One-metre rule between cars, cyclists gets heated reaction online

Drivers in Canada's capital city appear strongly opposed to a new Ontario law requiring motorists to keep one metre of space between their vehicles and cyclists they pass.

'Absolute idiocy and hypocritical enforcement with a raging double standard'

Drivers are being asked to leave one metre of room between their vehicles and cyclists they pass. The relatively new law came into effect in September 2015, and police will begin to enforce it after an educational campaign. (CBC)

When you're driving, do you make sure to keep at least one metre between your vehicle and the cyclists you pass?

If not, each offence in Ontario could cost you $110 and two demerit points — and Ottawa police say they'll start enforcing the law soon.

But before that happens, police are conducting an educational, awareness-building campaign about the relatively new rule, which came into effect in Ontario in September 2015. To do that, they're using two fancy new gadgets that beep when drivers get within one metre of them.

Officers used the devices earlier this week to pull over drivers on Somerset Street West as a demonstration only, and the reaction to a video CBC News Ottawa posted about it on social media has been interesting, to say the least.

As of Friday morning it had been viewed nearly 800,000 times and commented on almost 800 times, with the vast majority of people strongly against the rule and its pending enforcement.

Crossing centre line

Many commented that vehicles would have no choice but to cross the centre dividing line to give cyclists a wide enough berth.

Police say that's exactly what drivers should do when it's warranted and safe, just as they do on rural roads to pass slower vehicles.

Ottawa police spokesman Const. Chuck Benoit says the law isn't being enforced with fines and demerit points yet. (CBC)

"[Drivers are] able to cross that yellow line … when it's safe to do so," Ottawa police spokesman Const. Chuck Benoit said in an interview this week.

But what about when there's oncoming traffic in the opposing lane?

"The motorist has to stay behind the cyclist until it's safe to [pass]," Benoit said.

Cue the anger.

'This is sick'

"Absolute idiocy and hypocritical enforcement with a raging double standard," wrote Nick O'Brien on Facebook. "Guess they needed some revenue and what's a better way than extorting citizens already taxed to drive a car and on the road and on gas only to deal with idiotic cyclists who never abide by any traffic laws ever."

"I for one will not get myself caught in a face to face with another motorists just because the cyclists didn't want to ride his bicycle over a manhole on the side of the street and decides to jolt himself in my lane, sorry but it will not happen, tax payers' money went into making paths for those people and that's where they belong PERIOD!," wrote Francois Brousseau.

"This is sick. We pay a lot of money for our right to have our cars on the road and now we have to get out of the way for cyclist. Sorry...but have cyclists pay for their rights to use the road like the others and maybe I will share. Don't tell me that they are saving the environment …They are killing the economy. People don't spend and that is not good for our economy. Sorry but this is the way I feel," wrote Jocelyne Lacelle.

"Good idea, but let's see the cyclist follow the same rules of the road," wrote Lily Rose.

"What if the cyclist swerves towards the car? What then?" wrote Marc De Silva.

'It's a healthy discussion'

Gareth Davies, president of the Ottawa group Citizens for Safe Cycling, says he's glad to see any discussion about the issue.

"It's a start to hopefully a bigger investment in education for all road users around how to share our roads effectively and safely. … I think it's a healthy discussion. It's important for people to feel like they understand what the rules are, especially a new rule like this, and it's nice to see police showing that it's enforceable without actually enforcing it the first time," Davies said.

And he understands people wondering about the practicality of the rule, especially downtown.

"It kind of highlights the lack of space we have on some roads, really, and drivers need to know [that] the law allows them, they can cross the yellow line to provide that one-metre cushion for cyclists, and that they need to wait until there's room in the oncoming lane to do that."

Gareth Davies, president of Citizens for Safe Cycling, says the discussion being had about the relatively new rule is a good thing. (CBC)