Bike lanes are for cyclists

"Don't design streets for the traffic that you have, design streets for the traffic that you want."

This bit of wisdom from a traffic engineer may strike terror into the hearts of motorists, but could be considered as long overdue by pedestrians and cyclists.

The Active Transportation Design Guide from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure addresses human-powered modes of transportation, including bicycle lanes.

Municipalities around the province are constructing cycling infrastructure to provide dedicated space and in the case of separated bike lanes, enhanced safety.

This has caused consternation for some drivers who are not sure how to deal with sharing the road.

A Kelowna resident observed that her community added bike lanes and almost immediately after there was a cyclist injured. She wanted to know how motorists should share the road with cyclists.

If the cycle & diamond symbol is not painted or the lane is not signed, it is not a bicycle lane. The lane is often painted green to distinguish it from lanes intended for motor vehicles as well. Also, without the symbol or sign, the area to the right of the solid white "fog" line is the shoulder of the highway.

Is the bike lane treated as just another lane of traffic?

A bicycle lane is a designated-use lane of the highway intended for use by cyclists only. Motor vehicle drivers cannot drive, stand or park in this lane.

The exception to this rule occurs at intersections where a single broken white line exists. Drivers must yield to cyclists and then move to the right over the broken line to prepare for a turn.

When you are turning into a driveway or onto a road to the right and you have to cross a bike lane and there is a cyclist there, does the cyclist have the right away?

The answer to this is yes, the cyclist does have the right of way and drivers must yield it prior to turning across a bicycle lane.

Turns at intersections must be made into the first available lane. The bicycle lane is not available on a right turn unless you are a cyclist, so motorists must travel a little further into the intersection before turning.

The Manual of Standard Traffic Signs and Pavement Markings for British Columbia contains a warning sign for this situation instructing that right turns must be made wider than normally.

Passing on the right is another consideration. Many drivers think nothing of passing a overtaken vehicle turning left, but they cannot do this if it means travelling over the solid white line or off of the roadway.

The rule is supposed to protect cyclists in the bicycle lane, which is not part of the roadway, but a wise cyclist would never count on proper driving behaviour.

Lastly, we need to examine the case where a motorist needs to turn into or leave a driveway or alley. You are permitted to cross over a designated lane in order to park or leave the highway.

Just signal, shoulder check and enter if it is safe to do so, yielding to cyclists in the bicycle lane.

If you are leaving the driveway or alley, you must yield the right of way to cyclists approaching closely enough to be a hazard.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/lanes/bicycle-lanes

Watch out for the horse

Our Motor Vehicle Act defines traffic as pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, cycles and other conveyances, either singly or together, while using a highway to travel.

That's right, a horse being ridden on the highway is considered to be traffic. Animal drawn vehicles are a legitimate part of the mix too.

You might be surprised to find that the rider or driver of an animal drawn vehicle has the same rights and duties as the driver of any type of motor vehicle.

Like a cyclist, this means that the horse or horse drawn vehicle is entitled to use our roads in the same way as a driver does. However, they are not required to be as near as practical to the right side of the highway.

Riders must also follow all of the other rules of the roadway such as signalling their intentions, obeying traffic controls and following the slow driving rules.

Animal-drawn vehicles must display a slow-moving-vehicle sign at the rear when on a highway and both would have to display lights when on the highway after dark.

Drivers must behave as if the horse rider or horse drawn vehicle is another motor vehicle on the highway. It is especially important that drivers follow and pass with care.

Riders and drivers must exercise reasonable consideration for each other while they are using the highway.

Both the Minister of Transportation and the government of a municipality may make regulations or bylaws that control the riding of horses or the operation of horse drawn vehicles on or beside our highways.

In fact, horses and horse drawn vehicles are prohibited on freeways and may only cross at intersections by permit from the Minister of Transportation.

What is unique is that a horse brings a mind of its own to this situation and does not always obey the rider's instructions. They can be upset by passing motor vehicles as well as the actions of an inconsiderate driver and react unpredictably.

Drivers of vehicles should be aware that if in passing by a horse being ridden or driven and they indirectly cause an accident, which could include spooking the animal which then throws the rider off, they must stop, render assistance and provide their details to the rider.

Failing to do so could result in charges of failing to remain at an accident.

For more information on this sharing the road with horses, visit the Horse Council of BC web site.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/miscellaneous/sharing-horses

Watch out for 'bulldozers'

A reader explains that several times they've been on the highway and had someone, usually in a big truck or old car, come right up behind, so close that they can't really see the front of the vehicle.

The reader drives a small Toyota and is frightened by this bullying behaviour.

The question is, what do you do when you find yourself in this situation?

This might be the most common form of aggressive driving on B.C. highways today. This person speaks of the larger vehicle, which in my experience is almost always exceeding the speed limit, trying to bulldoze them out of the way through intimidation by following too closely.

I find this especially worrying when I try to use an HOV lane. Inevitably, I will end up with nothing, but grille showing in my rear view mirror and I'm prevented from moving right to get out of the way by the single solid white line.

Fortunately, the bully usually doesn't feel obligated and eventually roars by on my right.

Our penalty for either of these offences is a $109 ticket with three penalty points on conviction.

This may be another anachronism, but on a two-lane road, if the bully simply sounded the horn, the slower driver would be obligated to yield to the right.

Problem solved, and they could get back to exceeding the speed limit again.

Now, I hear the bulldozers complaining about people in the left lane refusing to get out of the way.

They have a valid point too. If you are slower, even if you are doing the speed limit, you must move to the right lane and let the speeder by.

Our government felt that moving out of the way was so important, they added another rule to reinforce this duty.

It's usually a clue that you are in the wrong lane on a multi-laned highway when traffic starts passing you by on the right side.

What about slow drivers?

You know, the ones leading the parade while sight seeing. If they can justify the slow speed in order to maintain safety, then there is nothing to be done.

If they can't, they need to leave the road, stop, let others by, and then go back to their chosen safe speed.

To protect yourself, let the bulldozer by, even if it means pulling over and stopping to do so. I would rather have them in front of me where it is easy to keep an eye on them than behind trying to involve us both in a collision.

Don't do anything that the bullying driver might see as retaliation for their bad behaviour.

Tapping your brakes or slowing down might escalate the situation into a road rage incident with serious consequences for everyone.

You may also wish to record their licence plate number as they pass and report them to police.

Dash cam recordings are good evidence to support your complaint even though a prosecution can be successful without them.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/aggressive-driving/bulldozers

Proper placement of hands

Some students in my Elder College class last week were surprised to learn that it was no longer generally acceptable to hold the steering wheel with your hands in the 10 and 2 position.

Who would have thought that how to hold your vehicle's steering wheel would change, or that it even mattered?

After sharing this idea with the class, the first question was "Why don't they tell us about this?"

I countered with a question of my own, "When was the last time you read the owner's manual for your vehicle?"

The best theory today is for the:

  • Left hand to be between 7 and 9
  • Right hand to be between 3 and 5.

This keeps your hands and arms out of the way if the airbag deploys and you don't end up having a fist fight with yourself in the event of a collision.

Please note that these instructions call for both hands to be on the wheel.

There are three acceptable practices for holding your steering wheel, depending on the driving situation.

The traditional hand over hand method has died a quiet death except at low speeds in parking lots and at intersections.

Otherwise, the preferred method to use now is called either push-pull or shuffle steering depending on who you talk to.

The steering wheel is pushed with one hand and then pulled with the other, effectively shuffling the wheel between hands. Neither hand ever passes the 12 or 6 position and the wheel is not allowed to slide through both hands at once as it centres after a turn.

One handed steering is acceptable in two circumstances, when operating vehicle controls and while backing up.

Hold the steering wheel in the correct position for shuffle steering with one hand and operate vehicle controls such as the shifter, signal lights or wipers with the other.

This should be accomplished when no steering input is required.

Put one hand at the top of the steering wheel when backing up. The direction that you move the steering wheel also be the direction that the back end of your vehicle moves.

A check with an ICBC driver examiner reveals that should you palm the wheel, use only one hand to steer (except when backing up) or grasp the steering wheel from inside the rim, it will be marked as an error on a driving test.

Changing from hand over hand to shuffle steering may take some practice, but it delivers two benefits, you will:

Be less likely to over correct in an emergency

Suffer less fatigue in your arms and back, arriving at your destination in a safer more comfortable manner.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/skills/steering-wheel-hand-placement

More Behind the Wheel articles

About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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