With the new bike lanes in Hamilton and spring on the way, this is a great time to review bicycle safety rules for motorists.
It’s a big job to make streets safe for both cars and bicycles. I, for one, am glad of the effort being made in the city of Hamilton. Accidents between vehicles of such different sizes can result in major injuries for the cyclist.
Cannon Street in Hamilton added two way protected bike lanes in 2015, as part of a three-year pilot program. This cycle track, as these bi-directional protected lanes are also known as, has planter boxes and rubber curbs to create a physical barrier between cyclists and motorists.
Of course, vehicles still have access to driveways belonging to businesses and homes on that stretch, something that both cyclists and motorists need to be aware of at all times.
The collisions that occur most often between motorists and cyclists are when one or the other party isn’t aware of the rules of the road when it comes to sharing with other vehicles, including bicycles.
Motorists might feel unfairly targeted in instances of accidents, being the larger vehicle, but in the sixteen incidents recorded between September 2014 and June 2015, four resulted in charges against the cyclist. All to say that both motorists and cyclists carry their share of the blame in these incidents.
Flexible poles, bumper curbs and signage are only half the battle. Education is the key, for both cyclists and motorists.
General Rules on Sharing the Road with Cyclists
Bicycles are not permitted on sidewalks, so it’s essential that motorists and cyclists learn to share the road.
Tips on sharing the road:
- It’s important for motorists to reduce their speed when encountering cyclists on standard roadways.
- Cyclists need to be given enough space to manoeuvre – at least one metre – and they are entitled to take the lane, if it is very narrow and it cannot be shared side-by-side. The penalty for not leaving at least a metre of space is currently $110 and can go up to $500 for a driver who contests this and is found guilty.
- Pass a cyclist with this one metre of space. A motorist can cross over a centre median to do this as long as it can be done safely with regards to oncoming traffic. If not, the motorist needs to wait behind the cyclist until it is safe to pass.
- Don’t follow cyclists too closely from behind either: they don’t have brake lights and you might find yourself surprised if they slow down unexpectedly!
- Cyclists can use the left turn lane, if one is available to make their turn. Motorists need to leave them the space to do so.
- Be wary of ‘dooring’ a cyclist – this refers to opening a car door without properly checking for bicycle traffic. It’s dangerous and expensive: $365 upon conviction and 3 demerit points!
- The last 15 metres of a bike lane (not a cycle track) prior to an intersection will often be a dashed line. This indicates that motorists may merge into the bike lane for the purposes of making a right turn. Ultimately, the motorist has to yield to a cyclist in the lane as they might be intending to go through the intersection, rather than turning. That said, a cyclist who is further back and approaching but has not yet reached the intersection must yield to a merging motorist ahead of them.
It’s all a question of having a healthy dose of respect for the other people using the road.
Sharing the Road with Cyclists – with Cycle Tracks
The protected lanes include, at intersections, what are known as ‘bike boxes’. This is a designated area for the cyclists that is located in front of cars. It allows the cyclist to cross several lanes of traffic to make a right turn from the furthest lane of traffic, at a signal stop.
Motorists need to stop behind the bike box when the signal is red. If turns are permitted on a red signal, motorists can only enter the bike box to complete their turn if the box is unoccupied by a cyclist. If there is a cyclist, the motorist needs to wait until it is clear.
If turning left and crossing over the protected lanes, the motorist is the one that must yield to the bicycle traffic in BOTH directions – this means that the motorist must look over their left shoulder to ensure that there isn’t a bicycle coming up the lane.
Motorists turning left and crossing over the protected lanes to access private driveways must also yield to the bicycle traffic in BOTH directions.
A Word About Kids
Children don’t always have fabulous control when cycling. As a motorist, if you see a kid riding up ahead of you, take extra care. A honk of your horn at the wrong time could startle them right into the traffic path.
Respect is a two way street. Let’s have some for everyone else on the road!