Signs, Signals and Regulations

New Cycling Facilities - Signs and Symbols

Bicycle Route

The bicycle route sign indicates those streets that form a part of the Bicycle Route Network. These streets are shown on the Ottawa Cycling Map.

Bicycle with Arrow

Indicates that the direction of a bicycle route is changing.

Bicycle Lane

Bicycle lanes are marked with a solid white line, typically 1.5 to 2.0 metres from the curb or edge of road. Bicycle symbols are painted at regular intervals to indicate that these lanes are for use by cyclists.

Reserved Bicycle Lane

Reserved lane signs indicate that lanes are reserved for bicycles.

Special Vehicle Lane

Reserved for specific vehicles (buses, carpools, bicycles). In Ottawa, cyclists may ride in these marked or signed reserved lanes.

Shared Pathway

Indicates an off-street pathway shared by pedestrians and cyclists. Cyclists must yield to pedestrians.

Bicycle Detour

Bicycle detour signs indicate an alternate route for bicycles where construction activities require closure of the usual bicycle route.

Three Yellow Dots

These three dots are painted at intersections and indicate the most responsive part of a metal-detecting loop embedded in the pavement. This loop senses when a vehicle, including a bicycle, is stopped and changes the signal from red to green.

Two Stage Left-Turn Bike Box

These bike boxes will be provided at all intersections along Laurier Avenue West in the north-south directions to help facilitate two-stage left turns for cyclists. Cyclists turning left will be expected to first proceed straight through an intersection and then wait in the designated left-turn bike box for the green signal on the cross street to complete their left turn movement.

Bike Box

A bike box is used at intersections to designate a space for cyclists to wait in front of cars at a red light, and to proceed through the intersection first when the light turns green, followed by drivers. Look for Ottawa's first bike box at the Bay St. and Wellington St intersection.

Sharrows

Sharrows are road markings showing a bicycle with two chevrons. The purpose of a sharrow is to remind residents to share the road when driving or cycling in Ottawa.

Vehicles yield to bikes

  • A new traffic sign instructs motorists to remember to yield to cyclists and pedestrians when making right turns.
  • A straight arrow signal followed by a green ball will allow pedestrians and cyclists to move through intersections ahead of turning motorists. When the traffic signal turns green:
    • Cyclists proceed through the intersection first, followed by drivers.
    • Drivers should remember to check for cyclists to their right before turning right.

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.

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.

Please refer to the Ministry of Transportation Ontario site for updates to the Highway Traffic Act including the 1 metre passing law and new fines and penalties for dooring.

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.
 

Reporting Hazards

Potholes and other hazards in the road surface can be problematic for all road users. Bicycles are more susceptible than motor vehicles to irregularities in pavement conditions, and riding into or swerving to avoid a hazard increases the risk of injury.

The City responds to thousands of requests to repair potholes every year and residents can use Service Ottawa to report road surface hazards such as this. Service Ottawa allows residents to notify the City of cycling hazards that apply to roads and multi-use pathways. Some of the Service Ottawa categories that may assist cyclists in reporting hazards include: potholes, road repair needed, manhole cover problems, street lighting, debris and sidewalk and path maintenance.

You may also report a vehicle parked in bike lanes.

You can as well notify the City of these hazards by dialling 3-1-1 or visiting your local Client Service Centre.

Bike Maps

Did you have a near miss on your bike to work today? BikeMaps.org  is a web map where you can contribute to a safer cycling environment by reporting cycling incidents, including: collisions, near misses, hazards, or thefts. Only a third of cycling collisions are collected officially, leaving the vast majority of incidents unreported. Logging an incident with BikeMaps.org is anonymous and only takes a minute or two using either a web browser or the free mobile app (android or iOS devices). You can also create a riding area on the website to receive alerts of new reports.

The information collected from cyclists in the City of Ottawa will assist staff with identifying locations that may require engineering, education or enforcement campaigns. BikeMaps.org is a research project that began in 2014 at the University of Victoria. Since then they have received over 3200 incident reports worldwide. Funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada has enabled expansion to other Canadian cities such as Edmonton and Ottawa. The initiative is supported by the Safer Roads Ottawa program and its partners.

BikeMaps.org welcomes all feedback and interest in the project. Get in touch by email info@bikemaps.org, on twitter @BikeMapsTeam, or through Facebook (/BikeMaps.org).

Roundabouts

Learn about roundabouts in the City of Ottawa.  

Learn More