Do Bicycles and Sidewalks Mix?

Under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, a bicycle is considered a vehicle. Cyclists are granted the same rights and responsibilities as other users of the road and may be subject to fines if they disobey traffic laws. The Highway Traffic Act is, however, silent with respect to bicycles being ridden on sidewalks.

It is not uncommon for cyclists to feel hesitant about cycling on roads where there is an absence of bike lanes or there are traffic or lane conditions that are perceived as being unsafe. It must be noted though that cycling on a sidewalk also has inherent risks and can be downright dangerous at times.

To avoid collisions, the sidewalk cyclist must be particularly attentive to vehicles exiting driveways, parking lots and intersections. The sidewalk cyclist must also recognize that he poses a risk to unaware pedestrians (and vice versa).

The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario encourages sidewalk cyclists to ride at slowed speeds, use a bell or horn when approaching pedestrians from behind, be ready to stop for pedestrians, stop at every intersection, watch for vehicles at driveways and laneways, and walk when crossing roads at a crosswalk.

It is also important that cyclists be aware of local by-laws which may prohibit cycling on sidewalks. As an example, by-laws in Mississauga, Brampton, and Kitchener-Waterloo prohibit bicycles with wheel diameters greater than 50 cm (20 inches) from being used on sidewalks. Likewise, the City of Toronto has a cycling by-law that prohibits any cyclist aged 14 or older from cycling on sidewalks. Failure to abide by the by-laws can result in fines.

Cyclists should contact their local city governments for confirmation of applicable by-laws and, where sidewalk cycling is permitted, remain ever-attentive to risks while cycling on a sidewalk.

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