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The Ottawa police just endorsed cyclists riding two abreast

An officer explained why cycling two up can be safer in a tweet

Photo by: Pablo Vallejo/unsplash

If you’ve ever ridden side-by-side with another cyclist, either in a group or just as a pair, you’ve likely been yelled at by a car at least once. Drivers sometimes take issue with cyclists taking up “too much of the road” when they ride beside each other (known as riding two abreast or two-up).

For years cycling advocates have argued that, in many cases, riding two abreast is safer for everyone—drivers included. On June 15, an unexpected tweet from the official Ottawa Police Twitter account actually endorsed riding side by side, and laid out the arguments for why cyclists have the right to go two up.

“The right to occupy a lane”

The post began when Ottawa Police tweeted that cyclists have “the right to occupy a lane,” and that drivers should “be prepared to share the road.”

“If you are cycling, follow the rules of the road – don’t surprise motorists with unexpected manœuvres,” wrote the officer.

As motorists began to complain about cyclists in the replies (“we got it, you assume because you bike that you’re ‘morally superior’ and can deflect blame elsewhere,” “they don’t care if someone running on sidewalks they push pedestrian to move away from side walks,” “cyclists don’t even care about wearing a helmet,” etc.) the account addressed one Tweet complaining about cyclists riding side by side.

“Riding side by side is actually safer,” wrote the Ottawa Police. “It forces vehicles to properly overtake them instead of trying to squeeze by too closely in the same lane. In larger groups, it also allows drivers to overtake the group faster by not having a long line of cyclists in a row.”

Cycling laws

In Ontario, riding two abreast is not illegal. Although there is no specific prohibition against the practice in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, on a very narrow or very busy street where cars can’t pass two side-by-side cyclists with one meter of space, cyclists can be charged with unlawfully impeding traffic if they don’t ride one up.

RELATED: Is riding single file safer than riding two abreast?

Legally, drivers must leave one meter between themselves and a cyclist. In most cases, that will require the driver to cross the yellow line and move into the lane of oncoming traffic to get around the cyclist. Often, motorists will assume they can overtake a single cyclist in places that are not safe and will not leave the rider enough room. When cyclists ride two abreast, they force vehicles to properly overtake them and give them enough space.

Riding two abreast also helps drivers as well. To pass a group of cyclists riding in single file, a driver would have to spend more time in the oncoming lane than if they were passing a group of cyclists riding two abreast.