It’s often safer to ride side-by-side, experts and group riders say of an old Etobicoke rule that’s stricter than provincial law.
Councillor Karen Stintz is asking the city to eliminate a bylaw that requires cyclists to ride single-file at all times on Toronto streets.
The bylaw is redundant because the Ontario Highway Traffic Act already governs how and where cyclists can ride and legislates against cyclists blocking the road, said Stintz.
The councillor for Eglinton-Lawrence is asking council next week to repeal the bylaw — a carry-over from Etobicoke’s bylaws before amalgamation in 1998.
She says it is safe for cyclists to ride two abreast in light traffic and in places where there’s enough lane space for cars to safely pass.
The request comes following complaints by the Morning Glory Cycling Club, which has about 400 members who bike between 5:30 and 7:30 a.m., when the roads are relatively clear.
They haven’t been fined. But club members have been pulled over by police who cited the bylaw, which didn’t exist in other pre-amalgamation municipalities.
“The police are enforcing something that doesn’t need enforcing,” said Stintz.
Club co-founder Fraser Chapman says the cyclists, who ride mostly on side streets, never ride more than two abreast. “We wake up very early and we don’t want to spend a half-hour on the side of the road (with police),” he said.
“The safest way to ride in the city is to actually take up a whole lane of traffic. When you’re just a single-file group, cars tend to think they can scoot by you without changing lanes, and that’s where accidents occur,” Chapman said.
The Ontario Highway Traffic Act has provisions allowing cyclists to ride two abreast, but they’re vague on when that’s allowed, said Jared Kolb, of Cycle Toronto.
Const. Hugh Smith, a cycling expert with Toronto Police, agrees it’s often safe for cyclists to ride two abreast. “When you get cyclists three or four deep, it starts to encroach on the other lanes,” he said.
“By doubling up on that left and right (car) tire track, you’re not occupying any more space than any other vehicle. But you are saying (the lane) is not wide enough to share with a full-sized vehicle. If a third rider wants to come up, they should be passing like a car, or taking the lead,” Smith said.
As part of its draft cycling strategy, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation is rewriting the driver handbook to provide more specifics for cyclists, whose bikes are considered vehicles under the act.
The city is in the process of consolidating the pre-amalgamation bylaws. As part of that process, bylaws that were only in effect in some former municipalities would come into effect for the whole city. Taking the rule off the books will require a two-thirds majority of council.