Cycling is healthy, fun, inexpensive, and an environmentally friendly way to get around, particularly during the summer months. But drivers and cyclists alike need to take care to follow the rules of the road, and work together to make our communities safer and more welcoming for cyclists.
Around 7,500 cyclists are seriously injured in Canada each year, with most crashes occurring during the afternoon traffic rush.1 To reduce crashes and and improve cycle-safety, Nova Scotia's Motor Vehicle Act sets out the province's traffic laws, which can carry hefty fines if violated.
What are some key traffic laws to keep in mind?
Motor vehicle drivers:
Drivers have a special obligation to be aware of cyclists, as cyclists are more vulnerable. Drivers must scan in all directions, and carefully check mirrors and blind spots for cyclists. Learn the hand signals cyclists use to indicate their intention to stop, turn or change lanes, and always check for cyclists before opening the door of your parked vehicle.1
When passing a cyclist you must:
- make sure there is enough space to safely pass, and
- leave at least one metre of space between your vehicle and the cyclist.
The fine for not leaving one metre of space begins at $295.00 for the first offence. Comparatively, in Ontario for example, the fine for a similar offence under that province's traffic law is $110.2
You are allowed to safely cross the centre line of the road in order to pass a cyclist.
You are not allowed to drive in a bike lane. There are some exceptions. For example, you may go into a bike lane if you need to:
- go around a left-turning vehicle or cyclist, or
- avoid hitting something on the road such as a pedestrian, animal, or other vehicle.
The penalty for driving in a bike lane is costly – the fine begins at $697.50 for the first offence.
Drivers must also yield right of way to any cyclist in the bike lane, and cannot park in a bike lane - doing so carries a $61.60 fine for the first offence.
Like drivers, cyclists have rights and obligations under Nova Scotia's Motor Vehicle Act.
You should ride in a bike lane if there is one, or on the right side or shoulder of the road (as far to the right as practical), unless you:
- are turning left in the same way a motor vehicle would;
- are in a roundabout or rotary;
- are passing a vehicle on the left;
- need to avoid hitting a pedestrian, animal, parked or moving vehicle, pothole or other safety hazard.
It is against the law to ride your bike on a sidewalk, except on sidewalks specifically marked as shared.
Cyclists are required by law to wear a helmet. The fine for not wearing a proper helmet begins at $151.25 for the first offence. Ontario’s comparative penalty is $75.00.2
Riders must go with the flow of traffic, and ride in single file unless passing another cyclist. Your bike should be in good working order, equipped with proper lights and reflectors, and a bell or horn to alert pedestrians or other vehicles that you are there.
If we all follow these and other traffic laws, we are on the way to making the roads safer for everyone. Cyclists, be safe and have some summer fun!
For more information:
- ₁CAA driver and cyclist safety tips: bikesafety.caa.ca
- 2Ontario bicycle safety: www.mto.gov.on.ca
- Nova Scotia Bike Week: bicycle.ns.ca/nova-scotia-bike-week-2016/
- Nova Scotia’s Bicycle Safety book: gov.ns.ca/tran/publications/NovaScotiaBicycleSafety.pdf;
- Ecology Action Centre: ecologyaction.ca;
- Does your municipality have a bike plan? Contact your municipality to find out - http://novascotia.ca/dma/government/contact.asp
- Nova Scotia Government Sustainable Transportation Strategy: novascotia.ca/sustainabletransportation/
reviewed June 2016