What Is the Law About Driving Too Close to a Bicyclist?

Passing a Bicyclist Within One (1) Metre Is An Offence Contrary to Section 148(6.1),(6.2) of the Highway Traffic Act. A Driver Convicted of Passing Too Closely to a Person Riding a Bicycle Is Subject to a Fine of Up to $1,000 Plus Victim Surcharge and Court Cost. The Driver Also Receives Two (2) Demerit Points and May Also Be Subjected to Increased Insurance Rates.

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A Helpful Guide For How to Determine the Potential Fine and Defence Strategies For a Passing Too Closely to a Bicyclist

Girl Riding Bicycle on Roadway A bicyclist is a highly vulnerable person when using the road with other vehicles of varying types and sizes and is particularly at risk when another vehicle is approaching from behind. Accordingly, when approaching and passing a bicyclist, drivers are required to use extra-special caution and provide a safe distance between the vehicle and the bicyclist.

The Law
How Much Space Must a Driver Provide When Passing a Bicyclist

As per section 148(6.1),(6.2) of the Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, a driver must provide a minimum of one (1) metre of space between the vehicle being driven and a person riding upon a bicycle and failing to do so is an offence.  The applicable penalty upon conviction for a violation is found at section 214(1) of the Highway Traffic Act as section 148(6.1),(6.2) is silent about, meaning lacking or omitting, the penalty details.  Specifically, section 148(6.1),(6.2) and section 214(1) of the Highway Traffic Act state:

(6.1) Every person in charge of a motor vehicle on a highway who is overtaking a person travelling on a bicycle shall, as nearly as may be practicable, leave a distance of not less than one metre between the bicycle and the motor vehicle and shall maintain that distance until safely past the bicycle.

(6.2) The one metre distance required by subsection (6.1) refers to the distance between the extreme right side of the motor vehicle and the extreme left side of the bicycle, including all projections and attachments. 

General penalty

214 (1) Every person who contravenes this Act or any regulation is guilty of an offence and on conviction, where a penalty for the contravention is not otherwise provided for herein, is liable to a fine of not less than $60 and not more than $1,000.

Accordingly, as is shown above, the fine for passing too closely to a person on a bicycle is in a range from sixty ($60) dollars to one thousand ($1,000) dollars. Additional penalties will include the statutory victim surcharge plus court cost. Furthermore, upon conviction a driver also receives two (2) demerit points and may also be affected by consequences to insurance rates.

As shown above, the Highway Traffic Act imposes a fine ranging from sixty ($60) dollars to one thousand ($1,000) dollars for driving too close to a person riding a bicycle. Furthermore, a statutory victim surcharge plus court cost will also apply in addition to the driver receiving two (2) demerit points and potentially incurring an insurance rate increase.

Defence Strategy

A passing too closely to bicyclist charge can be defending by knowing the right questions to ask during witness examination and which are the wrong questions to ask.

As the prosecution bears the burden of proof, including proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a motorist passed within one (1) metre of a bicyclist, strategically challenging the evidence, including witness testimony, on the factual issue of how close a vehicle was to a bicyclist may lead to a successful defence of the charge of passing too closely.  Of course, if the charge relates to an accident, where it is plain and obvious that the bicyclist was struck, and therefore the distance between was nill, a very different strategy will be required.

When defending a passing to closely to a bicyclist charge, during the examination process within the court trial, meaning during questioning of the witness, or witnesses, for the prosecution, various strategically planned questions may help to weaken the strength of the witness testimony.  Weakening the strength of testimony may involving asking witnesses:

  • To state how far away the witness was when the alleged observations were made;
  • To state whether the witness was paying more attention to the vehicle or to the bicyclist;
  • To state whether the bicyclist made a turn or change of direction; and
  • To state whether it is possible that the bicyclist wobbled or otherwise moved closer to the vehicle, among other things.

Putting up a strong fight, by knowing what questions to ask and what questions to avoid asking, may enable a successful defence to a charge of driving too closely to a bicyclist.

Summary Comment

Upon a finding of guilt for unlawfully passing too closely to a bicyclist, a driver may be fined up to $1,000 plus victim surcharge and court costs.  The driver will also receive two (2) demerit points and may be subjected to insurance rate hikes.


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