As the warm summer weather approaches, more and more people are taking to their bicycles. Unlike driving, which requires you to be licensed and insured, cycling remains relatively untethered territory. Laws vary by province and further by jurisdiction, and many cyclists are left surprised when they're issued a ticket for a traffic violation. The penalties for disobeying the rules are just as real for a cyclist as they are for a driver; and depending on where you live in Canada, could impact your insurance rates.
Cyclists who get in accidents and have auto or home insurance are better off than cyclists who don't, though there are still options available. Here's the run down on your bike, the law, and insurance.
Tickets and Demerit Points for Cyclists
Tickets typically come in the form of fines that do not affect your driving record, unless you live in Quebec. In Quebec, including Montreal, one of the country's top cycling cities, cyclists are issued fines as well as demerit points depending on the offence. Demerit points remain on the cyclist's driver's licence for up to 2 years and can negatively impact their auto insurance rates. If you failed to stop at a red light in Quebec, you would be fined about $37 and be assigned 3 demerit points—the same amount of points as if you were driving a car.
Not all bike fines will cost cyclists demerit points though. Listening to an iPod while cycling, or wearing earphones is a $52 fine under the Highway Safety Code. Quebec is the only province in Canada to make biking while wearing headphones illegal.
In Ontario (and all other provinces), you would not be issued demerit points, but many of the financial penalties mirror those of drivers. If you failed to stop at a red light in Toronto, for example, it could cost you $325. You could also be charged $500 if you are charged with careless driving, which is possible on a bicycle.
Here are a few other examples of tickets you can get on your bike and the approximate fines:
- Riding on the sidewalk in Montreal: $37
- Riding without a helmet in Vancouver: $29
- Failing to signal for stop or turn in Toronto: $85
Bicycle Accident Insurance
When it comes to accidents involving cyclists, generally bicyclists are entitled to similar coverage as motorists—even when the cyclist is at fault. Whether the accident involved a motor vehicle, another cyclist, or a pedestrian, you are going to want to collect evidence to protect yourself and make your case in order to collect insurance.
- Call the cops and file a police report. It can be difficult to remember things after an accident, and a police report will serve as reliable evidence if you have to go to court. If damages are minor, you may need to do this at a reporting centre. Try to do this as soon as you can.
- Take pictures of the damage and the scene when possible.
- Obtain contact information of any witnesses. They might be helpful to you if you end up in court.
- Go see a doctor so you have a medical report on record-again, in case you have to go to court. It's important to do this regardless as many injuries including head injuries may not surface until hours after an accident. If you are injured, you may be entitled to take legal action.
- Get the driver's name and insurance information. If the driver fled, try to get the licence plate so the police can track the driver down. You should do this whether you were at fault or a victim.
If You are Insured
You want to look into your accident benefits either through your existing auto insurance provider or through your spouse or dependent's (if your name is attached to their policy). Although cyclists aren't considered a motorist, you do have some protection under your car insurance policy.
If you hit a pedestrian or another cyclist while riding your bike you may be covered under your home or tenant insurance. Bikes constitute personal property, meaning your insurance may pay the damages caused to the other person. Check your liability portion of your policy to review how your plan compensates personal injury as a result of an occurrence with your property.
If You are Not Insured
If you don't own a car, are not listed on a car insurance policy, and do not have any type of property insurance, you may be entitled to file a claim under the driver's insurance policy, even if you were at fault. In Ontario, for example, these are called Statutory Accident Benefits. These cover expenses such as medical rehabilitation, attendant care, and caregiver costs, with varying coverage depending on the severity of the accident. These expenses are not covered by provincial health plans. There are also additional ways uninsured cyclists can file claims and take legal action.
Each province has its own way of dealing with uninsured cyclists, and this can be a complicated process. It is best to research how your province handles these situations and plan accordingly.
Sharing the Road
A recent poll conducted by KANETIX.ca determined that cyclists and drivers make each other nervous. It's important for both parties to remember to follow the rules of the road-signal when turning, stop fully at red lights and stop signs, leave plenty of room, etc. Not only will this prevent you from getting a ticket and possibly demerit points, but it also helps prevent accidents.
View the infographic too: Bikes vs Cars