What Motorists and Bicycle Riders Should Know About Toronto Bike Lanes - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers

What Motorists and Bicycle Riders Should Know About Toronto Bike Lanes


Although they are frequently associated with children, bicycles are no longer a child’s toy. The number of adults using bicycles to get to and from work or as a way to improve their health through the exercise they get from cycling has grown to the point where accidents involving motorists and bicycle riders occur at an alarming frequency. For example, during the third quarter of last year, 541 bicycle riders were hit by motor vehicles in Toronto.

The development of bike lanes is one method urban planners have created to provide some degree of separation between motorists and bicycle riders. There are five types of bikeways in use in Toronto:

  • Multi-use paths
  • Sharrows
  • Bike lanes
  • Contra-flow bike lanes
  • Signed bike routes

It is important for drivers and bicyclists to be able to recognize each type of bike lane and to know the rules applicable to each one in order to keep all users of the roads safe.

Rules of the road for bikers in Ontario

The Ontario Highway Traffic Act classifies bicycles as a vehicle along with cars, SUVs and trucks, so they are subject to the same rules of the road regardless of the type of bikeway on which they ride, including:

  • A duty to obey the traffic laws
  • Keep to the right side of the road
  • Afforded the same rights and held to the same duties as motorists

Rules applicable only to bicycle riders include a prohibition against carrying passengers unless the bicycle is designed to carry more than one person, and riders must wear a helmet if they are younger than 18 years of age.

Multi-use bike paths

A multi-use path offers bicycle riders the best separation from motor vehicle traffic because they are located away from streets and roadways. These off-road pathways usually have an expanse of land or a man-made barrier separating them from the roadway. Riders using multi-use paths should exercise caution because the paths are usually shared with pedestrians, joggers and skaters.

Bike lanes and contra-flow lanes

Bike lanes are portions of the roadway marked by a white diamond pavement marking designating exclusively for use by bicycles. Other vehicles may not travel, stop, stand or block the lanes.

A contra-flow bike lane is simply a dedicated bike lane in which bicyclists ride in the direction opposing the flow of motorized traffic on the primary roadway. Contra-flow lanes are marked with white arrows indicating the direction of bike travel along with the white diamond for a bike lane.


Unlike other types of bikeways designated and marked specifically and exclusively for bicycles, sharrows are indicated by pavement markings including a bicycle and two white chevrons indicating whether bikers and other vehicles should travel side-by-side or in single file. Sharrow markings let bike riders and motorists know the rules for passing within the travel lane.

Shared signed bikeways

Signed bikeways do not have lane markings because they do not have dedicated bike lanes. Signage indicates to motorists and bicycle riders that the road is a preferred route for bicycling.

Finding an experienced lawyer when a bicycle accident happens

The personal injury lawyers at Diamond and Diamond provide experienced legal advice and skilled 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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