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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered



  1. ” Is it legal for cyclists to pass cars that are waiting for a red light? I don’t know, and neither does the Motor Vehicle Act,”

    I’ve always understood 114(2) as permitting filtering, or passing to the right of stopped cars. A cyclist operating on the far right side or the right-hand shoulder of the roadway may pass to the
    right of the overtaken vehicle if it is safe to do so. Some jurisdictions specifically prohibit filtering, but not the MVA – it seems to clearly permit it.

  2. The NS MVA clearly states bicycles may pass cars on the right. The only equivocation is that it is ‘at your own risk’. I think that equivocation should change. It gives drivers who right-hook a cyclist a legal out.
    The suggestion that bikes should use right turn lanes to proceed straight makes no sense to me, as it leads to unnecessary obstruction of traffic in general and, more importantly, it’s dangerous. Proceeding straight in a right turn lane is a recipe for getting right hooked. Although I sympathize with cyclists who might finding merging ‘terrifying'(I don’t , I’ll admit) , I suggest that laws should be based on actual risk, not perceived risk, and a better solution is a) reduction of urban speed limits, 2) education for road users (we do almost none!). Finally, for cyclists who remain fearful of merging, there is the already legal alternative of navigating the intersection as a pedestrian.
    An MVA change I would like to see is a right hook law, similar to Massachusetts, which clearly holds drivers responsible for mirror and shoulder checking before turning right. Such a law would, of course, require education campaign during rollout.
    Thanks for this article.

  3. I’m a fairly experienced and confident commuter cyclist, so I probably don’t represent the average person who we as a society are trying to recruit to begin cycling, but I feel most safe on the road when I follow the rules of the road. I see the writer’s points, and agree there are fundamental and obvious differences between cars and bikes. But so many drivers are so nervous around cyclists already, I fear that the public education campaign needed to explain the differences in rules between drivers and cyclists is too massive a hurdle. A modified set of cyclist rules might make sense in theory, but in reality I’d feel less safe given the potential additional confusion for most drivers.
    In my experience (generally, aside from the odd incident with the odd very anti-cyclist driver), when I ride predictably, I ride safely. “Predictably” means behaving like a car–following the rules of the current majority on the road. I keep to the curb, but take the lane when I need to (like when I’m going straight at an intersection without a dedicated right turn lane, or to avoid parked cars’ doors), and I change lanes when I’m “supposed” to (if I’m going straight when there is a right turn lane, or if I’m turning left and there’s a left turn lane). And yes, I stop at all stops–because there’s almost always a vehicle at the same intersection at the same time as me, and it’s simply the only safe choice, even if it does take more energy to start from a stop.
    I’ve cycled the roads in Halifax, Vancouver, Toronto, Hamilton, and Amsterdam (an admittedly unique situation!), and confidently behaving like a car has never done me wrong. But admittedly, confidence is the key.

  4. Why should we have ANY confidence cyclists will obey whatever rules might ultimately be implemented? They certainly do not as it is now. Case in point from this morning: I was heading south on Agricola. I was in the right lane wanting to turn right onto Young St. A cyclist was ahead of me so I adjusted to his speed and moved in behind him. We both turned onto Young and immediately became part of a long line of traffic since that is a single lane and there are usually people turning left onto Robie holding things up.

    What did Mr. Cyclist do? No longer satisfied with being a vehicle, he moved into the oncoming traffic lane – thankfully empty of oncoming traffic – until he could get to a curb cut. He then jumped onto the sidewalk to get him to Robie – forcing a pedestrian onto the grass, BTW – then proceeded along the sidewalk until he got to the corner at Robie where he made the sharp left at that blind corner to proceed along that sidewalk. If anyone had been walking towards the corner on Robie it would have been a very close call to avoid a collision. Presumably at some point he jumped back into traffic on Robie when it suited him and became a vehicle again.

    You can say “oh, that is just a bad cyclist, the kind we should educate” but the fact remains that you can see this kind of clown cyclist behavior every single day around here without too much difficulty. If you wonder why cyclists have such a bad reputation here, this sort of thing is why. Clean up your own act first before lobbying to change laws.

  5. I wish you, and others, would learn what “anarchy” means. It means to be without hierarchy, not chaos or disorder as so many seem to believe and thus continue to use words improperly for sheer dramatic effect.

  6. Red, jerks are jerks whether they are driving or biking. Sounds like that guy was a real jerk.

    I’ll let Wired respond to the idea that cyclists break the law more. They say it well:
    “Cyclists neglect to follow some rules, mostly rolling though stop signs and going through red lights if there’s no cross traffic. Drivers tend to forget the following things are illegal (at least in California): Speeding, tailgating, not signaling, not stopping before a right turn, getting behind the wheel while drunk, texting or using a cell phone without the hands-free option, double parking, throwing trash (including cigarette butts) out the window, failing to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk, making a U-turn when there’s a ‘No U-turn’ sign, honking your horn just because you’re angry, and yes, running red lights and rolling through stop signs.”

  7. Tristan, one could make an even longer list of rules cyclists break. In any event, this kind of “my dad can beat your dad” stuff is not helpful and does nothing to advance the discussion. We can agree that nobody is perfect. The issue of cyclists being blatant in their contempt for traffic laws stands unresolved.

  8. It seems to me that the majority of urban cyclists in HRM have very poor cycling skills. And I say this, not as a troll bike hater, but as a 40-year cyclist who’s cycled 300,000 lifetime kilometers and didn’t get his first automobile until age 38. Yes, many cyclists exhibit very poor judgement in their cycling – a small percentage because they are “jerks” but the vast majority, I feel, due to their “ignorance” in the true meaning of the word – they just don’t know how to ride well and safely. I would love it if our politico’s could pass a law such that our police force could ticket scofflaw cyclists – we all know who I mean – to be sentenced to attend an Effective Cycling course run by certified Can-Bike instructors, their “fine” being the cost of the course – where they’re shown videos to scare the heck out of them and to tell them what they’re doing wrong and why it is wrong, then to be taught the proper and safe and effective way to ride a bike in traffic. We’d all be a lot better for it as a society.

  9. I get more fired up by bad cyclists than angry drivers. I suspect most drivers who are angry and disrespectful of cyclists are this way because of the 10% or 20% of cyclists that stand out for acting like the rules of the road don’t apply to them.
    I’ve cycled on various cities’ roads for 20 years, and I’m the first person to yell at a cyclist on the sidewalk, blowing through a stop sign, or weaving through stopped traffic. I believe that if we as a cycling community want to be treated as equals on the road we need to earn that respect by acting like we belong there.
    I don’t want to discourage new cyclists from hitting the road, and I want our ranks to grow. But I also can’t help but think there should be some sort of mandatory training course or licensing program. Or, as Mark says, more enforcement of the law, with training programs being the punishment.
    Sure–there are bad drivers who ignore the law, there are bad cyclists who ignore the law. But I’ve yet to see a driver swerve up onto the sidewalk to avoid an inconvenient light. We need to respect the position we’re in on the roads–we’re the minority who needs to assert our right to be there. You don’t assert your right to something by acting like an ass. You do it by respectfully proving that you have a right to it.

  10. I try my best to follow the rules of the road while cycling, but even when do motorists refuse to respect my right to be there. Ive had people try to run me off the road, follow me yelling profanities, and honking. It’s horrible. One of the times I’m not sure if I’m following the rules is when I have my children sitting in a bike trailer I use the sidewalk because I refuse to risk the road with them. I know that children aged 16 and under are permitted to use the sidewalk, does this mean when I have children attached to my bike that I’m also permitted?