Follow rules to ease tensions

The recent tragedy involving cyclist Darcy Sheppard and formerattorney-general Michael Bryant highlighted long-simmering tensionsbetween motorists and bike riders on the streets of Toronto.

The recent tragedy involving cyclist Darcy Sheppard and former attorney-general Michael Bryant highlighted long-simmering tensions between motorists and bike riders on the streets of Toronto.

Animosity — and injuries — could be reduced if both parties simply followed the rules of the road set out in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act and municipal bylaws.

Often, neither side knows how the rules apply to shared streets, and some cyclists don’t even recognize that the laws of the road apply to them.

Common practice on the streets of Toronto can be miles off what the rules specify and safety suggests would be the best way, says Const. Hugh Smith, of the Toronto police traffic services division.

He clarified a few of the basic road-sharing rules with Torstar News Service.

Q. When may a car cross into the bike lane?

A: Never, except:

1. Diamond lanes: Cyclists share these lanes with buses, taxis and other vehicles making drop-offs.

2. At intersections: When the solid white line marking off the bike lane becomes a dotted line, cars may move over to turn right.

Cyclists are often frustrated because motorists move over to the right prematurely, says Smith.

Q. Can scooters and electric bikes use the bike lanes?

A. No. E-bikes should travel in normal traffic lanes, although many riders consider themselves slow-moving vehicles and move close to the curb to let others squeeze past. Bylaws for motorized bikes are being clarified.

One important rule — e-bikes require a helmet 100 per cent of the time by all ages of riders.

Q. Is it true that bikes have the right to take up a full lane of traffic — that is, situate themselves in a lane so as to prevent a car passing?

A. Yes, says Smith.

Bike lanes are designed to allow cyclists the space to go at their own speed. But cyclists are allowed into the main flow of traffic any time. If the road is narrow and there isn’t enough room to comfortably ride to the right of a car, the cyclist is entitled to occupy the full lane. Often that is safest, says Smith. However, when the road widens and traffic speeds up, cyclists are expected to let motor vehicles past.

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