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Do cyclists have to show identification to police?

Cyclists use bicycle lanes on Sherbourne St. in Toronto. (2012 File photo)

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

I read your story about how you can still get demerits on your driver's licence if you break a law riding your bike, even though you shouldn't. Why do people show police their driving licences in the first place? If I'm on my bike, why can't I just tell police I'm not carrying my licence? — Cliff, Hamilton

You don't need to carry your driver's licence when riding a bike. But, if police stop you, you have to tell them who you are — or you could start a, er, vicious cycle.

"A police officer who finds a cyclist contravening the Highway Traffic Act or any municipal by-law regulating traffic may require the cyclist to stop and to provide identification of himself or herself," says Ontario Ministry of Transportation spokesman Bob Nichols in an email. "Since there is no obligation on a cyclist to carry documentation, an oral response is sufficient."

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If you don't give your real name and address, you could face arrest, a $110 fine, or both, Nichols says.

"An individual has to correctly identify themselves to police while operating a bicycle," says Toronto Police Constable Clint Stibbe. "If the cyclist doesn't satisfy the requirement they can be arrested and held until we determine the person's true identity."

The rules are similar across the country — if you're a cyclist stopped by police, you have to identify yourself.

"One of the best ways to do that of course is to provide identification," says Vancouver Police Constable Brian Montague. "(You) do not have to provide a drivers licence, but it is something that can easily be used to confirm your identity."

And once police know who you are, they have access to your driver's licence number.

No demerits except in Quebec

Across the country, you can be ticketed for not following the rules of the road when on your bike.

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In most of the the country, cycling offences don't appear on your driving record. And, demerits don't get added to your licence. That's how it's supposed to work, at least.

The exception? Quebec.

"If you receive a statement of offence cycling in Quebec and demerit points are related to it, they will be listed on your driving record," says Sûreté du Québec Sgt. Gino Paré in an email. "If you do not have a driver's licence, the points will be added when you get one."

Even though demerits don't get added in most of Canada, unpaid cycling tickets usually have to be paid when it's time to renew your licence or vehicle's registration. And, if you don't have a driver's licence now, that unpaid cycling ticket will be waiting for you when you apply for one.

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