dandySAFETY #2: ask an expert ~ One-way left turns

Photo by Martis Reis of cyclist signalling to move around a truck in the bike lane.

By Tammy Thorne

dandySAFETY #2: ask an expert ~ Doing one-way (left turns) the wrong way?

Situation for today's question: Heading east on Adelaide (west of Bathurst), turning left on Niagara

dandySAFETY column intro:

The column will focus on real situations where motorists and cyclists interact in the city. Our dandy street safety experts are: P.C. Hugh Smith, Jim Kenzie and Derek Chadbourne. You can read our safety experts' bios here.

In this first scenario "Doing one-ways the wrong way? The correct way to turn left while cycling on a one-way thoroughfare" - the cyclist is heading east on Adelaide St. West, (west of Bathurst) and about to turn left on to Niagara.

dandySAFETY #2 

Question: What side of the road should I ride on, on a one-way street if I'm about to turn left?

Scenario: I bike down Adelaide which is one-way eastbound.

On the section between Strachan and Niagara it is single lane and one-way with north side on-street parking and quite a few hidden lane ways.

When I ride on this section I stay visible and ride in a straight line near the middle of the road, BUT if a car comes along I move to the side - usually, the left side.

Mostly, I chose to stay left because I am about to turn left (north) at Niagara.

I also believe that it is safer to be on the left in this case, because drivers' depth perception is better - that is, they could see me better if I'm on the driver side, or left side of the street. Seems logical, no?

The other day, another cyclist was also biking along with me and he moved to the right, while I moved to the left (the direction I was going to turn) this confused the driver who then honked...

Who really deserves to be beeped at in this scenario?

Derek Chadbourne, cyclist about town

The answer is that no one should be beeped at. This driver has no patience and should be reprimanded for being a dork. As for what side is the safe side, I always ride on the driver's side whenever possible. My thinking is that the driver will understand better if they can gauge the distance between the bike and the car. Most drivers have no idea how large their vehicles are and how much space they are taking up on the road.

Hugh G. Smith, Toronto Police Service

Given your scenario is within an area of approximately 300 metres in distance to travel, where you are passing four intersections before Niagara Street, I would suggest you stay one metre off the right curb until you pass Walnut Avenue. Upon clearing the Walnut Avenue stop sign (approximately 80 metres from Niagara), I would shoulder check and signal to move to the left side of the roadway, to position yourself for your left turn up ahead. Your position on the road at this point, better communicates to other drivers, that you are most likely to be turning left at the next intersection.

Attached are some supporting sections of the Highway Traffic Act, where it is indicated that vehicles travelling at a slower speed are to move out to the right to be passed. We must also take into account that most motor vehicle drivers and other cyclists experience and expectations, are to pass other vehicles on the left side. The vehicles that are usually parked on the north side can sometimes hide a cyclist, as the rider blends into the parked vehicles, rather than being an isolated figure riding out on the south side.

Highway Traffic Act

R.S.O. 1990, CHAPTER H.8

Slow vehicles to travel on right side

147.  (1)  Any vehicle travelling upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at that time and place shall, where practicable, be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic or as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 147 (1).


(2)  Subsection (1) does not apply to a driver of a,

(a) vehicle while overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction;

(b) vehicle while preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway; or [Note: bold for emphasis added by dandyhorse editors.]

(c) road service vehicle. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 147 (2).

Overtaking and passing rules

Passing meeting vehicles


(1)  Every person in charge of a vehicle on a highway meeting another vehicle shall turn out to the right from the centre of the roadway, allowing the other vehicle one-half of the roadway free. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148 (1).

Vehicles or equestrians overtaken

(2)  Every person in charge of a vehicle or on horseback on a highway who is overtaken by a vehicle or equestrian travelling at a greater speed shall turn out to the right and allow the overtaking vehicle or equestrian to pass. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148 (2).

Vehicles or equestrians overtaking others

(5)  Every person in charge of a vehicle or on horseback on a highway who is overtaking another vehicle or equestrian shall turn out to the left so far as may be necessary to avoid a collision with the vehicle or equestrian overtaken, and the person overtaken is not required to leave more than one-half of the roadway free. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148 (5).

Bicycles overtaken

(6)  Every person on a bicycle or motor assisted bicycle who is overtaken by a vehicle or equestrian travelling at a greater speed shall turn out to the right and allow the vehicle or equestrian to pass and the vehicle or equestrian overtaking shall turn out to the left so far as may be necessary to avoid a collision. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148 (6).

Passing vehicle going in same direction

(8)  No person in charge of a vehicle shall pass or attempt to pass another vehicle going in the same direction on a highway unless the roadway,

(a) in front of and to the left of the vehicle to be passed is safely free from approaching traffic; and

(b) to the left of the vehicle passing or attempting to pass is safely free from overtaking traffic. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148 (8).

Highway designated for one-way traffic

153.  Where a highway has been designated for the use of one-way traffic only and official signs have been erected accordingly, vehicles and street cars shall be driven only in the direction so designated. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 153.


Jim Kenzie

Hugh has covered the legal niceties here. (It's also my favourite part of the Highway Traffic Act - keep right except to pass. All drivers, please note...)

I think the particularly relevant bit is subsection 2, exception b - 'preparing to turn left'.

Also, keeping in mind that 'the law is [sometimes] an ass', from a purely logical perspective, to me it simply makes sense to stay to the left when preparing to make a left turn.

Overall, I'd think for best visibility, staying in the middle of the left-turning lane would be ideal, but I can understand that that can be a very threatening position for cyclists.

(Then again, the way some of those two-wheeled desperadoes ride in traffic, they have no fear whatsoever...).

I'd think staying left would also give a cyclist the most bail-out options, in case the four-wheeler didn't see you.


Councillor Mike Layton, Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina

The Adelaide/Richmond bikeway is in staff's hands since we requested studies here.

Layton supports bikeways on the street and will make sure there is a connecting route once the Adelaide/Richmond bikeway is worked out to the east, in Adam Vaughan's ward. And, he said, a quick poll of his staff showed that the consensus is still out on the 'right way' to do a left turn while riding on a one-way. Some stay left, some stay right.
Different cyclists turn left in different ways it would seem.

What do you think is the right way to ride a one-way when you're about to turn left?


Hugh Smith is a constable who specializes in traffic safety with the Toronto Police Service.

Jim Kenzie is a Wheels section columnist with the Toronto Star.

Derek Chadbourne is an experienced cyclist about town who has been advocating for safer conditions for cyclists for many years through multiple venues.

dandyhorse will also ask the local councillor (or city planner, if applicable) for an update on the roadway or infrastructure in question for each dandySAFETY situation.

If you have a dandySAFETY situation you'd like advice on, please email us at: safety@dandyhorsemagazine.com
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One response to “dandySAFETY #2: ask an expert ~ One-way left turns”

  1. Warren says:

    Behave like a vehicle to get vehicle respect.
    In the last block, shoulder check (signalling to motorists a likely change of lane position), move to the centre of the leftmost lane. Do not allow vehicles to flank you when executing a left-hand turn, this is incredibly unsafe, signal your intent to turn when stable.
    ‘Taking the lane’ is the most confronting action a cyclist can undertake – it tends to go against a lifetime of habit. But it ensures the respect of motorists, abides by relevant laws, has you be predictable, and protects your continued lifetime of cycling.
    If a turn from the centre of the left lane is not possible, or you are not up to it, better to dismount and walk it across, especially if there are streetcar tracks and wet involved. No shame there – the cars will always win any misunderstanding.

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