June is Bike Month in Ontario, and as more people put down their car keys this spring and take to their bicycles, some cyclists may be surprised to learn that they can be ticketed for traffic offences, just like drivers, and face the same fines.
Cycling season is here, and according to the province, around 1.2 million adults in Ontario ride a bicycle daily during the spring, summer and fall, and 2.8 million people ride a bike at least once a week. Cycling is increasingly popular, and as more people choose to cycle, some may be surprised to learn that they can also earn a traffic ticket for not following the rules of the road; much in the same way they could if they were driving a car.
A bicycle is a vehicle
Cyclists do not need to register or plate their bicycle, and they don't have to have a driver's licence or vehicle insurance. However, under Ontario's Highway Traffic Act, a bicycle is a vehicle—just like a car, truck or motorcycle. As a result, riders must heed the same rules of the road—as well as some laws that are specific to bikes—or risk getting pulled over and fined.
What types of tickets can a cyclist get?
In general, any ticket a driver can get under Ontario's Highway Traffic Act, a cyclist can get too. A cyclist can be ticketed for failing to stop at a red light or stop sign, going the wrong way on a one-way street, failing to signal, failing to stop for a school bus, and even careless, to name just a few examples. The fines are essentially the same as well: whether on a bike or in a car, you'll have to pay the set fine, plus the victim fine surcharge and court costs too. For example, an $85 fine for disobeying a stop sign, will actually cost you around $110 in the end.
There are also traffic tickets that are specific to cyclists. For example, you can get a ticket for:
- Not outfitting your bicycle with proper lighting: Cyclists must have proper lights, reflective materials and reflectors on their bicycles and failing to have these could result in a ticket with a set fine of $85.
- Riding a bicycle that does not have a working bell: All bicycles must be equipped with a working bell or horn so you can alert other riders, drivers and pedestrians in your presence, if needed. The set fine for this ticket is $85.
- Riding double: Riding double, on a bicycle built for one, could also net you a ticket for $85.
Many municipalities also have their own specific bylaws that, if not followed, could lead to a ticket for riders. Toronto, for example, has a bylaw in place that stipulates, "no person age 14 and older may ride a bicycle on a sidewalk". The fine for riding a bicycle on a sidewalk is $60.
Pulled over while cycling, now what?
Unlike driving, you're not required to carry identification when cycling. But, that doesn't mean you can get out of a ticket if you happen to get pulled over. If you are not carrying any identification, you are required to provide the officer with your correct name and address. Being evasive or lying about who you are, could earn you another ticket at best (for failing to identify yourself), or in the worst-case scenario, arrest.
Do bike infractions come with demerit points?
They're not supposed to, because even though a bicycle is a vehicle, it is not a motor vehicle; an important distinction when it comes to demerit points. Any ticket you get while cycling should not result in demerit points added to your driver's licence.
Of course, mistakes happen, as one Toronto-area cyclist learned recently. After paying his ticket for running a red light on his bike, months later he learned that three demerit points were added to his driving record in error. If you should get a ticket while cycling, review it before leaving to make sure it is listed as a cycling infraction and not a motor vehicle infraction. Otherwise, you may have to fight the ticket in court.
Do cycling infractions affect your auto insurance?
Again, no, they shouldn't. If the ticket is recorded as a cycling infraction, any ticket you get while cycling should not affect your auto insurance coverage.
"Bicycle infractions are not applied to the driving record," says Ministry of Transportation (Ontario) spokesman Bob Nichols in an email exchange with Kanetix.ca. "If the officer states on the ticket that a bicycle was used, the convicting court does not send the information to the Ministry of Transportation."
Since the ticket wouldn't (or shouldn't) be on your driving record, it would not affect your premiums.
Avoid getting a ticket, and ride—and drive—safely.
Road safety is enhanced, when everyone—cyclists, drivers and pedestrians—are predictable, and by following the rules of the road we can all get to where we want to go, safely and ticket-free.