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What are my rights and responsibilities as a cyclist?
Cyclists must follow the same traffic laws as other road users.
When you are cycling you have to obey the traffic laws listed in the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario. You must also follow the local laws in your municipality.
For example, you must:
- Obey traffic signs and signals.
- Stop at red traffic lights, stop signs and pedestrian crossings.
- Not ride your bicycle on a pedestrian crossing. Get off your bicycle and walk it across instead.
- Stop at a safe distance behind buses, streetcars and school buses when passengers are getting out.
- Travel the right way on one-way streets.
- Use the correct hand signals for turning and stopping.
You are not allowed to ride on expressways or roads where "No Bicycle" signs are posted. It is also against the law to take a passenger on a bicycle meant for 1 person, or to hang onto another vehicle when you are on your bicycle.
You could get a fine for breaking traffic laws.
Sharing the Road
Since bicycles usually go slower than cars, you should stay on the right side of the road so that faster-moving vehicles can pass you on your left. Ride at least one metre from the right edge of the road or from parked vehicles, unless you are turning left, going faster than other vehicles or if the lane is too narrow to share safely.
You have the legal right to ride in the centre of the lane if that is the safest way to proceed. Read more about your rights and responsibilities when riding in traffic, and check out the safety tips in How do I stay safe as a cyclist?
If you are cycling by a parked vehicle and a passenger opens one of the vehicle doors without checking the path is free, they could get a fine for being careless.
Bicycle lanes are for cyclists. Motorists that drive or park in bicycle lanes could get a fine. You can phone the parking enforcement department in your municipality, to report a blocked bicycle lane.
When riding on shared paths and through parks, give way to pedestrians. Ride slowly and use your bell or horn to let them know you are there.
By law, you must have the following safety equipment on your bicycle:
- A white front light and a red rear light or reflector when you are riding between half hour before sunset and half hour after sunrise.
- White reflective tape in front and red reflective tape at the back of your bicycle frame.
- Working rear brakes.
- A bell or horn.
You can get a fine if your bicycle is missing any of these safety items.
See a picture of some recommended safety equipment.
If you are under 18, you must wear a helmet. But even if you are over 18 and not required by law to wear a helmet, it is best to wear one for your safety.
If your child is under 16, you must make sure that they wear a well-fitted helmet when riding; otherwise you could be fined.
For More Information
- Cycling and the Law - This webpage gives an overview of cycling laws and the fines for breaking them. From the Ministry of Transportation.
- Riding in Traffic - This webpage has information on how to ride safely around traffic. From the Ministry of Transportation.
- Bicycle Lanes [PDF] - This guide uses pictures to explain how to use bicycle lanes safely. Some of the information is about Toronto, but most of it applies across Ontario. From the Toronto Cycling Committee.
- Toronto Cyclists Handbook - A guide on cycling in Toronto which has information that applies to all of Ontario. Available in more than 10 languages. From Cycle Toronto and CultureLink Settlement Services.
- Guelph Bike Box - This video explains the proper way to use bicycle boxes, which are spaces at intersections designated for cyclists waiting for their right of way. Some of the information is about Guelph, but most of it applies across Ontario. From the City of Guelph.
October 27, 2015