The Highway Traffic Act highlights the rules for people cycling and driving to travel safely and predictably on streets within the province:

The City of Toronto has by-laws that regulate the safe use of different cycling infrastructure throughout the City:

  • Toronto’s bicycle lane and cycle track by-laws are in Chapter 886.
  • Bylaws for multi-use park paths are in Chapter 608.
  • The municipal by-laws concerning sidewalk cycling are in Chapter 950. 

Chapter 886-15 of the Toronto Municipal Code outlines the operation, stopping, and exemptions for drivers relating to cycle tracks. No person shall operate or stop a vehicle other than a bicycle or large cargo-power assisted bicycle in any cycle track except for the purpose of:

  • Moving into or leaving a private lane or driveway adjacent to the bicycle lane.
  • Loading or unloading of persons with a disability from a Wheel-Trans vehicle, operated by or under contract to TTC, while actively engaged in doing so.

Exemptions

  • Ambulances, police or fire service vehicles or any other vehicle actively engaged in responding to an emergency.
  • Vehicles actually and actively engaged in works undertaken for or on behalf of:
    • A public utility, including utilities providing telecommunications, energy, water supply or wastewater related services.

Chapter 886-10 of the Toronto Municipal Code outlines the operation, stopping, and exemptions for drivers relating to bicycle lanes. No person shall operate a vehicle other than a bicycle, a large cargo power-assisted bicycle or power- assisted bicycle in any bicycle lane except for the purpose of:

  • Moving into or leaving a private lane or driveway adjacent to the bicycle lane.
  • Making a turn at a highway intersecting the bicycle lane.
  • Entering or exiting a curb lane used for parking.
  • Loading or unloading of a person with a disability, while actively engaged in doing so.
  • Operating a school bus while actively engaged in picking up or dropping off school children.
  • Operating a taxicab while actively engaged in loading or unloading of passengers.

Exemptions

  • Ambulances, police or fire service vehicles or any other vehicle actively engaged in responding to an emergency.
  • Vehicles actually and actively engaged in works undertaken for or on behalf of:
    • The City, The TTC, or a public transit agency authorized to operate in the City.
    • A public utility, including utilities providing telecommunications, energy, water supply or wastewater related services.

One metre rule

Drivers must keep at least a one-metre (3 feet) distance when passing people cycling.

Failure to do so could result in a set fine of $110 (includes victim fine surcharge and court fees).

Allowing sufficient space for people cycling

Section 148(4) of the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) states: “Every person in charge of a vehicle on a highway meeting a person travelling on a bicycle shall allow the cyclist sufficient room on the roadway to pass” R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148 (4).”

Section 148(6) states: “Every person on a bicycle or motor-assisted bicycle who is overtaken by a vehicle or equestrian travelling at a greater speed shall turn out to the right and allow the vehicle or equestrian to pass and the vehicle or equestrian overtaking shall turn out to the left so far as may be necessary to avoid a collision.” R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148 (6).”

Faster vehicles must yield

Section 148(7) states: Driver unable to turn out is to stop; “Where one vehicle is met or overtaken by another, if by reason of the weight of the load on either of the vehicles so meeting or on the vehicle so overtaken the driver finds it impracticable to turn out, he or she shall immediately stop, and, if necessary for the safety of the other vehicle and if required so to do, he or she shall assist the person in charge thereof to pass without damage.” R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148.”

Section 148(8) states: Passing vehicle going in same direction; “No person in charge of a vehicle shall pass or attempt to pass another vehicle going in the same direction on a highway unless the roadway, (a) in front of and to the left of the vehicle to be passed is safely free from approaching traffic; and (b) to the left of the vehicle passing or attempting to pass is safely free from overtaking traffic.” R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148 (8).”

Chapter 950-201 B of the Toronto Municipal Code states that “no person shall leave a bicycle, cargo power-assisted bicycle or other similar vehicle on a highway except in such a manner as to cause the least possible obstruction to pedestrian or vehicular traffic.”

Chapter 950-201 C(2) of the Toronto Municipal Code states that “no person age 14 and older shall ride a bicycle on a sidewalk of any highway.”

Highway Traffic Act 62 (17) states that when on a highway at any time from one-half hour before sunset to one-half hour after sunrise and at any other time when, due to insufficient light or unfavourable atmospheric conditions, persons and vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of 150 metres or less, every motor assisted bicycle and bicycle (other than a unicycle) shall carry a lighted lamp displaying a white or amber light on its front and a lighted lamp displaying a red light or a reflector on its rear. White reflective material shall be placed on its front forks, and red reflective material covering a surface of not less than 250 mm in length and 25 mm in width shall be placed on its rear. 2015, c. 14, s. 21 (2).

Set fine for improper bicycle lighting or improper lighting is $110 (includes victim fine surcharge and court fees.)

The City of Toronto has investigated licensing cyclists on at least three occasions in the recent past:

  • 1984, with a focus on bike theft
  • 1992 and 1996, with a focus on riding on sidewalks, traffic law compliance and couriers

Licensing in the 1990s has been most often discussed in response to concerns for pedestrian safety on sidewalks, where incidents of collisions, near misses, and a lack of courtesy have made many pedestrians, including seniors feel insecure.

Each time, the City has rejected licensing as a solution to the problem under discussion. The major reasons why licensing has been rejected are:

  • difficulty in maintaining an up-to-date and complete database
  • difficulty in licensing children
  • licensing in and of itself does not change the behaviour of cyclists who are disobeying traffic laws
  • difficulty in enforcement and allocation of time and limited police resources; police involved in bicycle licencing studies have determined that the Highway Traffic Act gives them the necessary tools for enforcement (such as Section 218)
  • since many cyclists cross municipal boundaries the natural jurisdiction to license is the province, which has rejected licencing

Section 166 of the Highway Traffic Act states that people cycling and drivers must give two metres clearance from the rear door of the streetcar during unloading and loading of passengers. After the unloading and loading process, people cycling and drivers may pass safely on the right side.

Children and youth

All bicycle riders under the age of 18 must wear an approved bicycle helmet when cycling on any public road. For children aged 16 and under, a parent or guardian must ensure they wear a helmet, or the adult may be liable for a fine of $75.

Adults

Bicycle helmets are not compulsory for adults over 18, but a helmet can greatly reduce the risk of permanent injury or death if you fall or collide. It is strongly recommended that all riders wear helmets.

On e-bikes, adults must wear either a bicycle or motorcycle helmet.

“Dooring” or a “door prize” commonly refers to someone who opens a parked motor vehicle door into the path of a person cycling or other traffic.

Higher set fine of $365 (includes victim fine surcharge and court fees) + three (3) demerit points; drivers who choose to contest the charge could be subject to a fine up to $1,000 + three demerit points, upon conviction.

To avoid “Dooring,” drivers and passengers should utilize what is called a “Dutch Reach.” This involves opening the door using the arm furthest from the door. This action forces the user to turn toward the door, which gives them a better view of the lane behind them. People cycling should give one metre clearance from parked cars where feasible and be aware of the “dooring zone.”

Toronto Law Enforcement

Register your bicycle with Toronto Police Service: Registration Form.

Collisions which police will attend include any collision involving a pedestrian, cyclist or person on a wheeled device which is reported immediately and at the scene of the collision.

People cycling and pedestrians can now report at a new reporting centre at the Traffic Services unit station at 9 Hanna Avenue in Liberty Village. It is also operated by Accident Support Services International and available from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday (excluding holidays).

  • Emergency: 9-1-1
  • Police Non-Emergency: 416-808-2222

The fine for parking in a bicycle lane or cycle track is $150.