The organization of our roads and the laws that govern how we share them are changing and developing as the way we use roads evolves. These changes can seem fast, especially for motorists who have been accustomed to using the roads in a certain way for a long time. So what do these changes mean for motorists and other road users?
An advertisement currently running on the back of a Peterborough Public Transit bus reminds residents of one of the newer laws governing how motorists should act around cyclists. Often referred to as the “one-metre rule”, this law (passed in September 2015) requires that motorists who wish to pass a cyclist must leave a one-metre cushion of space between themselves and the cyclist.
A motorist who breaks the one-metre rule can face a $110 fine plus two demerit points.
The one-metre cushion is designed to keep everyone safe on our roads. For example, it can be difficult for cyclists to maintain a perfectly straight line while riding. Environmental conditions such as pavement inconsistencies, broken glass, or even a strong gust of wind, could require a cyclist to move to the right or left. When motorists obey the one-metre rule, they can pass cyclists while giving room for these unexpected movements.
VIDEO: Give Cyclists a Metre – It’s the Law
From the cyclist’s perspective, laws such as the one-metre rule make our roadways friendlier and more desirable places to cycle. These laws allow cyclists feel safer and more comfortable while riding, especially on busier routes. The dangers that are often associated with cycling on our city roads can be a serious disincentive for choosing to ride your bike instead of driving. It’s not hard to imagine how that extra space makes cyclists feel more comfortable as a few thousand pounds of metal goes whizzing by!
So what does this mean for you as a motorist on the road?
First, be patient. Roads are shared between many types of users, and we all have a responsibility to keep our roads safe. If it is safe to pass a bicycle, give it a metre of space or fully change lanes if possible. Please don’t rev your engine or honk your horn while passing a cyclist. While a honk might seem like a friendly gesture from inside the car, I can tell you from experience that the noise is frightening and can cause a cyclist to lose control.
In general, while driving near a cyclist, it is always good practice for a motorist to give bicycles extra room. Of course, cyclists should use hand signals to communicate what they are about to do, but for a quick stop this may be difficult. In a perfect world, of course, all road users would follow the rules of the road precisely. For better or worse, we live in the real world where chance and human error needs to be planned for. This extra attention will allow for human error to play out safely.
An extra level of caution should be used when driving near children on bikes. Studies have suggested that young children have poorer peripheral vision than adults — meaning they might not see your vehicle when it seems they should. Children may also act more impulsively and have less understanding of rules of the road, which can lead to unpredictability. The one-metre law seeks to address these types of unexpected issues.
Including bicycles is playing a big part of transitioning our transportation system to be more active, sustainable, and community-engaged. Governments at many levels are continuing to respond to this vision through the development of new transportation laws and infrastructure. Laws such as the one-metre rule seek to make cycling a safer and more desirable choice for road users. They also help to shape the ever-growing norms of how our roads should be shared to meet everybody’s evolving transportation needs.
If you would like to learn more about the new laws and local infrastructure as it is changing and evolving in the Peterborough-area, you may want to attend an upcoming Bike Night. Bike Night, funded by Ontario Trillium Foundation and delivered by B!KE and GreenUP, runs each Thursday evening until the end of September. Each week there is a new theme with content focusing on confidence building, discovery rides, family fun, and bike mechanics skills; a great way to learn and ride together.
Bike Night tonight (June 15) is Rules of the Road for Cyclists. This is a workshop that will aim to answer all your questions about how and where to ride on the road. We will practice maneuverability skills, learn how to be visible and predictable, and review the laws for cyclists. After some bike drills and Q&A, we will go for a short ride on Peterborough trails and roads. Visit peterboroughmoves.com for more information and to register.