Bicycle Traffic Laws Explained

Is it legal for a bicycle rider to pass cars stopped in a line of traffic to the right of those cars?

The answer is maybe not. This is a common maneuver that one can see almost any day there are bicycle riders, especially in the summer. However, surprisingly, it may be not allowed. In a difficult case recently heard in our Court of Appeal, a bicycle rider was lawfully riding in the curb lane but had to move his bicycle over to the left when he came upon a right turn lane. The bicycle rider moved over the next lane so he would not be in the right turn lane. In MacLaren v. Kucharek, the Court of Appeal said:

…It is not so much that Mr. MacLaren was passing on the right when he was struck by the [left turning driver] appellant, but that he was riding between what were effectively two lanes of travel before entering the Laurel Drive intersection. In my view, s. 183(2)(c) (which required him to ride as near as practicable to the right side of the highway), did not authorize him to ride between two lanes of travel. For Mr. MacLaren to ride between two unmarked but commonly travelled lanes immediately prior to reaching the Laurel Drive intersection was dangerous because a northbound left-turning driver would have little opportunity to see him as he cycled alongside vehicles to his left. In my view, given the configuration of the roadway and the pattern of traffic in this case, for Mr. MacLaren to cycle alongside vehicles to his left created a danger both to himself and to the appellant…

While Mr. MacLaren did the right thing by moving out of the curb lane, he should have moved in behind the vehicles travelling toward the “through” lane, not beside them. By cycling between lanes Mr. MacLaren did not show sufficient care for his own person to avoid a finding of contributory negligence. Taking a lane was the only way, in my view, that a bicyclist could have satisfied the mandate of s. 183(2)(c) to safely travel as near as practicable to the right of the highway.

The Court decided on the case on this basis and found it was unnecessary to determine whether Section 158 would permit Mr. MacLaren to pass on the right. Therefore, it is undecided if a cyclist can pass stopped cars on the right. Every case is dependent on the facts. We at Taylor & Blair LLP Personal Injury Lawyers can help sort through the facts and present the best case possible.

Kevin Blair &
Graham Taylor

Taylor & Blair LLP
Personal Injury lawyers
1607 – 805 West Broadway
Vancouver, B.C.