Patrick Brown on the Legality of “Taking the Lane”

“Taking the lane” is permitted in Toronto in order to ensure cyclists are safe. Taking the lane simply means moving over to the middle of the lane as opposed to staying on the  right.  When the road is wide enough to be safely shared, the bicyclist will normally ride about one meter from the curb.

However we regularly encounter lanes that do not allow us to travel one meter from the curb due to potholes, grates, debris, gravel, parked cars and the dreaded door, construction, street car tracks or lanes that are simply just too narrow.  Sometimes we  need to make a left turn or wish to travel  faster than traffic.

In order to be safe, taking the lane at times is not only allowed under the Highway Traffic Act, but necessary.

To ensure you stay within the confines of the Highway Traffic Act, you should

  1. Signal your intention
  2. Try to maintain the speed of the traffic
  3. Obey the rules of the road
  4. Move back when it is safe to do so.

Although legally we can take the lane, there will be drivers that blast their horn or seek to intimidate.  Although it is illegal for them to pass unsafely, our own safety is paramount.  I strongly recommend that everyone read Herbs “Take the Lane” Blog regarding this issue.

What if there are multiple lanes and you want to go to the very far outside lane? This depends on certain factors.  Firstly, the Highway Traffic Act does require vehicles (bikes and cars) that are travelling slower than the normal speed of traffic to travel in the right lane or the close to the right hand curb. The section does state “where practicable” so there may be situations due to various road conditions, construction, parked cars etc that may not make this “practicable”.

Alexis Perlman


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