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April 12, 2011



part of me opposes the same laws governing cyclists as it does motorists. But there is a school of thought that thinks that if we had the same consequences as drivers, everyone would take cycling more seriously, which is where we want to be eventually, right?
Let's be honest, there are a lot of reckless bike riders out there.



Emphatically yes.

If we cyclists are going to demand all of the rights of automobile drivers on the roads, then we should also have the same responsibilities.

If we want to be allowed to ride on the road, if we want to be allowed to use left turn lanes, if we want to avoid being marginalized by automobile drivers, if we want to be treated like all other vehicles on the road, then let us be treated like all other vehicles on the road.

That means we have to obey the laws. We have to stop at red lights. We have to stop at stop signs. We have to yield to other traffic when changing lanes. And if the drivers of other vehicles on the road can be charged with dangerous driving for killing a pedestrian, then we should be as well.

How can we, with clear consciences, insist that motorists treat us with respect as equal vehicles on the road, when the laws that govern the roads don't do the same?

Greg Schott

The question to answer is "How is a cyclist classifed under the Highway Traffic Act?"

When I was a lot younger, I was told that as a cyclist I was considered to be a motor vehicle and I needed to obey all the rules of the road for motor vehicles. Ergo, I rode on the road, obeyed traffic signs, and treated pedestrians with respect.

Today, it is very common to see cyclists of all ages riding on the sidewalks to avoid motor traffic. I have no problem with children learning to ride their bikes being on the sidewalks. I do have a problem with adult cyclists jeopardizing the safety of other pedestrians and creating potential accidents with cars by zooming on and off sidewalks and ignoring traffic control measures. No other "motor vehicle" is allowed to behave this way.

So if the law still considers a cyclist to be a motor vehicle, then yes, a cyclist should be prosecuted as a motorist. Practically speaking though, we don't have the police presence to enforce it.


Some of the laws pertaining to motor-vehicle traffic exist because motor-vehicles are inherently large, heavy and dangerous. Many of those laws make no sense for bicycles. However, "dangerous driving," a law pertaining to the consequence of causing a death, would be fine with me and would only be needed once or twice a decade in Ontario anyway.

Actually, I would rather see Dangerous driving be replaced with either manslaughter or "criminal negligence causing death." Then it wouldn't matter whether you used a car, a bicycle, or a gun. The law would be agnostic to the weapon.


Why I guess we should especially seeing if this is how a motorist is charged:

"Canadian Press reported on Thursday that the driver of the truck, Jason Donald Dickison, 28, of Meductic, N.B., has been charged with Motor Vehicle Act offences: careless driving (driving without due care and attention) and driving with excess hours of service"

So as long as cagers drive over and kill cycists with relative impunity, I argue a cyclist should not face harsher punishment.


Greg - The Highway Traffic Act classifies a bicycle as a vehicle, which is subtly different from a motor vehicle. Most of the rules of the road apply to vehicles, but some (in both the HTA and the Criminal Code) do not. Three off the top of my head, for example:

1. Drunk driving is a criminal offense only for those in control of a motor vehicle. An inebriated cyclist cannot be charged with drunk driving.
2. Speed limits apply only to motor vehicles, not vehicles in general. If I can hit 66kph on the Weber Street downhill and a cop catches me, they can't charge me with speeding.
3. Apparently, dangerous driving laws only apply to motor vehicles, not all vehicles.

Now, in each of these cases, I don't really see the problem of extending the laws to cover all vehicles, rather than just motor vehicles. Drunk cycling is stupid. Speeding on a bike (if you can manage it) is dangerous. Killing a pedestrian should carry consequences.


Back to the post from Locklin: I think criminal negligence causing death could be applied to the case of a cyclist who deliberately acted in a way that showed "wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of others." The Crown would have to prove also that the cyclist was the accused person and that his/her actions caused the death. It would be proving the reckless disregard that would be tricky. You'd need solid witnesses. And, the sentence for crim neg causing death is a maximum of life in prison, which is considerably tougher than the max 14 years for careless driving. I suspect that only in the most extremely brutal of cases would this charge be laid against a cyclist. And a conviction on this charge is not easily won.

Alan M

One sub-segment of the cycling population definitely needs to learn some social responsibility, and they do cause all cyclists to be painted negatively by those looking for an excuse to do so. I'd be in favour of extending some of the current motorist-only penalties to cyclists too.
However, in the overall scheme of things, the harm caused by a few cyclists pales in comparison with the carnage caused by drunk, inattentive, ignorant or otherwise incompetent motorists.


When I was about 6 years old, my parents required me to take a bicycle safety course before I was allowed to ride on the street.

Riding on the street was a privilege and I needed to follow the rules of the road in order to ride my bike. This was especially important (we discussed) because soon I would not be allowed to ride on the sidewalk anymore - once my tires were too big.

Anyway, I took this responsibility very seriously, like getting my driver's license, and I have since cringed when I see how some other cyclists behave. I often wish that we could be licensed (for free or for cheap) if only to make it easier to enforce the rules.

Things that bother me:
- cyclists who ride on the sidewalk and don't respect pedestrians (I was taught to move to the side or even get off my bike if necessary when coming across someone on foot)
- cyclists who charge into the road to cross at a pedestrian crossing without considering that cars may not see them
- people who ride the wrong way in a bike lane. This is obviously extremely dangerous for that cyclist and any other cyclists who are going the proper direction
- people who cycle whilst carrying coffee/food in one or both hands
- cyclists who think that it's acceptable to start going before the light turns green (even if it means dangerous passing another, more patient cyclist in the bike lane to do so)

Some of these offences (the third one especially) could and should be ticketed because they are downright dangerous. I'm not sure how we would go about implementing a licensing system, but I think it could do wonders for how cyclists/motorists/pedestrian interact and share.

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Bill Bean

  • North America is eventually going to figure out that, for all the right reasons, we need more bicycles on our roads. Dust off your bicycle and go cycling. And if the gas-burning dinosaurs start to crowd you, it's your road and you paid for it. Take the lane for yourself.

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