Road Lines & Pavement Markings in British Columbia

Welcome to British Columbia (Canada) Road Lines & Pavement Markings

Understanding road lines matters; not only to be able to pass pesky tests to get your driver’s license and resultant freedom, but also to, you know, stay out of trouble while you are driving, and get from A to B in one piece.

In this guide, we’ll dive into the road line meanings from a beautiful British Columbia (Canadian) perspective. For similar articles, check out my epic article about the Road Signs of Canada or How to Drive Defensively and Prevent Collisions.

Road Lines Introduction

  • Yellow road lines are used to separate traffic moving in opposite directions
  • White lines are used to separate traffic moving in the same direction

Yellow Road Lines Separate Traffic Moving in Opposite Directions

road lines yellow lines separate traffic moving in opposite directions
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Yellow lines separate traffic moving in different directions
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In Canada, we drive on the “Right” side of the road.

White Road Lines Separate Traffic Moving in the Same Direction

White lines – separating traffic traveling in the same direction – can be found on:

  • One-way streets
  • Freeways
  • Highways
  • HOV Lanes
  • Multi-lane roads
white road lines
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White lines separate traffic moving in the same direction.

The Yellow Road Line Should Always Be To Your Left

This is a generalization of course. But it’s true, that unless you are passing, or crossing this line to turn left, it should be to the left of you.

That’s how you know you’re on the “right” side of the road. Literally.

yellow road lines
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The yellow line should be to your left, then you’ll be on the “right” side of the road!

This Jeep here (pictured below) is totally on the wrong side of the road. But hey let’s look at the bright side, at least it stopped at the red light; that does count for something if you ask me.

car stopped on the wrong side of the yellow road lines
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This Jeep is completely on the wrong side of the road.

White Road Lines – Broken/Dashed

Awe, broken lines? We’re all a little broken, aren’t we? Oh never mind, I will speak for myself…

Broken, also known as dashed or dotted white road lines, mean that you’re allowed to change lanes when it’s safe.

broken white road lines
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White lines separate traffic moving in the same direction on Lougheed Highway, Coquitlam. Lane changing is allowed over broken white lines when safe.
BC broken white lines
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Changing lanes over broken white lines is allowed when safe

White Road Lines – Solid White Lines

Solid white road lines simply mean: Do not change lanes. As a reminder, white lines separate traffic moving in the same direction.

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Changing lanes in the middle or before an intersection is dangerous, so these lines are here discouraging the action. And since you’re wondering, changing lanes in an intersection is not technically illegal in British Columbia because there is no law written against it; but of course, that’s no good reason to do it.

solid white road lines don't lane change
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Do not change lanes over solid white lines.

White Lines – Speed Reduction Markings (also known as Optical Speed Bars)

Question: What are those short white lines drawn perpendicular to the yellow line on the road?

Speed reduction markings are situated across lanes on the road; stripes are spaced at gradually decreasing distances. The idea for using them is to increase drivers’ perception of speed. The goal is to get drivers to reduce their speed.

As the spacing between the bars gradually narrows, drivers sense they have increased speed. This – in theory – will cause them to slow down to keep the same time between each set of bars.

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Yellow Road Lines – Single Solid Line

canada road lines
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If you’re driving on a highway or road and you have only one solid yellow line, you are allowed to pass another vehicle at your discretion.

A lot of people seem to think passing isn’t allowed, but it’s technically allowed over one solid line. You can also turn left across this line into a driveway, lane, parking lot, or somewhere else.

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Somewhere in beautiful British Columbia.

Yellow Road Lines – Broken/Dashed Lines

Passing is allowed over these broken yellow lines.

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Beautiful Yukon, Canada

Yellow Solid Road Lines – Double Solid Yellow Lines

double yellow solid road lines
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New Westminster, British Columbia December 2022
double yellow solid road lines ICBC
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Double solid yellow road lines are where it is positively illegal to pass another vehicle.

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yukon road lines
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Do Not Pass

Yellow Road Lines – Solid Yellow Road Line With a Broken Yellow Road Line

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

broken and solid lines together
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yellow road lines
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wildlife on road
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Yellow Road Lines – Double Yellow Broken Road Lines

A lane surrounded by yellow broken lines is reversible.

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Drivers must watch for overhead signals to determine direction. These are a bit less common than the other types of road lines.

Lane Control Signals

Here are the lane control signals that go together with the reversible lane, almost like wine and cheese. They will be posted above the reversible lane.

lane control signals
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Lions Gate Bridge Vancouver
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Lions Gate Bridge

Two-Way Left Turn Lane

This is another somewhat uncommon lane. It’s a shared left-turning lane. So, drivers in both directions can use this lane to turn left.

2 way left turn lane
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White Stopping Lines

This is commonly seen at crosswalks and at stop signs, reminding drivers to stop. It may or may not always have a stop sign with it, but it means stop nonetheless.

white stop line
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white stopping line
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Pavement Markings – Crosswalks

There are several different designs for crosswalks. In any case, drivers must yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

crosswalk pavement markings
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Pavement Markings For Turns

These pavement markings mean that you must go in the direction of the arrow.

pavement markings for turns
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Since these are pavement markings, sometimes you can’t see them because, well, there are vehicles stopped on top of them. This happens when waiting for a red light, for example.

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In that case, you can look above you or around you for the equally informative lane use signs; which, let’s be honest, you kinda should be looking for anyways.

lane use signs
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Pavement Markings – Painted Island

painted island
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We are not supposed to drive on painted islands.

painted island
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Reserved Lanes (HOV – High Occupancy Vehicle)

HOV or high occupancy vehicles can use these lanes, as well as buses, motorcycles, and cyclists; some lanes even allow electric vehicles. Check for signs and markings that let drivers know who can use the lane, and when.

General cars aren’t allowed in the lane unless there is a sign indicating the times.

reserved lane
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Bicycle Lanes

Bikes must travel in the same direction as the vehicles on their side of the road.

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Pavement Markings – Pop Quiz

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
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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
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driving the wrong direction
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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).

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Oh Brentwood Mall, Why are you doing this!
Carmen Cohoe

Carmen became a driving instructor in beautiful North Vancouver at the age of 22 due to some crazy people who agreed to hire her. After that, there was never a dull moment teaching many different folks from many different places how to drive using automatic and standard vehicles and a minivan.

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