June 4, 2012

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Cyclists Do Need the Same Status as Car Drivers

Laws granting cyclists the same rights and obligations as drivers of motor vehicles are common in the U.S. and I suspect in Canada as well, and are a good thing. Folks in small towns sometimes get wacky ideas about bicycles, and places in the U.S. have actually tried to make cycling illegal within their town, or county, or maybe their force field. State or provincial laws giving us the same rights and obligations stop these things from happening.

I can also see a lawyer arguing that a bicycle using the street instead of an unpaved shoulder was to blame when his client passes too wide and either loses control or hits an oncoming vehicle. You wouldn't blame an Amish buggy driver being passed unsafely in a case like that, but cyclists are not quaint and much easier to attack in court, without laws giving us the right to ride on the paved part of the roadway.

The referenced case is about who to blame in a car-on-car accident when a car passes on the right. It's fairly unlikely a bicycle passing a car stopped to turn left is going to cause a similar accident. Not impossible, so the law should be reexamined and probably rewritten, but in the meantime it's fairly unlikely that the RCMP has sent out any memoranda suggesting that cyclists using 'de facto' lanes should be ticketed. But please let us know if they do!

Jeffrey Davis more than 2 years ago

Non-standard language

The details of the passing on the right rules vary a lot in North America. Most codes permit passing on the right if the road " is of sufficient width for 2 or more lines [not lanes, as in B.C.] of moving vehicles," and not just on one-way roads. A "line of vehicles" could be a line of motorcycles on bicycles fitting into a space that is too narrow for a full LANE of vehicles. Note, though, that the statute still says that overtaking on the right is only legal when it can be done safely, putting the onus on the passing vehicle. So passing on the right of a car signaling a right turn is not either safe or legal, even if there is enough room for another "line of vehicles."

It's not this court decision, it's the statute that should change. A quick web search showed that only Delaware has exactly the same language as B.C. It would be much better to fix the B.C. rules to conform with the rest of N. America than to try some bike-specific law.

Paul Schimek more than 2 years ago