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Background

In the Canadian province of Ontario, there are bike lanes on some streets.

Late at night, on snowy days, some of these bike lanes are used pretty rarely.

It's difficult to hitchhike inside a city. (Source.) And it's harder to hitchhike at night than during the day. (Source.)

But buses can be infrequent at night. It may sometimes be faster to hitchhike. Also, hitchhiking is free.

At a traffic light, the standard hitchhiking strategy is to get drivers to open their window a tiny bit, then to ask them for a lift. If there's an empty bike lane between you and the car, this is probably more difficult.

It may not be wise to step into the bike lane. (Bicycles are fairly quiet, and a cyclist may be text messaging instead of watching for pedestrians in his lane.)

But I still wonder whether or not it's legal to step into the lane, in order to ask for a ride.

The relevant laws

Here are the relevant excerpts from the Ontario Highway Traffic Act:

  • 1 (1). In this Act:

    • "roadway" means the part of the highway that is improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular traffic, but does not include the shoulder.

    • "vehicle" includes a ... bicycle.

  • 177 (1). No person, while on the roadway, shall solicit a ride from the driver of a motor vehicle other than a public passenger conveyance.

My questions

A) If almost no cyclists use a bike lane, is the lane still considered "ordinarily used for vehicular traffic"?

B) In Ontario, is it legal to step into a seldom-used bike lane in order to solicit a ride from a car driver?

  • 1
    There is also a third question - is this law likely to be enforced? Police almost never pull someone over for speeding 1 km per hour over the speed limit and likewise very rarely ticket someone for jay walking. I doubt that police would enforce this technical reading of the law either unless it was causing a problem or they had an ulterior motive. – ohwilleke Mar 20 '17 at 9:51
  • @ohwilleke: Good point. Before seeing your comment, I thought about your third question but was unsure. Now that I've read your comment, I realize you're right. Although it's technically illegal, it's really not a problem for me to step into such a seldom-used lane after all. :) Thank you. – tealhill Mar 23 '17 at 20:29
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"Ordinarily used" means its ordinary use. The usage that is normal for a bicycle lane is to ride bicycles in it. That remains true even if no bicycles are ever actually ridden on it.

The law you quote directly states that it is part of the roadway. The definition doesn't require the bicycle lane to meet all of the conditions listed, just at least one of them.

Since a bike lane is designed not just for vehicular traffic but a specific kind of vehicular traffic, it would be considered roadway — again, even if nobody ever used it for cycling at all.

Since doing so is explicitly disallowed, it would be a breach of law to do it.

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