Cycling and the law

Collisions

The law requires every operator of a vehicle to identify him- or herself to the other driver and to report the collision to the police if there are injuries or damages in excess of $1,000.

If you are involved in a collision:

  • Give your name, address and phone number to the other driver(s).
  • Get the other driver(s) name, address, phone number, vehicle particulars and insurance company and policy number.
  • Call the police if there are injuries.
  • Settle damages between yourselves, but only if damages are minor (less than $1,000). Keep in mind that “no fault” insurance in Ontario means you can't make a claim against the other driver’s insurance, but you can still sue the driver personally.
  • Call the police if the damages exceed $1,000. The police may ask you to come to the station to make a report. Explain that getting to the nearest station may not be feasible because you are on a bicycle.
  • Obtain names of any witnesses that may be available. If anyone has stopped to help at the collision, ask for their name(s) and telephone number(s).
  • Write out a short paragraph describing what happened if the police will not be responding to the scene. Have everyone involved sign it. Keep this for future reference.

Avoid getting into a collision by taking a CAN BIKE course.

Equipment

According to the Highway Traffic Act, your bicycle must be equipped with:

  • A bell or horn in good working order
  • At least one braking system on the rear wheel capable of skidding that wheel on dry, level pavement
  • A white front light (visible from a distance of at least 150 metres)
  • A red rear light or red rear reflector
  • Two strips of white reflective tape on front forks (each strip to be 125mm by 25mm)
  • Two strips of red reflective tape on rear forks

These lighting requirements are mandatory if you are riding between half an hour before sunset and half an hour after sunrise, or anytime visibility has been reduced to the point where you cannot see 150m ahead.

Electric bikes (e-bikes) that physically resemble traditional bikes are permitted on City of Ottawa bike paths. An electric bicycle is a bicycle that is powered with an electric motor. It uses rechargeable batteries and can travel up to 24 to 32 kilometres per hour.

Scooter type power assisted devices and bicycles with a non conventional appearance are NOT permitted on the pathways because they tend to be heavier and therefore have an increased risk to health and safety in the event of a collision.

These rules do not apply to mobility devices such as powered wheelchairs, three wheel electric scooters and four wheel electric scooters.

Helmets

Bicycle helmets must be worn by all cyclists under the age of 18. Look for the CSA or CPSC certification in the helmet before you buy or wear it.

  • To provide maximum protection, the helmet should fit level and square on the head, and the front should cover the forehead.
  • It should sit snugly on and not slip when the head is moved around, even before the chin strap is fastened.
  • The straps should be adjusted to meet just below the ear, and fastened comfortably. For more information, contact Ottawa Public Health Information at 613-580-6744.

Rules of the pathways

Bicycles are permitted on mixed-use pathways, but cyclists should follow these guidelines:

  • Keep to the right of the yellow centre line (where one exists)
  • Pass other users only when it is safe to do so
  • Use your bell or voice to warn others when you are passing e.g., "Passing on your left!"
  • Ride at a suitable speed for a mixed-use pathway (recommended speed of no more than 20 km/hr)
  • Be cautious at night, especially along pathways that are not lit. Ride more slowly, especially around dark curves, and stay visible by dressing brightly and using bicycle lights.

Rules of the road

Cyclists must identify themselves when stopped by police for a contravention of the Highway Traffic Act or municipal by-law regulating traffic. You just need to provide your correct name and address.

Cyclists are required to ride as close as practicable (ie no closer than 1.0 metre) to the right curb of the roadway, except when:

  • Travelling at the normal speed of traffic
  • Avoiding hazardous conditions
  • The roadway is too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to travel safely side-by-side
  • Riding alongside another cyclist in a manner that does not impede the normal movement of traffic
  • Preparing to make a left turn, passing another vehicle, or using a one-way street (in which case riding alongside the left curb is permitted)

Cycling on the sidewalk is prohibited by the City of Ottawa Traffic and Parking By-law except where it is permitted by official or authorized signs.

Cyclists who frequently ride in Québec should become familiar with the details of the Code de la sécurité routière from the Québec Ministry of Transport.