Riding Your Bicycle

AuthorChristopher Waters
riding your bicycle » 11
chapter 2
Riding Your Bicycle
Many Canadians rst learn to ride a bicycle when they are children.
At that age, the ability to pedal away on a bicycle is an exhilarating
and emancipating activity. Our parents and members of our com-
munities often teach us basic rules about how to ride a bicycle on
the road or on a trail, but for the most part, we consider cycling a
freewheeling activity — one that provides fun and indep endence. As
children, and later as adults, we are often oblivious to the fact that rid-
ing a bicycle is a highly regulated activity in Canada. In fact, cyclists
and the equipment they use are subject to many rules under federal,
provincial, territorial, and municipal laws and regulations.
For the most part, the basic rights and duties of cyclists are
found in highway trac and safety laws and regulations at the prov-
incial, territorial, and municipal levels of government. The full body
of rules that regulates cycling also extends further to include many
other types of statutes, regulations, and bylaws, and include court
decisions as well. The rst main chapter of this book outlines the
most important legal rules that apply to riding a bicycle in Canada.
Some of you will disagree with a number of these rules. Manda-
tory helmet requirements galvanize debate. Bells on bikes are often
a source of mirth for sporting cyclists. Cyclists commonly disregard
full stops at stop signs, a car-centric rule that many cyclists perceive as
risky. From time to time, I discuss the merits of these rules below. But
12 »  ’    
rules they are — if you do not like them, then know ing about them is
the rst step in changing them.
this chapter’s takeaways
» Cycling is a thoroughly regulated activity and cyclists generally
must abide by the rules of the road.
» Rules do vary from province to province and municipality to muni-
cipality and you should be aware of such things as dierent expect-
ations on helmet use, licensing, etc.
» There is a long list of things that you need to attach to your bike,
do on your bike, or not do on your bike.
» There is no better way to understand these rules than to read on!
statutory definitions
A good number of law books, and almost all statutes, start with
“denitions.” A book on bicycling law is no dierent, and “what is
a bicycle” is a surprisingly convoluted issue. This is especially the
case on the margins — for instance, over the issue of whether power-
operated or -assisted two-wheel vehicles are entitled to “bicycle”
status and should be allowed on bicycle paths.
There is no uniform legal denition of what constitutes a “bicycle” or
a “cycle” in provincial and territorial laws. Some jurisdictions such as
British Columbia,1 Alberta,2 Nunavut,3 and the Northwest Territories4
specify that a bicycle is a device with three characteristics: (1) it has
any number of wheels; (2) it is propelled by human power; and (3)
it can be ridden by a person. Manitoba law provides the same, but
adds a qualication that a bicycle is propelled by human muscular
power “through the use of pedals.”5 In all four Atlantic provinces6
and in Yukon,7 a bicycle is a device propelled by human power upon
which a person may ride, but laws in those jurisdictions generally
restrict the legal denition to devices that have “two tandem wheels.”
riding your bicycle » 13
Neither Ontario nor Quebec highway trac laws precisely describe
what constitutes a bicycle, despite referring to such vehicles through-
out the legislation. In Saskatchewan, the relevant provincial law does
not explicitly refer to bicycles, but the denition of a vehicle is broad
enough to include them; the denition provides that a vehicle is “a
device in, on or by which a person or thing is or may be transported
or drawn on a highway.8 Some First Nations exclude human-pow-
ered bicycles from their vehicular trac laws altogether.9
It is possible that provincial, territorial, or municipal regula-
tions will adopt a slightly dierent denition of a bicycle depending
on the purpose of the regulation. For instance, for the purposes of
implementing a mandatory safety helmet requirement for youth,
Alberta regulations dene a bicycle as “a cycle propelled solely by
human power on which a person may ride that has 2 wheels and
includes a bicycle with training wheels.”10
unicycle, tricycle, and quadricycle
Some statutory denitions of a “bicycle” exclude unicycles, tricycles,
and quadricycles. This is the case in New Brunswick, Prince Edward
Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, where laws regulating high-
way trac specify that a bicycle has “two tandem wheels.”11 In Yukon,
territorial legislation applies only to bicycles with two tandem wheels,
or to a device that has three wheels, “but not more than three wheels.”12
In Nova Scotia, the denition of a bicycle includes devices with either
two tandem wheels or four wheels.13 Ontario legislation specically
mentions that a “bicycle” includes a tricycle or a unicycle.14 In other
jurisdictions, a bicycle can have any number of wheels.15
power-assisted bicycle
Most provincial and territorial laws contain references to power-
assisted bicycles, commonly called e-bikes, electric bicycles, or
electric assist bicycles.16 There exist many types of power-assisted
bicycles as dierent technologies are available to equip these devices.
Power- assisted bikes and other “micromobility” devices while
not the focus of this book are growing in popularity. Sales and

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT