I hate to admit it, but bicycle lanes confuse me. The Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) defines them as a designated use lane that is part of the highway, but not part of the roadway. Both the province and municipalities are able to create designated use lanes and restrict who may use them through legislation. You might be surprised about what this might mean for both cyclists and drivers.
For the driver, the concept of roadway suddenly becomes very important. Roadway includes the lanes motor vehicles drive in and the area where they park at the side of the highway that is not the shoulder. So, if you approach an intersection intending to make a right turn, your pre-turn position is dependent on whether there is a curb or parking is available to the right of the bicycle lane or not. If not, you must remain to the left of the bicycle lane. If so, and it is practical to do so, you must move onto the parking area or next to the curb before you turn.
For the cyclist, it is forbidden to ride other than single file when using the roadway. If the shoulder of the highway or the cycle lane is wide enough, there is no rule that prohibits riding side by side there unless a bylaw directs otherwise.
If the highway shoulder is paved and passable, a cyclist must ride on it. If not, they are allowed to use the right hand edge of the roadway. The MVA does not require the use of cycle lanes if present and I have not found a municipal bylaw that requires their use either.
The bottom line? It’s probably best that cyclists use bicycle lanes if they are present and drivers should exercise extra caution, especially when turning. The cyclist may see their bicycle lane as being clear and pass you on the right.
Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret.) runs DriveSmartBC, a community web site about traffic safety in British Columbia. For 25 years he was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including five years on general duty, 20 in traffic and 10 as a collision analyst responsible of conducting technical investigations of collisions. He retired from policing in 2006 but continues to be active in traffic safety through the DriveSmartBC web site, teaching seminars and contributing content to newspapers and web site