Biking & Cyclists

Safety & Education

Keeping Hamilton roads safe for cyclists is everyone’s responsibility.

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. Whether you’re a motorist, cyclist or pedestrian, everyone is responsible for making streets safer for cyclists.

Tips for motorists:

  • 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.The penalty for not leaving a minimum one-metre passing distance can result in a fine of $110.
  • After parking on the side of the road, check your blind spots and look for cyclists before opening your door. The penalties for improper opening of a vehicle door can result in a fine of over $300 and three demerit points.
  • Whether you’re turning left or right, always check your blind spot to ensure you don’t cut off any approaching cyclists.
  • Always signal when making lane changes or turning so that cyclists can anticipate your actions.
  • Look both ways before crossing a bike lane and yield to any oncoming bikes. Even if cyclists see you, their reaction time may be slowed due to weather conditions or other factors.
  • Children may not be fully aware of all the rules and dangers of the road, so drive cautiously around children cycling.
  • Never park in or block bike lanes.

Share the Road. Leave space! Pass safely!

Tips for cyclists:

  • 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.
  • Use a bell, a front light, and a rear reflector on your bicycle. When riding on multi-use trails, make sure to alert pedestrians with your bell well in advance of passing them, so they know you are approaching.
  • Wear bright-coloured clothing that allows you to be seen by drivers both day and night. Reflective clothing is ideal.
  • Be alert of your surroundings and ride predictably.
  • Know your skill and fitness level when planning routes and plan ahead! The City of Hamilton offers a comprehensive map of cycling facilities, points of interest and hiking trails that can be found here.
  • Everyone should wear a helmet and people under age 18 are required to wear a helmet.
  • Ride in single file.
  • Signal clearly when making turns or lane changes.
  • Ride in the correct direction in a bike lane. Two-way facilities have a unique design.

Tips for pedestrians:

As a pedestrian, it’s important to stay alert.

  • Avoid distractions while walking like texting or talking on the phone.
  • Avoid wearing headsets in order to hear if a bicycle is approaching.
  • Travel predictably by keeping to the right on trails and crossing streets using marked crosswalks.
  • Keep pets close and on a leash.
  • Do not use bike lanes for travel and yield to cyclists if crossing one when they have the right-of-way.

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:
Email: [email protected]