home…

Suddenly…out of nowhere…comes a cyclist in the oncoming direction…they fly through the intersection, ignoring the red signal for them and the right-of-way for you…you slam your brakes and narrowly avoid hitting the cyclist, who thanks you with a ‘one finger salute’. As you sit there catching your breath, possibly cursing, but being thankful for not injuring someone, you begin to think ‘did I do something wrong’?

For most situations where an oncoming individual runs a red light and ignores your right-of-way, the answer is no, you did nothing wrong and any collision would not have been your fault. However, in the situation of a cyclist, there is something called a ‘reverse onus’, which means that although you had the right-of-way, the obligation is on you to prove that you were not at-fault. The legal basis for this can be found at section 193(1) of the Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O 1990, c. H.8.

So what other surprises lay in store, with respect to the relationship between a motor vehicle being properly operated on a highway and a cyclist? Well, as of September 1, 2015, there have been some significant changes to the law, which have put increased responsibility on drivers of motor vehicles. Two of these changes are sharing the road and a prohibition against ‘dooring’ (what is that anyways?). We shall briefly review these changes below.

Most people are aware that they need to share the road with cyclists. However, how much room do cyclists really need? According to the law, at least 1 meter separation is required, between a passing motor vehicle and a cyclist. Failure to comply with this can cost you $120 and 2 demerit points. However, if convicted of this offence while in a Community Safety Zone, your fine jumps to $180.

 ‘Dooring’ is the act of opening a door on a motor vehicle, into the pathway of a cyclist, resulting in the cyclist striking the doorway. Although many of us are familiar with such a scene in a comedy movie, there is nothing funny about this in real life and serious injuries are often the result. In recognition of how dangerous this act can be, the set fine is $365, but it can be increased to $1,000. In addition, 3 demerit points will be assigned to your driving record.

As you can see, failure to properly share the road with cyclists is no laughing matter. Operators of motor vehicles have a great responsibility to live up to, not just to other drivers, but also to cyclists. Failure to live up to these responsibilities can be extremely costly, not just in terms of fines and demerit points, but also in terms of serious injuries and even death.

So the next time you see a cyclist on the road, allow them enough space and employ extra caution, because injuring a cyclist is the last thing you need after a long day.

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