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Pedestrian And Bicyclist Safety: The Laws, Your Rights, And Responsibilities

July 18, 2019

Pedestrian And Bicyclist Safety: The Laws, Your Rights, And Responsibilities

Walking and biking are fun, low-impact forms of exercise that demonstrate a wide range of health benefits. When you swap your short car journey with walking and biking, it helps improve your overall health, help Canadian communities thrive, and reduce pollution in the environment.

However, both pedestrians and bicyclists are vulnerable road users, because they do not have enough protection in the event of a collision. Even at low-speed, they are still exposed to risk. The risk of injury and even death increases dramatically in busy roads. Lower speed environments, sidewalks and bicycle lanes, and provision of crossing facilities are among the solutions to ensure the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists.

Failure to follow the road rules results in an accident.

Increasing Road Fatalities

Toronto launched its Visual Zero plan in 2017 to prevent traffic deaths and protect all kinds of road users. The safety initiatives include lowering the speed limits, setting up more red-light cameras, increasing the number of signage, reconfiguration of intersections, and adding traffic calming measure like speed humps. However, fatalities continued to rise despite its campaign. According to police and media reports, 42 pedestrians and five cyclists have died on the streets last 2018.

Despite the city investing $100 million over five years on the plan, the deaths of vulnerable road users have not slowed down.

Following designated lanes and crosswalks prevents accidents.

General Safety Tips for Pedestrians and Bicyclists

Safety is a two-way street. This not only applies to motorists, but to pedestrians and bicyclists as well. Both have responsibilities for sharing the road to ensure safety at all times. Drivers should always watch for pedestrians and bicyclists should always be alert for moving vehicles.

To keep yourself safe on the road, here are some general safety tips to ALWAYS keep in mind:

  • Communication – Whether you are crossing the street or making a turn, make sure to signal your intentions to the surrounding motorists. It helps not only to ensure your safety, but to reduce the incidents of road rage as well.
  • Failure to Yield – Accidents can happen when a motorist or pedestrian/bicyclist fails to give the right of way. You can prevent a road crash by yielding the right of way when needed to, such as stopping for red lights and scanning the streets before turning or crossing.
  • Clothing/Lights – Wear bright-coloured clothing and install reflective materials and lights on your bicycle provides extra visibility and help motorists see you clearly, especially during the night.
  • Stay Alert – As a pedestrian or a bicyclist, your eyes and ears are your best defence against potential accidents.
    • Put down your smartphone and pay attention to the road.
    • Avoid wearing headsets to hear clearly what is happening around you.
    • Do not drink alcohol as it debilitates your judgment and slows down your reaction time.
    • Use marked crosswalks when crossing the streets.

Staying safe on the road means following road laws.

So What Does The Law Say?

Pedestrians And The Law

Just like motorists, pedestrians have responsibilities to oblige and uphold the rules of the road to ensure everyone’s safety and avoid fines while travelling on foot. Pedestrians are also required to obey the laws set out in the Highway Traffic Act.

Section 144(22) of the Highway Traffic Act states: “Where portions of the roadway are marked for pedestrian use, no pedestrian shall cross the roadway except within a portion so marked.”

Where there is no crosswalk, it is legal for a pedestrian to cross, so long as they yield to oncoming traffic.

  • Obligations:
    • Pedestrians must use the sidewalk that borders the roadway. In the absence of a sidewalk, walk along the side of the roadway. While walking facing the oncoming traffic is preferable, they can walk either side of the road, wherever they feel safest.
    • Use pedestrian crosswalks and intersection when crossing. Make sure to check the traffic before crossing the road.
    • Conform with the pedestrian lights at intersections. If there are no pedestrian lights available in the area, obey traffic lights instead.

Important Pedestrian Signs and Signals

Watch for and follow these pedestrian signs and signals for a safe walk.

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Cyclists And The Law

Bicyclists must always follow the rules of the road.

Since bicycles are considered a vehicle, all cyclists must comply with the traffic rules and regulations in Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act (HTA). Cyclists are not allowed to carry a passenger. Unfortunately, travelling on controlled-access highways, such as Ontario’s 400-series highways, are prohibited, as well as accessing a road within a pedestrian crossover. Lastly, cyclists 16-years old below must wear an approved helmet for protection.

Disobedience to the traffic law will result in minimum set fines and a Victim Surcharge fine of $20.00 for most offences.

The law requires cyclists to equip their bicycles with the following:

  • A bell or horn in good working condition
  • White front light and red rear light
  • White reflective tape on the front fork and red reflective tape on the rear fork

Since bicycles travel at lower speeds, the cyclist must follow these two vital road rules:

  • Slower traffic stays right
  • Slower traffic must give way to faster vehicles, when safe and practical

Knowing your rights can help you get the compensation you deserve.

Know Your Rights

Both pedestrians and bicyclists have the right to stay safe and travel the road, as long as they follow the road rules and regulations. If you are injured in any motor-vehicular or street accident, make sure to know your rights. Talk to a certified personal injury lawyer. Depending on the situation, you may be qualified to file a claim against the person at fault or even against the municipality where you were hit if the cause of the accident is an unsafe street or defective traffic control devices.

Michelle Linka Law understands that street accident victims need a lawyer whom they can trust and rely during difficult times. Our pedestrian accident lawyers will assess your case, explain your rights, and help you claim the compensation you deserve. Call us at
416-477-7288 to talk to our Richmond Hill personal injury lawyer.


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