5 Fundamental Biking Laws In Ottawa

July, 2020
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Biking is a fun activity and can be enjoyed to the fullest (and safest) when you learn the laws of the road. It is necessary to understand the local biking laws before hitting the road to ensure your safety and the safety of others. This will boost your cycling skills, safety and road confidence. In Ottawa, there are some specific rules for bike riders. Whether a new bike rider or an experienced cyclist, it is advised to properly understand the 5 fundamental biking laws in Ottawa.

In Ottawa, the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) gives cyclists similar rights as other motorists and the responsibilities are also the same. Be known that a bicycle is categorized as a vehicle, therefore uniform rights and responsibilities are granted as any other automobile. Every motorist on the road is strictly required to follow the rules and the laws in the region of Ottawa, otherwise, the violations will be counted as a serious offense and heavy fines may be charged as would any other offense.

The basic biking laws in Ottawa are different from other provinces in Canada. In BC and Quebec, the bicycle is not considered a vehicle. Instead, a bicycle is put into a separate category in which there are additional restrictive laws for bike riders to follow. Hence, it is essential to understand the local laws and regulations. The 5 fundamental biking laws and multiple jurisdictions in Ottawa are explained down in this blog.

Who Makes The Laws?

The provincial government is responsible to legislate the traffic laws and fundamental biking laws, except for roads and highways which are under the federal government.

The federal government makes its own laws but they are acquired from provincial and municipalities laws.

Meanwhile, the municipalities have very limited authority on passing traffic laws. Their responsibilities include placing signages, regulate parking rules, cycling on a sidewalk etc.

The National Capital Commission (NCC)  in Ottawa passes laws over parkways and all the other laws enforced along the Ottawa River. Their laws are not restricted to Ottawa but the jurisdiction is enforced over the parkways in Gatineau, Quebec.

National Capital Commision (https://ncc-ccn.gc.ca/)

Basic Terminologies Related to 5 Fundamental Biking Laws:


A vehicle that has 1, 2 or 3 wheels, steering, a set of pedals. Bike/bicycle does not have a motor. Bike with motors is categorized as electric bikes/mopeds/scooters. Riders of all ages can ride a bicycle, there are no age restrictions on biking. A bike does not require registration, license plate, vehicle insurance or driver’s license


A highway is for general public usage and it has a common and public road, street, avenue, or any public way on the land which is used to pass vehicles. It includes the area between the lateral property lines and it is used for major roads including public roads and tracks.


A roadway is a part of the highway which is paved and used for vehicular traffic in less busy rural areas. A roadway, however, does not include the shoulder. A roadway allows walking and it consists of two ways:

1. lane and sidewalks
2. The road verges.


A bike path is a bike-way which is separated from motorized traffic. it is a dedicated path for cycling or shared with pedestrians or other non-motorized users.


5 Fundamental Biking Laws in Ottawa

All laws are identical except for a few which are only for motor vehicles such as the tailgating law. This means that bike riders can ride wheel to wheel when biking in a small group or with club members, unlike other motor vehicles where a particular distance between each automobile should be maintained on the road. Following are the fundamental biking laws in Ottawa, all cyclist must learn them:


  • A bike rider is obliged to share the road with other motorists. (cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles etc.)
  •  All cyclists must follow every traffic law, such as stopping at stop signs and red lights.
  •  If your bike is for one person then you are not allowed to carry any passengers on the bike.
  • A bike rider is not allowed to ride on the controlled-access highways like the 417 or 416.
  • Cyclists must not enter the pedestrian crossover but it is allowed to walk the bike on the other side.
  • Bicycles are not allowed on sidewalks within the Region of Ottawa-Carleton. They must use the designated bike lane or the road.
  • Similarly, at any intersection of traffic signals, bikes must be walked to the other side, not ridden.


  • Every bike rider under 18 years of age is legally obliged to wear a helmet. For rider’s under 16 years of age, their parents or guardians are responsible to ensure that they have their helmets on heads while bike riding.
  • However, wearing helmets is not mandatory for adult bike riders. But it is highly recommended to wear helmets when on the road as it can reduce the risk of head injuries in case of any fall or accident.
  • Helmets can be of various types. But for biking in Ottawa they must meet some legal specifications and strict safety standards. They should be properly fit and comfortable when worn.

Click here for detailed information about the features of a perfectly fitted helmet and other safety guidelines.


The bike riders must try to stay as close as possible to the right edge of the road for safety purposes. There are few exceptions when the cyclists can leave the right curb of the road, which are:

  • moving in normal speed of the traffic
  • avoiding any dangerous situation
  • the road is not wide enough for a bicycle and any other vehicle to travel side by side
  • preparing to make a turn or when on the one-way street or when passing another vehicle.


Bicycles are allowed to use multi-use pathways but bike riders must obey the “share the Path” guidelines, which are:

  • Stay at the right side of the pathway
  • Carefully pass other users of the pathway after ensuring their safety
  • Use a horn to alert the passerby when preparing to overtake them
  • Do not exceed the recommended speed of 20 km/hr on the multi-use pathway


It is the law that all bikes be sufficiently equipped with the following articles:

  • A bell or horn
  • At least one braking system on the rear wheel to avoid skidding on dry and level pavement
  • A white front light (visible from a distance of at least 150 metres)
  • Red rear light or red reflector
  • 2 strips of white reflective tape on front forks (each strip to be 125mm by 25mm)
  • 2 strips of red reflective tape on rear forks

According to Ottawa Police specifications, the above lighting requirements are mandatory if you are riding between ½ hour before sunset and ½ hour after sunrise, or anytime visibility has been reduced to the point where you cannot see 150 meters ahead.

Law Violations:

As mentioned earlier, the Ontario Highway Traffic Act (HTA) considers a bicycle as a vehicle which means that they have the same rights and responsibilities as any other vehicle on the road. Similarly, in case of any disobedience or violation of the road biking laws, they will be charged in the same manner.


Cycling Skills which is a detailed handbook of Ontario’s guide to safe cycling enlists the key sections of HTA against specific offence and their respective set fines. For example:

1. If a cyclist is caught with improper lighting, brakes or with no/defective horn they will be charged $85 for each offence under HTA sections 62(17), 64(3) and 75(5) respectively.  

    2. If you fail to wear a proper helmet then a fine of $60 will be charged under HTA section 104.
    3. The offence of riding in a crosswalk or crossover under HTA section 140(6)/144(29) will be charged with fine of $85.
    4. If a bike rider fails to signal before making a turn then he/she will pay the fine charge of $85 under HTA section 142.
    5. Failure to yield to pedestrians will be charged fine of $150 under HTA section 140(1)(a)(b)(c).
    All other key HTA sections are mentioned in the table below:
For complete information on Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act and the laws and regulations pertaining to cycling, visit ontario.ca/laws


Biking can be a very enjoyable way of moving around but as part of being a good citizen, we should all know our rights and practice our responsibilities. Every cyclist must understand the above 5 fundamental biking laws and responsibly follow them. It is the social duty to follow the rules and ensure public safety before riding on the road.

It is suggested that the new bike riders should acquire the company of experienced cyclists and learn cycling skills properly. They can also join clubs or can take various bike training courses offered in the city of Ottawa.

Together we can make sure the slogan “share the road” truly meaningful. It can only be made possible if all the cyclists, motorists, police services, politicians, and all road users understand the basic laws and follow them.

If you need a bike or looking for a bike tune-up service? Have a look at local stores to get an idea of the bike options like Foster’s Sports Centre where you can walk in on any day, check out some bikes, and walk out with a new bike.

We have been serving the local bicycle community for over 50 years and have had the pleasure of outfitting entire families with bicycles and sporting equipment.