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ISBN 0-7778-3884-2 (Printed version)

ISSN 1913-7516
(Internet version)

Cycling Skills
Ontario's Guide to Safe Cycling

Riding in Traffic

cyclist taking the whole lane by riding in the centre of it

The Ontario Highway Traffic Act (HTA) defines the bicycle as a vehicle that belongs on the road. Riding on the road means riding with other traffic. This is only safe when all traffic uses the same rules of the road.

When everyone follows the same rules, actions become more predictable. Drivers can anticipate your moves and plan accordingly. Likewise, you too can anticipate and deal safely with the actions of others.

Where do you ride?

Because bicycles usually travel at a lower speed, there are two rules of the road to which cyclists must pay special attention:

  1. slower traffic stays right
  2. slower traffic must give way to faster traffic when safe and practical

Accordingly, cyclists should ride one meter from the curb or close to the right hand edge of the road when there is no curb, unless they are turning left, going faster than other vehicles or if the lane is too narrow to share.

Check for local regulations that affect where you may cycle in your municipality. Bicycles are prohibited on some provincial highways.

Going straight ahead

When going straight ahead, use the right-hand through lane. Stay about one metre from the curb to avoid curbside hazards and ride in a straight line.

Around parked vehicles

Ride in a straight line at least one metre away from parked vehicles. Keep to this line even if the vehicles are far apart to avoid continuous swerving.

cycle in a straight line  past parked vehicles; do not swerve towards the curb when parked vehicles are far apart

When riding around parked vehicles, cyclists should watch for motorists and passengers who may open their car door into the cyclists' path.

Which lane?

The lane you should take depends on your speed relative to other traffic. Slower traffic stays to the right of the curb lane.

Taking a lane

In urban areas where a curb lane is too narrow to share safely with a motorist, it is legal to take the whole lane by riding in the centre of it. On high-speed roads, it is not safe to take the whole lane. To move left in a lane, should check, signal, left and shoulder check again then move to the centre of the lane when it is safe to do so.

Changing lanes

When changing lanes, remember that vehicles in the other lane have the right-of-way. The person moving into a new lane must always wait for an opening. Always should check, signal and shoulder check again before changing lanes.

steps to follow when changing lanes
steps when changing lanes: 1) shoulder check, 2) signal lane change, 3) shoulder check again, 4) change lanes.

Right-turning traffic

Motorists don't always check for bicycles when making right-hand turns, so cyclists need to take extra caution. It's important to leave space around you for a safety cushion (one meter between you and the curb and you and the vehicle).

When a motorist is making a right-hand turn, cyclists can either stay behind the vehicle or pass the right-turning vehicle on the left by shoulder checking, signalling, shoulder checking again and then passing on the left. Never pass a right-turning vehicle on the right.

steps to follow when passing a right-turning vehicle
steps when changing lanes: 1) shoulder check, 2) signal lane change, 3) shoulder check again, 4) change lanes.