Q: Can I Go Around a Cyclist to Turn Right at a Red Traffic Light?

(Last Updated On: November 28, 2016)

Question 

It would be great if you could tell what the law is for cyclists and cars when meeting at stop lights. Specifically I want to know if a car is entitled, allowed, to drive around a cyclist at a stop light when the cyclist want to go straight, and is waiting for the green light, and the car driver wants to turn right, and attempts to drive around the cyclist. This situation arises when the cyclist arrives first at the stop line.

Some drivers seem to believe the cyclist should be next to the curb, so they can drive in front of the cyclist, and turn right. However this often results in the car idling in front of the cyclist, waiting for a chance to enter the moving traffic, creating an uncomfortable situation for the cyclist.

HUB Cycling

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HUB Cycling (formerly the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition) is a charitable non-profit organization, originally established in 1998 to improve cycling conditions in Metro Vancouver. Since then, we’ve grown a lot! We’ve impacted infrastructure, educated thousands of children and adults and motivated thousands more.

What we do: 

  • Provide bicycle education to all ages
  • Communicate & encourage more people to cycle, more often
  • Build a fun & social community with events, programs & courses
  • Work with governments, businesses & community organizations
  • Research & write letters & reports

HUB Cycling

HUB Cycling’s Bike Education Program Manager says it best:

It’s a common cause of confusion, and a bit of a grey area. I’m guessing in your scenario the cyclist is the first to arrive and is the first vehicle in line at the traffic light.

If a cyclist arrives at an intersection first, intending to go straight, it’s best to hold your position in the centre of the lane. This prevents cars trying to squeeze past you and turn right (a right hook), which is a safety concern and a common cause of collision for cyclists.

Sometimes it’s unnatural to hold the middle position, because there is a cyclists controlled intersection button on the right. In this case, it’s our suggestion to push the button and then move to the centre.

In both cases, cars should wait behind the cyclist, and turn right only after the cyclist has advanced straight through the intersection.

Here’s what the Motor Vehicle Act states about passing on the left:

Passing on left 159 A driver of a vehicle must not drive to the left side of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle unless the driver can do so in safety.

So legally, if it was “safe to do so” with enough space, a car could pass you on the left and turn right. This is why we suggest that the safest position for the cyclist is in the centre of the lane (to prevent this).

Sometimes we see cyclists stay to the right, close to the curb and allow cars to pass right in front of them. This may happen for various reasons (the cyclist doesn’t feel safe or confident to hold the centre position, the cyclist is riding on a busy street with many cars waiting to turn right and moves to the side as a courtesy). It is not, however, the law that a cyclist moves to the right at an intersection.

I should note, it is illegal for cyclists to squeeze in and ride to the right of a row of cars lined up at the intersection in order to get to the button – yet we often see this happening.

I would add, as an extra safety precaution for drivers when turning right – to always shoulder check right before turning right to double check for cyclists.

 

HUB Cycling has courses for those wanting to learn more about cycling safety and gain confidence riding in the city. Learn more at bikehub.ca

 

 

 

Many moons ago, Carmen became an ICBC-approved driving instructor at the age of 22 in North Vancouver, and has spent many years working with new and experienced drivers around the lower mainland. She can be found reading the Motor Vehicle Act for fun while receiving strange looks from others. May the quest for great driving continue!