Friday, March 10, 2006

Safe passing law and Cycle Ontario

I saw on Cycling Dude that California is considering passing a law to require motorists to give at least 3 feet of space between the car and cyclist when passing.

It's not unheard of for a certain cyclist to remind car drivers that they must give 1 metre of space when they pass too closely. Is this actually a law in Ontario? Or is there a court precedent for charging someone with reckless driving if they pass a cyclist too closely? If a police officer is driving right behind someone who passes me 6 inches from my elbow, is there any point in that officer pulling the car over? The parts of the Highway Traffic Act that I have read only talk about passing so as to "avoid a collision". That's a very naïve way to write a law given the unpredictability of road conditions and human actions.

If 1 metre of space is not a clear law, or if it is only based on court precedent (I don't even know if precedent is what matters in traffic law), having it written clearly into law would be a good move for cyclists in Ontario. If this became a law, and it was well advertised (advertising and education is critical), it would be much clearer that a car must actually wait for some space in the adjacent lane, so it can pull into that lane, at least partially, while passing the cyclist.

I stopped by the Cycle Ontario booth while at the Bicycle Show on the weekend. The focus was on a province-wide network of bike routes (using signage and possibly bike lanes?). You can look at some of the map on their web site. Judging by the locations, the routes appear to be aimed at bike touring more than every day cycling. I like the idea, and I hope it gets somewhere, especially since signage like this is so simple and cheap. I've been thinking of going on a bike ride up around Lake Simcoe, and it would be nice to go on a trip like that and have some confidence that the roads will be comfortable on the bike. However, a provincial cycling group would be a good place for advocating for useful everyday cycling routes that are coordinated between our cities.

Cycle Ontario is also interested in increasing membership. They mentioned something about how they are a tiny fraction of the size of Velo Quebec. On the Cycle Ontario web site, it says one of their goals is to increase membership to 200.

Many of the things that cyclists need can be addressed at the provincial level. This is true for laws and infrastructure. I'm starting to think I need to stop whining and start writing letters to provincial government members.

Darren J 3/10/2006 09:05:00 a.m.


Hey Darren, how do you remind them to leave a metre of space without actually catching up to them and talking with them?
Who said that certain cyclist was me? :-)

I sometimes do catch up to them and talk to them at a red light. Most people are friendly and apologetic. Some aren't. If I know I won't catch up, I look in their rear view mirror, wave my arm out to the side with my hand sort of turned down. My arm length is about a minimum distance that they should give me. I have no idea how effective the arm waving thing is, but I hope it wakes up the next driver about to pass so they don't just follow the same path as the previous car.
I'm a charter member of CycleOntario, and I was talked into running for their board of directors at their AGM later this month.

The Ontario Bicycle Route...yup, I think that's mainly intended for long distance riding, touring, connecting between cities, etc. Local routes would be left to local cycling groups / municipalities to figure out.

CycleOntario is also working towards being a strong lobbying and advocacy group for all Ontario cyclists, unifying the many local groups all over the province. This would be useful for things like pushing for HTA changes (1 metre law?), etc...

It's still a very young organization, but it's something that we need as cyclists.

Thanks for the link! ;-D

And for the interesting report on Cycle Ontario.

You both will soon be added to my collection of links. ;-D
No problem Kiril. Thanks for all the work you do.
I know the city of Toronto used to have billboards posted that said to leave a metre of space when passing cyclists, so it may have sunk into some drivers head at that point in time. (not enough though)

I've followed some of Cycle Ontario's suggestions when doing out of town riding between places before and many of them are still intimidating places to ride. And they seem to give preference for absolutely direct between major centres (so the maps may miss good roads between minor places) so that they may suggest a king's highway when there is a paved quiet country road that parallels the route and is SO much nicer to ride on.
I guess Cycle Ontario's map and routes are still in development. Maybe they need to have a map of what they recommend now and a map of what they hope will be the future routes.

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