Road Lines British Columbia & Canada {updated 2020}

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What’s the difference between yellow lines and white lines?

Good question! We’ve got the scoop on the road lines British Columbia and Canada. Let’s drive right in. 🚘 🚘 🚘

Road Lines British Columbia, Canada Video

*This info is relevant to British Columbia, Canada but may also apply to other parts of Canada and the US. Thanks for helping me make a video with your Corvette, dad! 😂

Yellow Road Lines Separate Traffic Moving in Different Directions.

road lines
Yellow lines separate traffic moving in opposite directions

White Road Lines separate traffic moving in the same direction.

So where do we find these mysterious white road lines? Basically, we will find them anywhere the traffic is moving in the same direction, which is commonly :

  • One-way streets
  • Freeways
  • Highways
  • HOV Lanes
  • Multi-lane roads

white road lines
White lines separate traffic moving in the same direction

White Road Lines on Cambie Street, Vancouver

Ah yes, beautiful British Columbia! Here’s Cambie Street heading North around 33rd Avenue or so. Just notice the white lines separate traffic that is moving in the same direction. In this case, the oncoming traffic is located on the other side of the boulevard.

The Yellow Road Line Should Always Be To Your Left Unless You Are Passing or Crossing It To Turn (Generally Speaking)

yellow road lines
I think you hear me

Sometimes, your car might ‘be’ on the other side of the yellow line. For example, sometimes you might cross over the line in order to make a left turn. Or sometimes you might be passing another vehicle on the highway. But in general, stay to the right of the yellow line.

You May Lane Change Over Broken White Road Lines When Safe

This is Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam. Notice the white lines are separating traffic that is moving in the same direction. The opposing traffic is ‘over there’ somewhere else (again on the other side of the boulevard). Notice the yellow line on the far left hand side of this picture, indicating the opposite direction will be found on the other side of this line.

broken white road lines
Lougheed Highway, Coquitlam

BC Laws Prohibit Lane Changing – It Is Illegal Over Solid White Road Lines

Do not change lanes over sold white lines. They are there for a reason. These are usually found on the approach to intersections, crosswalks, and certain other spots. Changing lanes in the middle or before an intersection is dangerous, so these lines are here discouraging the action.

solid white road lines
Don’t Do It

ICBC Laws Indicate That Passing is Technically Allowed with extra caution over one solid yellow road line (if and when safe), at your discretion

This isn’t the best photo example for this but hopefully you understand this concept. If you’re driving on a highway and you have only one solid yellow line, you are allowed to pass another vehicle at your discretion.

solidyellowone-600x398

You may pass – it is allowed – in either direction over one dotted yellow road line – if and when safe – at your discretion

Passing is allowed over these dotted yellow lines. Keep in mind, you never ‘have to’ pass another vehicle. You could also just be patient and enjoy the scenery. Passing is an advanced skill. The dotted line can rather suddenly switch back to a double sold yellow line, so keep that in mind when planning and looking far ahead up the road while driving. If you’re not sure it’s safe, simply don’t do it.

dotted yellow road lines

It is illegal to pass and is not allowed against double yellow solid road lines

Here are the lines where it is positively illegal to pass another vehicle. The lines are in place because it’s simply not safe to overtake another vehicle on a particular road or stretch of the road. This is usually due to visibility – or other – important safety issues.

DSC_4399-600x398

Drivers are allowed to pass over a solid yellow road line with a broken yellow road line only if the broken line is closest to you.

(If the solid road line is closest to you, it is illegal for you to pass)

This happens when one half of the road (one direction of traffic) has good visibility and the other direction doesn’t. You’d think they would both be the same, but it isn’t the case.

Think about it. When you walk down the road for a while, you see a certain view in front of you, right? If you were to turn around suddenly and go back the opposite direction, is the view the same?

Many times it is a completely different scene. This is why we need to respect the lines and trust that they are here to keep us safe. We may not know what’s up the road, but the engineers (smart people) who designed the roads and the line patterns for us do.

yellow road lines

This Video Shows Illegal Passing Over the Road lines

Oh dear. Here are 2 vehicles passing illegally. This is illegal because the solid part of the line is directly to our left, which means it is not legal to pass here. It may look like the visibility is Okay, but things change quickly. There are dips and curves in the road – and many other things – that we do not anticipate.

Of course I probably don’t need to mention that this type of illegal passing can lead to head-on crashes, the worst kind of crash possible.

How can pavement markings indicate that you are driving in the right direction?

Pop Quiz! If you are driving on this one-way ramp and you see these lines, which direction should the car be going? Is it traveling toward us or away from us? 

pavement markings showing you are driving in the right direction

If you guessed this way, then you’re correct. Remember that the yellow road line should be on your LEFT. If the yellow line is on your RIGHT, then you’re on the wrong side of the road.

This is how pavement markings can indicate that you are driving in the right direction.

yellow and white road lines

Notice in the following video that there’s a yellow line to our left. This is because we were on a two-way road that lead to a ramp. Then, it turns into a solid white line as we join up with another lane which is going the same direction. Then the solid line changes to dotted as we move away from the place where the two lanes joined each other.

driving the wrong direction

Lines on Private Property

  • Please note that on private property these guidelines may differ.
  • For example, there might be a white line separating traffic moving in opposite directions
  • (normally we would expect a yellow line for this)
  • Brentwood Mall parking lot in Burnaby comes to mind.
  • I’m not sure if it’s just temporary because it’s under construction?
  • See what I mean?
  • Brentwood Mall parking lot has a solid white line here which separates traffic moving in different directions, which is weird.
  • So just be aware that owners of private property can pretty much do whatever they want in terms of road lines, road signs, etc.
  • Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon in parking lots/private property?
brentwood
brentwood2
Oh Brentwood Mall, Why are you doing this!

From the ICBC Learn To Drive Smart Manual

ICBC Road Lines

 

Read more: Can I turn left across yellow road lines into a driveway?

ICBC Learn to Drive Smart Manual – Signs, Signals and Road Markings

Hope this all made sense 🚗


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34 thoughts on “Road Lines British Columbia & Canada {updated 2020}”

  1. It’s really interesting to learn about the process for lines marking. I was surprised to read some of the equipment that’s necessary for marking lines. When I was reading through this, I expected to see a road marking machine, but I didn’t know that gas, rope, chisels, traffic lights, cleaning equipment, and small tools would be used for this process. Thanks for posting this http://www.brighterlines.com

  2. I was traveling on a highway in Nevada, I was behind a semi going 55mph in a 70mph zone. I noticed it was safe to pass (someone in front of me just did this as well) so I started to pass the semi, about 3/4 of the way passing the semi the dotted line changed to solid and I continued to pass the semi and pass safely infront of the semi. I got pulled over from a trooper sitting on the hill saying I passed in a solid area that I was suppose to slow down and get back behind the semi. I told the officer/trooper I was almost pass the semi when the dotted line changed to a solid. I looked in the drivers manuals pages for Nevada but nothing says my scenario. Seems like I was singled out for something near a small town with out of state plates on my vehicle. Can anyone show me where this is illegal? My violation says passing on a solid yellow no pass zone. Which again nothing says dotted line passing that turned to solid line 3/4 of the way pass a semi.

  3. looking at the two way left turn lane above my husband driving a delivery box truck came out of a driveway on the right side of that lane turning right not even going into the lane mentioned but a lady came out of a driveway maybe a car’s length down on the left side of the lane turning left then went all the way across the 2 way left turn lane into the lane my husband had turned into apparently trying to get ahead of him! she side swiped my husband’s front bumper. She is saying he hit her but is she in the wrong coming out the way she did without turning into the 2 way left turn lane first then merging out into the traffic. He saw her stopped at the driveway when he proceeded out to make his turn & even noticed a car driving the opposite way of him towards her. It seems she sped out of the driveway in front of that car & then rushing to even get in front of my husband! Of course, the police would not come due to no one injured but it seems definitely she is in the wrong! She is saying he hit her in the side back door & fender. Is she in the wrong just for not turning into the lane to merge into the lane he was already in?

  4. It’s interesting how different countries and areas do road line marking so differently! Here in the states, you’re not ever supposed to cross solid yellow lines, yet in British Columbia apparently you’re allowed to pass as long as you’re careful. However, some things are similar, such as not being able to pass across the double yellow solid lines. I’d love to see what other similarities and differences there are in other countries!
    http://www.pelicanlinemarking.com.au/

    • Hi!! Yeah it’s interesting!! Hey maybe I should write a long post about that comparing all the different places and their lines.. thanks for the idea. It does make it confusing when travelling .. or having expectations of tourists 🙂

    • Hi, it’s optional.. Technically you aren’t lane changing so you don’t legally have to, but sometimes it’s nice to do a quick signal out of courtesy to the drivers behind you.

  5. If im taking a right in a lane with no bike lane beside, then as i sharply turn around the curb, a bike lane appears… Is this a problem that i did not notice the bike lane prior to turning, and do i gradually shift into the regular vehicle lane? (keep in mind that the bike lane turned into is solid white line, no dashes)

    • Do you mean you ended up driving on top of the bike lane? Yes generally before you do any turn you should check out where you are going to end up before you turn. You have to know where you’re going, it’s important, and you can’t make it up as you go as that’s not really safe or recommended practice. Once you realize where you’re supposed to be, though just make sure it’s safe and then move into the correct position…

  6. I just got a ticket for going into the exit lane and then reentering onto the freeway in traffic. Is this illegal? There was a sign that said right lane must exit but the line was dashed when I crossed. Comments and thoughts. I was about to exit, but decided to go to the next exit.

    • Did you signal a lane change when you reentered the freeway traffic? If not, then it would be illegal. If you did, then it should not be considered illegal. Though it might also be considered illegal if you passed other traffic before you reentered the freeway traffic.

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