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Bicycles and the Highway Traffic Act

With Spring fase approaching, thought it would be a good idea to review some of the law regarding cycling in Ontario. 

Bicyclists in Ontario are required to comply with the Highway Traffic Act (HTA), just like any other vehicle. The definition of vehicle in the HTA includes bicycles. The definition of bicycle includes a vehicle that has one, two or three wheels (unicycle, bicycle or tricycle), has steering handlebars and pedals and does not have a motor. Bicyclists have all the same rights as cars under the HTA, but also all the same responsibilities.

There are certain sections of the HTA that apply specifically to bicyclists. Section 104 requires that all bicyclists wear a helmet, and parents are held liable for ensuring their children under the age of 16 wear a helmet. There is, however, a regulation that allows people over the age of 18 to not comply with section 104 if they so choose. Section 178(2) prohibits the use of a bicycle by more than one person. Section 144(29) prohibits bicyclists from riding their bike across a road on a crosswalk - you have to walk your bike across crosswalks. Section 142 requires all cyclists to use hand signals for all turns. Cyclists must be aware of what the appropriate signals are, and must use them for all turns.

The HTA allows police officers to stop and confirm the identity, license and registration of anyone driving a vehicle. This includes bicyclists, as section 218(1) requires cyclists to identify themselves if the officer finds them contravening this act or any by-law. It is worth noting that you are not required to carry ID on you, and providing one's correct name and address is sufficient. A police officer has the ability to arrest you if you do not comply with the request to identify yourself.

While the HTA provides for specific sections dealing with cyclists, they are still required to comply with all sections of the HTA. Certain sections that may be worth noting include:

- S. 154(1)(c): all drives must obey the instructions of official road signs. This means that all lane signs apply to cyclists. For example, if there is a right turn only lane, a cyclist cannot use that lane to drive straight through the intersection.

- S. 144(7): all drivers must yield to pedestrians lawfully within a crosswalk.

- S. 142.1: all drivers must yield the right of way to a bus when adjacent to a bus bay. You must be aware of buses in lanes beside you who may be attempting to enter your lane to stop at a bus stop. The onus is on the cyclist to provide the right of way.

- S. 144(10: All drivers must obey traffic control signals. Bicyclists must stop at all red lights, and they can be ticketed for failing to do so.

It is, perhaps, worth noting that a cyclist cannot be charged with speeding, as s. 128 of the HTA it only applies to motor vehicles (which a bicycle is not).

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