Is Ontario’s New One-Meter Passing Rule Actually Protecting Cyclists?

It’s been almost one year since a new law aimed at protecting cyclists came into force in Ontario, but so far it doesn’t seem to have much of an impact.

A new provision in the Highway Traffic Act made it mandatory for drivers passing a cyclist to leave a meter of space between their vehicle and the cyclist.

CTV reports that since the law came into effect on September 1, 2015, only 19 drivers have been charged. A ticket for breaking this law is $110-$180 and two demerits.

The law is a good one, with the potential to positively influence Ontario’s road culture, and create a safer roads for cyclists. But if it isn’t being enforced, it can’t do these things.

A CBC report from this past June says police in Ottawa have been running an educational awareness-building campaign to make sure motorists know about the new law. Ottawa police said they aren’t yet enforcing the new law, but will begin soon.

Unfortunately, footage the police shared of the campaign drew a lot of criticism. Many drivers argued that on narrow roads, it’s impossible to yield that amount of space without crossing the centre line. But in fact, that is the correct thing to do, when safe. If a driver can’t safely cross over the yellow line, they must wait behind the cyclist until it is clear to pass.

Jared Kolb, director of Cycle Toronto notes, “[T]he Ontario coroner, in his review of cycling deaths, found motorists failing to give cyclists one metre when passing was a leading cause of death and serious injury.”

Let’s hope police start enforcing this law soon.