When the light is red and there are cars in a line. Since bicycles ride on the very right do we go ahead to the stop light or stay behind the cars? I live in British Columbia, Canada.

  • 2
    This depends on local laws. In some parts of the world there's a bike box painted on the road in front of the stopped cars; you are expected to move to there before the lights change. The research shows that is safer for cyclists when the car drivers can see them. If there is no bike box, then do what local practice and courtesy suggest. What do you see other cyclists do?
    – andy256
    Apr 15, 2015 at 3:44
  • 1
    It depends a lot on how powerful and aggressive a cyclist you are. I kind of like to hang back and let the cars go first. Apr 15, 2015 at 11:48

5 Answers 5


I'm from BC, you have the option of taking the centre of the lane and waiting like a vehicle, or you can stay to the right if there is room (at least 1.5m or 5ft). If you stay to the right, basically you ride in an imaginary bike lane if there isn't one painted on the road, so you ride all the way up to the light on the right hand side of a line of cars at a red light. I do this pretty much every single day on my way home from work. Some intersections even have a button for cyclists to push, like the kind pedestrians push when they want to cross, but for cyclists waiting at the intersection.

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When you stop however, do not stop beside the car at the front to the line, you never want to be in a vehicles blind spot. Pull up just ahead of it and make eye contact with the driver so he knows you're there. If the first car in line is signalling to turn right, then stop just behind them and wait for them to turn in front of you before proceeding to the front of the line.

Motorists are supposed to shoulder check when turning right at intersections to check for cyclists, but it's my experience that most motorists don't even know that bikes are allowed to ride on the road, so always drive defensively.

Rights and Duties of Cycle Operators - Section 183 Motor Vehicle Act
Passing on the Right - Section 158 Motor Vehicle Act
The British Columbia Bicycle Operator's Manual

  • +1 for local knowledge, and most motorists don't even know that bikes are allowed to ride on the road!
    – andy256
    Apr 15, 2015 at 4:40
  • Even when you live in a country where cyclists are common, if you are to the right of a car that might turn right, you check that he has seen you. Better safe than sorry.
    – Willeke
    Apr 15, 2015 at 16:47
  • @Willeke - That's why I say always drive defensively, doesn't matter who was right or who was wrong in an accident if you get injured either way.
    – ShemSeger
    Apr 15, 2015 at 16:50
  • Hey Shem while we can do this in BC, there is still a lot of legal grey surrounding the subject. See BikeSafe BC
    – Rider_X
    Apr 16, 2015 at 20:34
  • @Rider_X - The legal grey area only applies to moving traffic. There is no grey area with passing stopped cars.
    – ShemSeger
    Apr 16, 2015 at 21:17

Like ShemSeger I am also located in BC, but it is my understanding that there may be more legal grey surrounding the topic than the blanket approval Shem is suggesting.

From BikeSense BC:

Passing on the right

Passing vehicles on the right between intersections, especially in congested city traffic, is a topic of debate, even in the courts. Under appropriate circumstances, case law suggests that cyclists should be able to legally pass slower moving traffic on the right where the curb lane is wide, provided they are cautious.

Most often it is best to shoulder check, move into the middle of the lane and line up with the rest of traffic. This will also prevent motorists from making a right turn into you as you enter an intersection.

When cycling in narrow-lane traffic where many motorists attempt to squeeze past you before each traffic light, some cycling instructors suggest the following: Rather than moving up to the first car, which will likely re-pass the cyclist, it may be more strategic for the cyclist to proceed only as far up the line as the last cars likely to make the next green light.

It is legal to pass on the right:

  • when you are in a bike lane; or
  • when the vehicle is turning left or indicating a left turn.

When NOT to pass on the right:

  • when traffic is moving;
  • when there is a street, driveway or parking spot a car can turn into; or
  • when there is less than 1.5 m between traffic and the curb.

If you are not in a bike lane it is NOT legal to pass on the right if the car is going straight or turning right. Also if you have a line of cars turning left, but one car is not you may be entering some legal grey areas. BikeSense BC seems to suggest that the case law may be in flux and that decisions/blame may be decided on a case-by-case basis. This is not the same as a blanket approval as suggested by ShemSeger.

Personal Thoughts

I typically get in line with the cars and take my turn. I like to take the space to ensure I am seen and re-enforce the concept that bicycles are vehicles. I typically only lose a few seconds in doing this.

If there is a dedicated bike lane I will cautiously move up on the right. Over the years I have also encountered a number of erratic drivers. They do not signal their intention to turn right (so you can't anticipate sudden movements) and often fail to perform shoulder check.

During rush hour these drivers sometimes dart out to the right when they decide the line is moving too slow. Someone I knew was caught under a large tractor trailer in this exact scenario. Luckily as he heard crunching metal he was able to roll out of the ways of the trailer wheels. His bike was turned into a pancake but he escaped with his life (and injuries).

I don't intend to frighten you, but provide some caution about sticking the right balance between saving a few seconds and riding another day.

  • The passing on the right bits apply to moving traffic. The only part pertinent to the question is: some cycling instructors suggest the following: Rather than moving up to the first car, which will likely re-pass the cyclist, it may be more strategic for the cyclist to proceed only as far up the line as the last cars likely to make the next green light. And it's only left as a suggestion by some instructors. Aside from that suggestion, the appropriate action is to continue moving up the right side of the lane.
    – ShemSeger
    Apr 16, 2015 at 21:15
  • The following link has a number of case law outcomes from cyclists passing on the right. None of these are specifically for cars stopped at an intersection, but again I do not believe the laws suddenly change in this instance. bc-injury-law.com/blog/tag/passing-on-the-right
    – Rider_X
    Apr 16, 2015 at 21:22
  • @ShemSeger - I wish that section in the BikeSafe BC manual was more clearly worded as it does suggest some ability to move up, but doesn't clearly state the circumstances. They could also be referring to a bike lane. I am not convinced the road rules suddenly change when cars are stopped at an intersection. What happens when the cars start to move up? Without a bike lane BikeSafe BC also makes it clear that you can only legally pass on the right when a car is making a left turn.
    – Rider_X
    Apr 16, 2015 at 21:29
  • 1
    @ShemSeger I am also curious if anyone knows the legal definition of "between intersections." This may include the road way all the way up to the edge of the intersection.
    – Rider_X
    Apr 16, 2015 at 21:36
  • I will add from @ShemSeger other comments the quote "Under appropriate circumstances, case law suggests that cyclists should be able to legally pass slower moving traffic on the right where the curb lane is wide, provided they are cautious" suggests there is some ability to move up, but the wording to me suggests a lot of legal grey that could be left to the courts to decide if an incident does occur.
    – Rider_X
    Apr 16, 2015 at 22:15

Depends on whether there is a bike lane or not. In Canada, a bicycle is legally a vehicle, and unless you have a clear lane which you are permitted to use, you are required to wait behind the other vehicles. Note that a paved shoulder (pavement to the right of the white line) is not a bike lane when not clearly marked as one.


This is very good question as it touches one of the most common safety issue which most cyclists ignore.

If you are on the road without bike lanes, you must stay after the car, just like another ca would do, not the right/left side of a car. The reason is the safety.

If you stand on the right side (or left if you are in left-sided country), the car which is on the side of you may or may not notice you and may decide to turn right/left. This is dangerous as you can be easily hit this way. Also, even if a driver notices you, the car usually moves cautiously until you are not aligned with it anymore, which slows down the whole traffic.

  • 1
    In many places, vehicles including bicycles are required "to drive as near to the side of the road as practicable" when there are no marked lanes. Motor vehicle drivers have continued to expect that bikes be at the edge of the road even when there are marked lanes. Yes, it is dangerous to be beside a motor vehicle, as it is for any vehicle to be in a blind spot. But I don't think most cyclists ignore the issue. I think it's more complex than that.
    – andy256
    Apr 16, 2015 at 4:04
  • @andy256 Well, that ignores the required lateral safety distances. Most roads are simply not wide enough for a car to overtake a bike without making full use of another lane. Riding to the right just invites motorists to overtake without the required lateral safety distance, and thus endangers the biker. Unless your lane is at least 5.5 meters wide, take it fully - no car is allowed to overtake without leaving the lane. Oct 17, 2018 at 21:49

I don't know if it's 100% legal, but I figure if they're going to pass me on the left as we're approaching a redlight, I'm going to pass them on the right after they're stopped at the light. Turnabout is fair play. As someone else wrote don't pass or pull alongside the last car in the queue as they might want to turn right on red (left on red in left hand drive countries).

  • Well, I'm afraid that many motorist think in the same way: If bikers are willing to squeeze between cars, well, overtaking them without lateral safety distance is turnabout, and thus fair play. This is exactly the kind of thinking that got us stuck with such a dangerous culture on the roads, which denies bikers any rights to safety distances. If we behave as if we have no width, we are treated as if we don't exist. Oct 17, 2018 at 21:42

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