If you use bicycles for recreation or even your primary transportation, you might be wondering, what is the law for riding a bicycle — and how can knowing and following the laws keep everyone safer? Every year in Canada, an average of 74 cyclists are killed on the road, primarily in collisions with motor vehicles. While pedestrian fatalities are down, cyclist fatalities remain consistent despite ongoing efforts by most Canadian cities to improve cyclist safety, like Canada’s adoption of Sweden’s Vision Zero plan, which is focused on reducing traffic-related deaths and injuries to zero through prioritizing “the safe passage of our most vulnerable populations.”
Still, while drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians alike wait and see how much Canada’s roads will change to increase safety for everyone, it is important that everyone on four wheels and two understands the rules of the road.
Do Bicycles Have to Obey Traffic Laws?
What is the no-seat bicycle law, and what are bicycle light laws? Ontario has very specific laws about how vehicles may be used and how they should be operated on our roads, which are spelled out in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. According to the law, bicycles are considered vehicles, which means cyclists must follow local traffic laws:
- Obey traffic signs and signals
- Stop at red lights, stop signs, and pedestrian crossings,
- Walk bike across pedestrian crossings
- Stop behind buses and other multi-passenger vehicles when passengers are getting out
- Travel one-way streets appropriately
- Use correct signals for turning and stopping
- Ride in the center of a roadway lane when that is the safest position
- Give way to pedestrians on shared pathways and in parks
Though they are considered vehicles and their operators are held to the same standards as any driver of a car, there are some notable elements of the Highway Traffic Act that set bicycles apart. These include:
- Cyclists are forbidden from traveling on roads with signage posted prohibiting bicycles, such as expressways.
- Only one person per bike — unless it is designed to carry more than one person. This is known as the “no-seat” law.
- Safety reflectors, a bell or horn, and working rear brakes are required for every bicycle.
- Like seatbelt laws, helmet laws must be followed, and parents can be fined for not ensuring their minor children are wearing helmets properly.
Cyclists are subject to specific fines if they do not follow the traffic laws as written. Here are a few examples of bicycle road laws, as well as fines and fees cyclists can face:
- Improper bicycle lighting: $35.00
- No bell, gong, or horn: $110.00
- Failure to signal: $110.00
- Failure to yield to a streetcar unloading: $110.00
- Minor riding without a helmet: $80.00
- Failure to stop at a red light: $260.00
Some notable differences between the impact of traffic laws on cyclists and motorists are that the Demerit Point System does not apply to offenses related to cycling, and bicycles do not require registration, license plates, vehicle insurance, or a driver’s license to operate.
What Happens if a Bicyclist Is in an Accident With a Motor Vehicle?
Bicycle accidents are especially devastating because of the severity of injuries faced when a bicycle collides with a motor vehicle. In Ontario, 63 percent of cyclists who died between 2010 and 2014 as the result of a cycling collision were not wearing a helmet. Even with a helmet, injuries can be life-altering.
Some of the more common injuries that affect cyclists involved in motor vehicle collisions include:
- Head injuries or concussions
- Catastrophic injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Orthopedic injuries
- Internal injuries
- Abrasions and lacerations
- Psychological trauma
If a bicyclist is in an accident with a motor vehicle, the injured cyclist generally has the same options as they would have had as an automobile driver.
What Legal Recourse Do Injured Bicyclists Have?
If you are injured in a bicycle accident, the first step is to file a claim for accident benefits just as you would have if you were driving your car. If you do not have an automobile policy and are not listed on anyone else’s policy, you will be able to file a claim with the insurance company of the driver who struck you.
Ontario’s no-fault system applies to bicycle accidents as well as motor vehicle accidents, so the question of who is at fault for the accident is less important when it comes to filing for accident benefits under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS). Under this law, anyone involved in an accident may be entitled to:
- Medical and rehabilitation care and services
- Home accessibility modifications
- Vehicle modifications
- Home attendant and nursing care benefits
- Equipment and vocational training
- Income replacement benefits
- Non-earner benefits
- Housekeeping, home maintenance, and caregiver expenses
- Funeral and death benefits
If the accident was the other party’s fault, then you can file a claim for additional benefits and compensation for expenses from the at-fault party, including for pain and suffering.
How can Derek Wilson help?
Regardless of the law placing bicycles and cars on equal footing when it comes to getting compensation for injuries, some bicyclists may still be intimidated by the idea of seeking additional benefits—they may even find themselves in a position to be denied disability benefits and are afraid they do not have a case. Speaking with a lawyer as soon as possible after your accident is one way to ensure you are following the letter of the law and doing what you need to do to protect your rights as the operator of a perfectly legitimate vehicle. Even if you are concerned you may be partially at fault, you still may have a case for additional benefits.
When you prepare to speak to an attorney about your bicycle accident, remember that many personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee. This is generally a good thing — for one, it means you can expect that any lawyer who takes your case is confident they can build a strong claim. It also means you are not out any money for fees owing to your lawyer if your claim is less successful than you hoped. However, you do need to account for the legal fees when considering the final settlement amount you can expect to receive. Understanding the contingency fee process is important, and you should be prepared to ask any lawyer you speak to about their fee arrangements.
Because I worked for insurance companies in the past, I know what it takes to get a settlement that is fair. Call us at 855-769-0418, or get in touch online to schedule a free consultation.