Biking & Cyclists

Safety & Education

Cycling safety pointers

  • Safety is a matter for all roadway users - pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
  • Always be alert of your own actions and of other people's actions around you.
  • The Ontario Highway Traffic Act defines bicycles as vehicles so cyclists have a responsibility to obey all traffic laws, signs and signals.
  • Riding a bike on a sidewalk is illegal in Hamilton. It makes a sidewalk uncomfortable for pedestrians plus cyclists get hit by autos crossing intersections and driveways.
  • A teen or adult cyclist is most visible to motorists when riding in the curb lane of a street when there is no bike lane.
  • Ride in the correct direction in a bike lane. Two-way facilities have a unique design.

  • When riding on multi-use trails alert pedestrians with your bell well in advance of passing them, so they know you are approaching.
  • Everyone should wear a helmet and people under age 18 are required to wear a helmet.

What are your responsibilities?

Be aware that cyclists are required to cycle on the road, not on the sidewalk. Cyclists are entitled to adequate space on the street for their bicycle, and are advised to "take the lane" if the lane is too narrow to share with other vehicles side-by-side.

Motorists are responsible for:

  • Reduce speed when encountering cyclists
  • Leave sufficient space between your vehicle and a cyclist, and only pass a cyclist when there is enough room to do so safely
  • Watch for cyclists before making turns and lane changes

Share the Road. Leave space! Pass safely!

Cyclists are responsible for:

  • Be aware that your bicycle is defined as a vehicle under traffic laws, please ride accordingly
  • Have a bell, a front light, and a rear reflector on your bicycle
  • Wear bright-coloured clothing that allows you to be seen by drivers both day and night, reflectivity is ideal
  • Be alert to your surroundings and ride predictably
  • Ride in single file
  • Signal clearly when making turns or lane changes
  • Know your skill and fitness level when planning routes

Electric bikes or e-bikes, both those resembling conventional bicycles and those resembling motor scooters, are allowed on roads and highways where conventional bicycles are currently permitted. They must follow the same rules of the road as set out in the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) that currently apply to cyclists, with some exceptions.

In order to operate an e-bike:

  • Operators must be 16 years of age or older;
  • All operators must wear an approved bicycle or motorcycle helmet at all times.

More information on e-bikes from Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

Operation Bike Guard

Hamilton Police Services have just launched an easier way to record information that identifies your bicycle should it be stolen. One of the issues with bicycle theft is the difficulty of identifying bicycles when they are recovered. Visit for more details.

Record your bicycle serial number to facilitate claiming your bicycle should it ever be stolen. Aside from storing the number in your own home, there are bike registries on the web that offer a similar service. Typically the serial number of your bicycle is on the frame under the shaft that houses the pedals.

If your bicycle is stolen, please visit the police station nearest you to file a stolen/lost bicycle report. The report must be filled out in person and they will provide you with more details at that time. The bicycle report will enable the Police to identify your bike should it be recovered and also the report provides statistical information. The Hamilton Police hold unclaimed bicycles for a minimum of 30 days; so should your bicycle be stolen, check with the Police. The Police do not hold their own auctions to get rid of unclaimed bicycles. Unclaimed bicycles are auctioned off through an online service based in Toronto.

New cycling traffic features

Bike Safety - Sharrow Symbol on Road

A bicycle stencil called a sharrow is a combination of a chevron and a bicycle stencil. It works like an “arrow” to indicate how cyclists and auto traffic are to share the street.

They are positioned on a street in two different ways depending on the width of the lane:

  • If the street is wide enough for a bicycle and a car to share a lane side-by-side they are painted on the right side of the lane.
  • If the lane is too narrow for a bicycle and a car to share a lane side-by-side, bicycles and cars must ride single file and the sharrow is painted in the middle of the lane.

Photo: sharrows in a wide lane

Bicycle road symbol Sharrow in a wide lane

Photo: sharrows in a narrow lane

Bicycle Road Symbol Sharrow in a narrow lane

A bike box is used at intersections to designate a space, in front of cars, for turning cyclists to queue at a red traffic signal. This special area is marked with bike stencils and is in front of the stop bar. The City of Hamilton identifies bike boxes with white bike stencils marked in an area coloured green. Some municipalities do not use the green asphalt, only the white bike stencils.

A bike box minimizes confusion between turning cyclists and auto traffic. The most common use of a bike box is to assist left-turning cyclists, but they have other unique applications such as for right-turning cyclists on one-way streets.


  • When the traffic signal is red, use the bike box to move to the far side of the street to facilitate your turn onto the cross street.

For example: Hunter St. bike boxes are for westbound cyclists wanting to make a right turn to go north. When the cross street has a green signal, and Hunter St. traffic has a red signal, use the bike box to cross to the north side of Hunter St. Proceed onto the cross street when your path is clear of traffic and pedestrians.


  • The white stop bar defines where you are to stop when the signal is red (behind the green asphalt).
  • If turns are permitted “on red” at the intersection, you may advance into the bike box to make a turn if the bike box is not occupied by a cyclist.

Hunter Street in downtown Hamilton had bi-directional bike lanes installed in 2014 on the south side of the street. The design includes a series of bike boxes at the signalized intersections of Walnut St., Bay St., Caroline St., Hess St., and Queen St. so westbound cyclists can more easily make right turns.

The City has begun to install devices at some signalized intersections so bicycles can activate a green traffic signal on less-busy cross streets (not to be confused with a Bike Box). Special stencils are marked on the asphalt so cyclists know where to position themselves to activate this device. These stencils are behind the stop bar, which is different from bike boxes, where bicycle stencils are in front of the stop bar. 

A standard design for bike lanes approaching intersections is a dashed line for the last 15m of the bike lane. Bike lanes are typically on the right-hand side of auto traffic. This design detail reduces the risk of collisions between cyclists and right-turning auto traffic because it directs motorists to merge into the bike lane if motorists are making a right turn. Motorists are reminded to merge into the bike lane only after ensuring that they are not “cutting off” a cyclist. When the auto merges into the bike lane a cyclist, approaching the intersection further back, yields to let the auto merge. This prevents collisions between right-turning autos and cyclists continuing straight through the intersection in the bike lane.

A similar design, but for left-turning motorists, exists on Hunter St., Bay St, and Herkimer St. where the bike lane is on the left side of motorists. On Hunter St., Bay St., and Herkimer St. motorists are reminded when turning left, to merge into the adjacent bike lane and leave any opposing bike lane clear for bicycle traffic riding in the opposite direction.

Cycling education

  • A local community organization, New Hope Community Bikes offers introductory cycling education courses for both youth and adults. Their instructors are CAN-Bike trained and certified.

Contact us

For further information regarding cycling education, contact:

Daryl Bender
Phone: 950-546-2424 Ext. 2066
Email: [email protected]