Slow Cycling

CyclistThe Victoria Times Colonist Comments section often contains interesting discussions on road safety. Today's edition shared a letter that raised the issue of slow cycling for me. It was not the writer's intention as the subject was about the need for cycle lanes in Central Saanich.

Here is the paragraph that made me think about slow cycling:

I do feel terrible for the drivers stuck going 30 km/h behind me, sometimes for several kilometres, because there is no safe way for them to get around me.

To put it in context, he is describing locations on Wallace Drive where the roadway edge is in poor condition and does not have shoulders for a cyclist to ride on. My interpretation on reading it is that he takes the lane and depending on traffic conditions can have vehicle drivers stuck behind him.

Taking the lane in this situation is proper practice, but holding up traffic for several kilometres is not.

Rights and Duties of Operator of Cycle

183 (1) In addition to the duties imposed by this section, a person operating a cycle on a highway has the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle.

This section of the Motor Vehicle Act imposes motor vehicle driving rules on the cyclist. It also tells motor vehicle drivers that they must treat the cyclist the same way they would treat another motor vehicle.

Slow Cycling

145 (1) A person must not drive a motor vehicle at so slow a speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

Cyclists are at a disadvantage as it can be difficult or impossible to keep up with the posted speed limit. They cannot be expected to.

However, when a safe opportunity presents itself, the cyclist should let accumulated traffic following behind by, then continue on.

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From: JAG RoadSafetyBC JAG:EX <>
Sent: Friday, October 16, 2020 12:56 PM
To: schessor...
Cc: Maureen ...
Subject: Re: Response to your June 28, 2020 email regarding cycling legislation

Dear Stephen,

Thank you for your emails.

As per the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) s.183(1): In addition to the duties imposed by this section, a person operating a cycle on a highway has the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle.

As you have pointed out, motor vehicle and vehicle have different definitions in the MVA. On this basis, MVA s. 145, Slow Driving, would not necessarily apply to a person operating a cycle because s. 145 describes the requirements of a driver of a motor vehicle. However, s. 147, Schools and playgrounds, would apply to a cyclist because s. 147 describes the requirements of a driver of a vehicle....


Belle Belsky and Sarah Mitchell

Stakeholder Relations


Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General

Tim I can’t see any flaws in your position. We teach cyclists that lane control is a vital safety maneuver in many instances and that road courtesy dictates that you should release following mv traffic at the earliest opportunity. It’s really no different than for farm vehicles or horse and carriage as we see in Mennonite communities.

The decision of the B.C. Court of Appeal in Ormiston v ICBC says:

[59]        The appellant’s objection regarding a cycle moving off a roadway can, and in my view should, be met by recognizing that while a person operating a cycle on a highway has the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle, s. 183(2) is applicable particularly to cyclists and requires them to ride off the roadway, on the right side of the highway, where it is safe to do so. It is the only section of the Motor Vehicle Act that describes a specific obligation of cyclists that may be said to differ from the obligation of drivers of motor vehicles. In my view, the specific direction to cyclists should be read as an exception to the general rule that vehicles should not be driven off the roadway and that shoulders are not lanes.

I have not heard back yet from any of my inquiries.

Thanks for sharing this, lots of interesting points and counterpoints in the full document.  What inquiries did you make, and with whom? Please keep us updated.   

If I understand correctly the portion of Wallace drive in question does not present with a navigable shoulder. Therefore a cyclist must proceed within the roadway. This begets the question of what portion of the roadway the cyclist should occupy.

In my teachings I recommend that the safest stance is in the very middle of the lane. Reason being that any overtaking motor vehicle will recognize that they must occupy the oncoming lane in order to make that maneuver safely.

If we position “as far right as practicable “ it will encourage overtaking mv’s  to pass when there is oncoming traffic creating a pinch point where the cyclist may be hit or forced off the road as in the case law cited.

The time to move right to release following mv traffic is once there is a clear line of sight for passing. 

Reading through the case law there is much discussion regarding the legitimacy of hiway shoulders as travel lanes for bicycles. As we know those lanes can be full width as on portions of the TCH or narrow and treacherous as on many rural hiways.

If the dissenting judge was correct then passing on the right is permitted and I find that troublesome as it counters basic safety and flow principles and in my view is the fundamental flaw with painted bike lanes.

In the case of the cyclist at issue, I presume the portion of Wallace Drive he speaks of is between Benvenuto and Willis Point Rd.  There is no fogline nor paved shoulder.  However the shoulder is reasonably wide packed gravel.  For that reason, the reasonable thing for the cyclist to do (and also for his own safety) is when a car or a few cars start to pile up behind him and cannot safely pass him giving a metre space is to slow and move to the shoulder and either ride if he can or stop for a moment to allow the vehicles to pass.