City to soon allow side by side cycling

The motion still needs to be approved by Council but it looks like side by side cycling will soon be legal in Toronto, after a brief stint of it not. Photo by Tino.

Councillor Karen Stintz's motion last month at City Council was sent to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. Her motion was for the City to allow cyclists to ride double file in Toronto unless a faster vehicle needed to pass as specified in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. Interestingly the City was just amalgamating by-laws and had previously decided to adopt Etobicoke's draconian law across the City.

The motion would delete the bill and would also direct the Manager of Transportation Services to recommend by-laws "to ensure the safe and equitable use of Toronto’s roadways by cyclists and other road users, as part of the by-law review process recommended by the Ontario Chief Coroner’s report on Cycling Deaths." It will take some time to see if anything comes of that but that is welcome news indeed.

Some drivers may disagree but there are many situations where cycling double file is quite safe. When traffic is light no traffic is being blocked. When a lane is narrow that a car would need to pass in the other lane at any rate then having two cyclists side-by-side wouldn't make any difference. Road racers are safer when they can ride in a pack.

It's nice to have it officially allowed when this practice is quite wide spread. My partner and I will often ride side by side since it allows us to talk like normal people instead of having to shout back and forth.

But even with it in place caution is a good thing. I once got a ticket for riding double file with a friend, an elderly gentleman, on Adelaide. If you know Adelaide the lanes are way too narrow to share with a car and there are other lanes to choose from. The cop, however, didn't see things that way and decided to write me up (but not my friend). The funny thing is that the cop gave me a ticket under the HTA for failing to turn out to the right to allow my friend to pass. I give him credit for being creative.

From the motion that was adopted at PWIC:

The introduction of Municipal Code Chapter 950, Section 950-201(A) would restrict all cyclists from riding in any configuration other than single file, at any time of day, on every Toronto street.

In certain cases it is possible for road users to reasonably share the road, without creating congestion or road safety issues:

• On residential, collector, or arterial roads where there are sufficient lanes for cyclists ride two abreast, such that faster vehicles may pass these road users using adjacent traffic lanes; and
• At times of day when the traffic volumes are low.

At times when these conditions are not in place, and the roadway must be shared by cyclists and other road users, the appropriate behaviours are legislated according to Section 148(1) of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. This section of the Act requires cyclists to responsibly position themselves on the right side of the roadway when a faster vehicle approaches to pass. A charge may be laid for “failing to move right to be overtaken”. The fine for this charge is $85.

Cyclists are therefore legislated by the Highway Traffic Act to not block the roadway. An additional municipal By-law stipulating that cyclists must 'ride single file' in situations where they are not blocking or disrupting traffic around them is unnecessary, and may invite situations which are less safe for cyclists.

Pre-Amalgamation By-laws

Pre-amalgamation Etobicoke was the only former district to pass a By-law against single file riding on all streets (including residential streets), at all times. The fine for this Etobicoke Municipal Code 240 section 6(A)(2) is $85.

In the former Cities of Toronto, North York, Scarborough, East York and York, municipal By-laws did not stipulate that cyclists must ride single file on residential and most collector streets.

For all former districts, Metro Toronto By-law 32/92 Sec 14(2) they may be fined $3.75 if they are not riding single file on street which were maintained by Metro – this is to say on arterial roadways only.

By-law Consolidation Process

A process is currently underway to consolidate various pre-amalgamation By-laws which are still on the books from the former City of Toronto, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, East York, York, and Metropolitan Toronto. As part of this consolidation, By-laws which formerly were only in effect for certain former districts will become law for the entire amalgamated City of Toronto.

As a result of the By-law consolidation process of pre-amalgamation By-laws to develop Municipal Code Chapter 950, the Etobicoke Code 240 Sec 6(A)(2) requiring cyclists to ride single file on all streets, at all times, will now apply to all districts, including the former Cities of Toronto, Scarborough, North York, East York, and York, despite the fact that only the former City of Etobicoke had such a By-law, and the other City Councils of the former Cities did not pass such a By-law. The set fine application proposed for 950-201(A) is $60.

Chapter 950 was enacted by Council December 1, 2011, but is not yet enforceable. The By-laws will become enforceable the first Thursday following 45 days after set fine approval of the set fine order for Chapter 950.


I cringe when looking at that photo of someone riding in the door zone. Dangerous!

Kevin Love

I didn't know there was a bylaw forbidding side-by-side cycling. I always assumed such behaviour was regulated by the catch-all Highway Traffic Act regulations which state that slower vehicles must yield to faster ones by moving to the right. You'd think city councillors had more important things to worry about. The law probably was created because someone complained about the 'Donut Ride' taking up all of Keele St on some Sunday morning.

Interestingly, I have observed that the Toronto Police cycling units downtown frequently ride side-by-side. Skofflaws!!

Wonder if the Toronto Police cycle through stop signs without coming to a full stop (feet on pavement)?

Wonder if the Toronto Police cycle through stop signs without coming to a full stop (feet on pavement)?

My kids I and were riding east on the Martin-Goodman trail earlier today when just as we arrived at Queens Quay a pair of cops on bike pulled in just in front of us. They rode from the trail on to Queens Quay (crossing Stadium Rd) without stopping and then through the stop sign (at that tiny street between Stadium and Bathurst) also without stopping.

So your answer is, Yes, they also blow straight though stop signs -- without even slowing down -- just like the rest of us. ;-)

Same way the police drive their cars. We are the ones to be ticketed

It should really be about the cyclists safety. There are only a few places that I would suggest side by side cycling for any length of time.

Hmm. I've just built myself (and my partner) a side-by-side social bike (two step-through bikes attached to each other, with joined steering).

Still ironing out the bugs at the moment, and it's clearly not going to be my daily ride or anything, but this article does make me wonder whether the thing would be legal on the road or not. Is it one vehicle or two? Clearly, there is further research to be done.

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@cyclecuffs - it's a grey area. even regular tandems are a grey area, believe it or not. riding 2 to a bike is illegal, according to a cop i asked running a speed trap on davenport. i had just seen a person riding with a baby less than 3 months old in a front carrier which seemed massively unsafe, so i stopped to ask the cop when i saw him. he said, it's a grey area. technically illegal, but rarely enforced, because 2 people on a bicycle is always illegal, even if it's a child seat that is supposedly safe & approved for use, even if it's a trail-a-bike like i ride with my son, even if it's an old school tandem. i was... incredulous. but if this cop was right about that, then your side-by-side would be illegal, too.

A side-by-side bike is not illegal. I doubt there is a prohibition to building it. Nor is it illegal to carry a passenger on a bike if it was designed to carry more than one person (s. 178 (2)). So that means tandem bikes, bikes with bike seats, bakfiets and trailers are probably all okay. That cop is confused.

The municipal by-law prohibiting side by side riding has been repealed so that won't apply. The HTA says bicycles should turn out to the right to allow faster vehicles to pass. If you happen to be riding a side-by-side you should turn out to the right as far as is practicable but that' doesn't mean you can't ride it at all.


No person riding on a bicycle designed for carrying one person only shall carry any other person thereon. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 178 (2).

Every person on a bicycle or motor assisted bicycle who is overtaken by a vehicle or equestrian travelling at a greater speed shall turn out to the right and allow the vehicle or equestrian to pass and the vehicle or equestrian overtaking shall turn out to the left so far as may be necessary to avoid a collision. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148 (6).

Any vehicle travelling upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at that time and place shall, where practicable, be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic or as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 147 (1).

Whether its illegal or not the question is rather is it safe?

I don't ride tandem when in traffic (bike lane or otherwise), but not because of cars, if you are in the way of a vehicle while driving in the bike lane being in tandem won't make that much of a difference, as the car isn't supposed to be in the bike lane anyway.

The real concern is other cyclists.

When you ride in tandem cyclists coming from behind have to go further out into the traffic lane to go around you. As anyone who has cycled in downtown TO in any of the more active routes (like Carleton or Harbord) can attest, there are ample occasions when faster moving bikes want to pass slower moving riders. Riding in tandem just makes this more dangerous.

IMHO its simpler to stay in single file while riding in traffic, there are already enough space management issues as it is, and save tandem riding for bike paths and empty side roads.