Passing cyclists

Passing Cyclists: legalities and safety

Cortes Currents has received several reports of drivers passing cyclists without due care.  

Currents sought to increase clarity on what is expected of cyclists and drivers who wish to operate their vehicles safely and follow the laws of British Columbia.  And so we reached Corporal Chris Voller at the Quadra island detachment of the RCMP for advice on the matter.

Corporal Voller was pleased to discuss legal and safety matters around cyclist-driver interactions.

Visibility is everything

To begin, Corporal Voller recommends that bicycles make themselves as visible as possible, he says “visibility is everything”.  In addition to high-visibility outerwear – he suggests riding defensively.  


Visibility isn’t just about colour and brightness – but also bicycle position on the road.  “If you’re in the middle of a straight stretch, one meter off the side of the road is great.”  Voller says.  But on a sharp corner, he recommends riding more toward the centre or left-of-centre of the right-hand lane in order to give other vehicles a chance to see you earlier and adjust their speed appropriately in response.

Voller says bicycles are allowed to ‘take the lane’ – and as far as the motor vehicle act is concerned, they are treated just like a car or truck. Corporal Voller points out that cyclists are expected to follow all the rules of signaling and obeying traffic signs that are required by the regulations affecting vehicles in the Motor Vehicle Act of BC.  

Passing a bicycle

Similarly, passing a bicycle is really no different than passing a car – you may pass with caution, when it is safe to do so, on our single-yellow-line, two-lane highways.  

If it is not safe to pass, that is a violation of the motor-vehicle act and may result in a ticket and points on your license.  

Ticket-able offenses

The Motor Vehicle Act has several ticket-able offences related to passing other vehicles:

Motor vehicle act sectionViolation nameTicket costICBC Driver Penalty Points
157(1)(a)Fail to pass at safe distance$1093
157(1)(b)Fail to complete pass safely$1093
159Unsafe pass on left$1093
160Pass without clear view$1093

Based on the report of a witness

Corporal Voller explains that a violation of this sort can be ticketed based on a report “by any witness who has observed, and can recall, all the points and/or information needed for police to cover the elements of an offence.”  

“It should be noted that the witness may have to attend the Court of jurisdiction, which in the case of Cortez Island is Campbell River, to give their testimony relating to what they observed”, he adds.

Specific identifying features are required to make a report – a licence plate is the best identifier, but unique features of the vehicle or a positive identification of the driver can be sufficient.

“A lot of cyclists now have a camera mounted on to their handlebars… we would always recommend that people invest in that.  One, for safety, but, two also, for the purpose of being able to corroborate some of their observations”, Voller says.

Bicycles belong on the road! by Peter Blanchard via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

Corporal Voller says that in most cases, if a report is made and the responding officer determines the situation was likely a violation, then a ticket will be issued.  If the ticket is contested, then the person who made the report is needed in court in order for the judge to determine the case.

Voller said that people may request that a warning be issued, rather than a ticket.  The RCMP might, in that case, simply send a letter to the address associated with the license plate, warning the owner of the vehicle of the risks of safety and liability.

If people are reporting an event for information purposes only, (IE just to have it on record, and no police actions taken) they can report the occurrence using the online crime reporting system. http://quadraisland.bc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ and use the “Online Crime Reporting” link.

Of course, the consequences of making an unsafe pass are not limited to tickets.  If the illegal maneuver results in injury or death, then drivers are potentially facing serious penalties. 

Up to $2,000 and/or jail

Corporal Voller explains,  “Any ticketable offence can result in up to a $2000 fine and/or 6 months in jail.  Depending on the circumstances, other charges like Dangerous Operation of a motor vehicle, etc., are also charges within the Criminal Code that a person could be compelled to go to Court for.  Each case really needs to be evaluated on its own merit.” 

There are additional consequences of civil litigation, feeling badly and serious risk of post-traumatic stress disorder.

To make a report

To make a report of unsafe driving with a request for police action, call the Quadra RCMP non-emergency phone number – 250-285-3631.

Or if you believe that the situation represents an emergency, call 9-1-1.

Many thanks to Corporal Voller for making time to clarify these matters.  

Links of interest:

Top photo credit: Pucker factor “The three cars in front of me had their right turn blinker on. The girl in the bike lane is passing them on the right. I expected to see a right hook but the car at the front of this queue looked back and saw the cyclist to the right.” – by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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