10 General Bicycle Laws and Rules for Cyclists

Riding a bicycle is fun, healthy, and cost-efficient. It’s a nice way to get around, enjoy the weather, and makes a difference to our environment. Although bicycle laws vary jurisdiction to jurisdiction, there are some commonalities or bicycle laws that you will find standard to most regions of Canada.

1. What you don’t need

Bicycles are a one, two, or three wheel bike which does not have a motor. The ‘no motor’ part is very important as a motor changes the nature of what a bicycle is. A bicycle does not require registration of any kind, does not need a license plate, a cyclist is not expected to have vehicle insurance, and you don’t need a driver’s license. A person of any age can ride a bicycle freely.

2. You must wear a helmet

When you are riding a bicycle in Canada, every cyclist under the age of 18 must wear a safety approved helmet. For adults over 18, helmets are not compulsory however is strongly recommended as it can save you from permanent injury or death in the event that there’s a collision or you fall off your bike.

3. Obey all traffic laws

The rules of the road apply to any vehicle that is on it. As a cyclist, you are treated as any other driver and you should abide by bicycle laws. You’re sharing the road with cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles, and other vehicles. Thereby, someone riding a bicycle must obey all traffic laws. They also have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers which means there are clear expectations on how a cyclist is to behave while on the road and around pedestrians.

4. You cannot ride on a sidewalk

Although you may not be stopped by authorities on a long road with no one on it for riding on a sidewalk, technically, any cyclist over the age of 14 is not permitted to ride their bike on the sidewalk. No matter how busy a roadway is, a cyclist must adhere to remaining on the road alongside other vehicles.

5. You cannot carry any passenger

A bicycle is not permitted to carry any passengers. A bicycle is only meant to have one person riding. Although there are models with multiple people and while there are certainly ways to modify a bike’s design to accommodate another person, as long as you’re driving on the road, cyclists are only permitted to be one person per bike.

6. You must stop at red traffic lights

Like any other vehicle on the road, someone riding a bicycle is expected to remain stopped at red. Regardless of whether a cyclist sees an opportunity to “safely” traverse the road, one must understand that they are considered no different than a vehicle. If you do not adhere to stop signs, do not stop at a red light, and/or do not stop at a pedestrian crossing, you are in violation of the law.

7. Staying close to the right edge

A bike is a lot slower than a motorized vehicle. For this reason, someone riding must stay close to the right edge of the road. If you’re moving with traffic, this is particularly important. Even on a road with no other vehicles, the bicycle laws indicate that cyclists must stick as close as possible to the right.

8. You must stop behind buses and streetcars

For cyclists who aren’t from an urban area, they may not be aware of the bicycle laws for stopping behind streetcars or buses. Like cars, a safe distance must be kept behind buses and streetcars. Passengers getting out should not be met with someone racing down the roadway on their bicycle. This is unsafe for them as well as for the person riding. Once again, a cyclist must see themselves like any other vehicle on the road.

9. Where you are permitted to ride the bike

Someone on a bicycle can ride on most, if not all, roads, with the exception of two road types. Controlled access highways in Canada do not permit anyone to be riding a bicycle on them. In addition, any roadway within a pedestrian cross-over must have the cyclist come off their bike and, for the purpose of pedestrian safety, walk the bicycle to the other side of the road.

10. Any other safety equipment stipulated by law

The precise requirements under law for what a bike should be equipped with varies province to province. In most, you will find safety equipment requirements including things like a white front light and a read red light, white reflective tape in front and red reflective tape on the back, working rear brakes, and a bell or horn. If a bicycle is missing any of the required safety items, a cyclist can be fined.

If you have a motorized e-bike, a lot of the same rules apply including not needing a driver’s license, license plate, or any insurance. That said, you do need to be at least 16 years of age, wear an approved helmet, and keep the bike in good working order. All traffic laws that are applicable to bicycles while on the road also apply to e-bikes.

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