Sharing the road with cyclists: are cyclists obligated to ride on the shoulder?

As bicycling has become a more common way to commute, the number of personal injury actions involving cyclists has increased. Significant confusion about where a cyclist is supposed to ride remains. It is well established that bicycles do not belong on sidewalks, but are they obligated to ride on the shoulder? The shoulder is the area to the right of the fog lines on a highway. It is an area that motor vehicles are not permitted to drive on.

Section 183 of the Motor Vehicle Act provides that cyclists must “ride as near as practicable to the right side of the highway“. The Court of Appeal of British Columbia determined whether the highway included the shoulder:

This case involved a cyclist who was struck by a motor vehicle. The cyclist was in the far right section of the lane but was not using a readily available and paved shoulder. The Court of Appeal decided that the “highway“, for the purpose of interpreting Section 183, did include the shoulder and that cyclists had an obligation to ride on the shoulder where “practicable“.

Despite the above, a cyclist who is struck after choosing not to ride on the shoulder may still have a very strong personal injury case. Firstly, even in the above case, the driver of the motor vehicle was found to be 70% at fault. The fact the cyclist was riding on the road did not alleviate the driver’s duty to look out for cyclists. Additionally, there may be circumstances where it is unsafe to ride on the shoulder and not “practicable“. For example, the shoulder may be covered in gravel, unpaved, or obstructed by snow or other debris. As such, any injured cyclist should always consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer as they may have a better case than they presume.


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