Your rights as a cyclist

The whole situation made me angry. I was upset with myself for not getting his information and reporting him, but after a few conversations with other cyclists it sounded like it wouldn’t have resulted in anything anyway.

A few days later I saw a poster on Alexander Avenue and King Street requesting witnesses to step forward for an accident where a “red headed girl” on a bike got hit by a red car and had her collar bone broken — the driver had also left the scene without leaving information.

after a family member got in an accident and had to get involved in a claim with the bike accident lawyer philadelphia, I started to question my rights as a cyclist, so I made a few calls.
I contacted the Public Safety Building to speak with someone about bicycle laws. I was informed by a friendly voice that cyclists do not get an entire lane. Shocked to hear this, I asked how much space a car should give a bike when passing and following. She told me that was undetermined.

I told her about my specific situation, where I was on a one-lane street going straight and the car behind me wanted to turn right. She seemed just as puzzled as I was about how it would work in that situation.

Bicyclists are expected to follow the rules of motor vehicles but do not enjoy the same rights. There are no laws protecting you while you bike on the street; the advice I was given was to “be safe” and to “use bike paths” — oh right, because Winnipeg has a great bike path system!

So what should a cyclist do when involved in a collision? Both Public Safety and Manitoba Public Insurance told me upon contacting them that it is crucial to get the driver’s information and licence plate number. They also told me that getting witness information was very important and that an investigation probably wouldn’t even get started without it.

Cyclists are entitled to claims on injuries and damages to their bicycles, as are motorists on damages to their vehicles.

I asked Pubic Safety if, had there been no injuries or damages to the cyclist and their bike, the motorist would receive any sort of ticket for a traffic violation when at fault for hitting a cyclist — the answer was “no.”

At the end of the day, the motorist was at fault for passing me on the inside of the lane. If I had been injured or my bike was damaged I would have been compensated if I gathered the necessary information.

Still, my lack of rights left me uneasy, so I continued to read about bike safety online ( is one great site if you are interested) and came to the conclusion that I will continue to take the full lane. It’s the place to be if you are worried about visibility, and it’s the least I can do if it is my responsibility and mine alone to be safe.

15 Comments on "Your rights as a cyclist"

  1. The Driver | July 21, 2011 at 4:39 am |

    You’re an idiot. Winnipeg has some amazingly awful drivers and you’re asking to be hit. A bike is not a car, keep both yourself and your ego out of the way.

  2. To The Driver, where should she go “out of the way” to? Most streets have no designated bike lanes, so that’s not an option. And I’m not sure what made you think the author has an ego. She’s just frustrated with the lack of rights for cyclists, and is choosing to do what is safest for her.

    Kara, I commute regularly and am frustrated by drivers who have no patience on the road. I do what I can to be courteous to drivers and share the lane as much as possible (especially in wider lanes), but if they start cutting too close, I move away from the curb. As you said, it really is much safer there. Yes, some drivers get frustrated, but at least they are now forced to exit the lane to pass rather than try to pass in the same lane while nearly hitting me.

  3. I don’t think that bikes should be allowed on the streets. Bikes should ride on the side walk. An accident between a car and a bike is more likely to be fatal than a bike and a pedestrian. Right now it is the responsibility of the vehicle driver to watch for bicyclists. Make the bicyclists be responsible for watching for pedestrians. This would make it safer for all.

  4. Kevin: maybe we can all send you all our $111 tickets! Seems that the ‘poor’ people who ride cycles are being hardest hit, since many of us cannot afford vehicles and the ridiculous insurance for such (plus gas, repairs, etc.). So yet another ‘tax grab’ by the WPS and city Council for allowing such. Maybe this should be an election issue!!!!

  5. kevin: isn’t it also the responsibility for the car to look out for other cars, motorcycles, scooters, and buses? How is it any different to look out for a bike. I think the main problem is more the fact that people like to abuse the right lane to avoid traffic and construction. They feel the right lane owes them something. So the thinking is “why is that bike in my lane.” and until drivers can understand the shared ownership of the road for bikes and cars not much will change

  6. Kevin: My average speed on the road is 30+ km/hr, closer to 40 with a tail wind. How the heck is it safe for me to be on the sidewalk? I drive a vehicle too, and have no issues with slowing down for 5 or 10 seconds until I can safely pass a cyclist. Think about it – are those few seconds really worth more than someone’s well being?

  7. You probably need to talk to Highway and Transportation, not Public Safety. That’s why the person you were talking to had no answers for you. Anyways…here’s a list I’ve compiled from the Highway Traffic Act that all cyclists should be aware of before taking to the streets. Interpret it how you will but as a daily bicycle commuter I don’t feel I have a right to the entire lane (because that would justifiably make me look like and asshole) but because of curb side debris and countless flat tires I ride about 12″-18″ from the curb. Not only does this help keep my tires inflated, but motorists are less likely to try and squeeze in between me and the car in the other lane. Also the only time I’ve ever seen mention of a cyclists right to a lane is when turning left. I can’t remember where I seen it but it said cyclists have the right to the entire lane when making a left hand turn. Makes sense though. Also here’s a good website for some more safety information:


    Highway Traffic Act: Bicycles

    General rules: bicycles and power-assisted bicycles

    145(1) Except as otherwise provided in subsections (5) and (6), a person operating a bicycle or power-assisted bicycle on a highway or bicycle facility has the same rights and duties as a person driving a motor vehicle on a highway and shall obey all signs and traffic control devices, and all directions of a peace officer.

    Rules when overtaking

    114(1) Except as provided in section 115, a driver overtaking another vehicle or bicycle proceeding in the same direction

    (a) shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance; and

    (b) shall not return to the right side of the highway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle or bicycle.

    Overtaking on right prohibited with exceptions

    115(1) A driver shall not overtake and pass upon the right of another vehicle, except

    (a) when the vehicle overtaken is making a left turn or its driver has signalled his intention to make a left turn; or

    (b) when on a laned roadway there are two or more unobstructed lanes available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of the vehicle; or

    (c) upon a one-way roadway, where the roadway is free from obstructions and is of sufficient width for two or more lines of moving vehicles.

    Where no exceptions

    115(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), no driver shall overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right,

    (a) when the movement cannot be made with reasonable safety; or

    (b) by driving off the roadway.

    Operation next to curb

    145(5) A person operating a bicycle or power-assisted bicycle on a highway shall operate it

    (a) as closely as practicable to the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway, unless the highway is designated for traffic in one direction and has three or more traffic lanes; or

    (b) as closely as practicable to the right- or left-hand edge or curb of the roadway, if the highway is designated for traffic in one direction and has three or more traffic lanes.

    Operation in single file

    145(6) No person shall operate a bicycle or power-assisted bicycle on a highway beside a moped, mobility vehicle, bicycle or power-assisted bicycle that is operating in the same traffic lane.

    Exception to subsections (5) and (6)

    145(7) Subsections (5) and (6) do not apply when the person is

    (a) making or attempting to make a turn on the highway; or

    (b) overtaking or passing a moped, mobility vehicle, bicycle or power-assisted bicycle.

    Bicycles on sidewalks

    145(8) Subject to subsection (9), no person shall operate on a sidewalk a bicycle with a rear wheel the diameter of which exceeds 410 mm.

    Use of radio headphones prohibited

    215 No driver of a motor vehicle or operator of a bicycle shall, while operating the motor vehicle or bicycle on a highway, wear, on both ears, headphones which are used for the purpose of listening to a radio or a recording.

  8. As for Kevin,

    I used to ride on and off the sidewalk back in the day with the exact same thinking you had…a car hitting a cyclist can prove fatal. Then one day I realized why cyclists should be on the sidewalk first hand. Other than hitting a pedestrian (which like Terra said, I personally travel at speed of 20-30kmph) a truck that wasn’t expecting a high speed cyclist on the sidewalk turned down a side street right in front of me. I plowed into the side of his truck and put a body sized dent into his passenger door before bouncing back onto the sidewalk. It was an unnerving experience for both me and the driver. Fortunately I wasn’t hurt and he insisted that he could pull it out and didn’t want to go to MPI. Anyways the point of this story is with cyclists on the sidewalk motorists still need to watch out for them, but with the added disadvantage of not seeing them as easily. At least on the road cyclists are somewhat predictable and highly visible.

    All this and that doesn’t take into account injuries that could occur from an unsuspecting pedestrian stepping out in front of a cyclists doing 30kmph on a sidewalk. No at those speeds cyclists belong on the road.

  9. Jay: Well said. I also had a close call one time when riding on the sidewalk – same situation as you except I was a bit luckier. I stick to the roads now.

  10. Kara Passey | July 21, 2011 at 11:35 pm |

    Awesome comments!

    Thanks for all the great info, Jay! I actually called a lot of numbers and just kept getting referred some place else, Public Safety was the first and only to take the time to talk to me. I read the Highway Traffic act as well but my conclusion was that the laws within it were targeted towards highway cycling.

  11. It goes both ways. There are a lot of cyclists that do not obey the laws of the road and same goes for drivers. Both have to watch out for each other. My biggest pet peeve is passing a cyclist on a tight street after waiting for an opening, and then getting to a light and that cyclist passing me, and having to do the same thing over and over.

    As for the $111 ticket, i feel for you. I am sick of you police department and their cash grabs. I wouldnt mind having them fine people who break the law, but they need to worry about the more important laws. $111 for riding a bike on a sidewalk? I think that is justified if the person riding is being inconsiderate to pedestrians, but if they are riding safe, then leave it alone. Maybe they need to implement fines like $500 for breaking and entering, or for stealing a car, that way they have reasons to staff those departments.

  12. Kevin, the cyclists who choose to ride like idiots also drive me crazy. For the record, if a motorist passes me politely, I very rarely pass them back (and on a tight street, I hold my spot at a light – I don’t ride on the right of cars to get to the front). Yes, we all need to drive/ride safely and do our best to coexist politely on a road system that is not well designed.

  13. Michael Richters | July 26, 2011 at 6:12 pm |

    Kara Passey: The Highway Traffic Act defines the term “highway” as follows:

    “highway” means any place or way, including any structure forming part thereof, which or any part of which the public is ordinarily entitled or permitted to use for the passage of vehicles, with or without fee or charge therefor, and includes all the space between the boundary lines thereof; but does not include any area designed or intended, and primarily used, for the parking of vehicles and the necessary passageways thereon;

    In other words, a “highway” is any public road, including city streets, not merely the roads that are commonly referred to as highways.

    Regarding the issue of lane position, the Manitoba Highway Traffic Act requires bicycles to be operated “as closely as practicable to the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway”. This is the same as the requirement for slow-moving vehicles, and does not expressly forbid bicycles from being positioned in the center of a lane. The term “practicable” is not clearly defined, but it is fairly obvious that safety concerns would enter into it. In some situations, motorists tend to pass very closely to cyclists and at speeds that could cause severe injuries, unless the cyclist positions himself in the center of the lane, making such maneuvers (nearly) impossible. I’m not aware of any legal precedent in Canada on this point, but a very strong argument can be made that “taking the lane” in such cases is, in fact, “as close as practicable to the right-hand edge of the roadway.

  14. Kara Passey | July 26, 2011 at 11:02 pm |

    Thanks for the great reply, Michael!

    I suppose I should specify that I meant that I didn’t feel like the Manitoba Highway Traffic Act goes into enough depth on cycling and that the rules listed seemed more appropriate to highway cycling and not on the city streets. Cyclists take risks every time they make a left hand turn or go through a 4 way intersection.

  15. Great article.
    I just wanted to add that MPI has a manual for cyclists, and they graciously sent it to me upon request.
    I believe it said that if you are the first to arrive at a red light, you should take the whole lane. I remember because it surprised me. It sounded more like an advice for better safety than a requirement. If I find it again I will post it.
    I have been commuting by bicycle year-round for a good 5 years now, and I did learn a few things from the manual. It is sometimes vague though, or decisions are left to people’s “best judgement”, which doesn’t help much in case of conflict.
    I like to be on the road better, but in the winter, I choose the illegal ride on the sidewalk. Compromise, consideration, and riding at a slower pace have enabled me to feel safer and more respected. I take the time to do things as well and as clearly as I can, and although drivers and I have still a long way to go, it pays off in terms of cohabitation.
    Being civil seems to inspire others to be civil.
    Our biggest enemy is the infrastructure.

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