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Who has the right of way in designated bike lanes?

Toronto's designated bike lanes like the one on Adelaide St. and on Richmond St. have those white poles separating the bike lane from the road until you get to an intersection. If you're cycling and are going straight, but there's a driver turning right, who has the right of way? What if you're behind another cyclist that a car has already stopped for, do you go with the cyclist or do you let the car go? This happens to me at least once a day when I'm on my bike, and I've spoken to cyclists and drivers who are also confused. – Sherrill, Toronto

If you're a cyclist in a bike lane, green means go. But if you're a car turning right, you have to yield to all the bikes coming through.

"When turning right across a cycle track, drivers need to yield to cyclists who are proceeding straight – there is signage along cycle tracks to inform road users of this yield condition," said Steve Johnston, City of Toronto spokesman, in an e-mail. "Drivers must signal and check their mirrors and the blind spot to their right to make sure they do not cut off a cyclist."

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What's a cycle track? Bike lanes that are physically separated from traffic.

The names can get confusing – like figuring out the difference between a crosswalk and a pedestrian crossover – but drivers have to yield in both cycle tracks and painted bike lanes.

If it's a red light, then both cyclists and drivers should stop. A driver would turn right once it's clear, just like at a normal intersection.

"All vehicles, including cyclists, must yield the right of way to traffic lawfully using the intersection before proceeding forward," said Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) spokesman Bob Nichols in an e-mail. "If a motor vehicle is within the intersection waiting to turn right – blocking the cyclist's path from the bicycle lane to the other side of the intersection – the cyclist should wait until the way is clear before proceeding through the intersection."

One difference between cycle tracks and painted lanes?

"Where a bike lane is marked with a skipped, not solid, white line, drivers may enter or cross the bike lane to turn right," Johnston said.

Getting into that bike lane – when there's not a barrier or solid painted line – is something drivers should do – as long as it's clear, said Angelo DiCicco, Young Drivers of Canada general manager.

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"Normally, when turning right you should be close to the curb before the intersection," DiCicco said. "This means that where there is a bike lane, you should move into the bike lane before the turn – obviously as far as is reasonable."

If you move your car into the bike lane before turning right, you should be close enough to the curb that cyclists can't pass you on the right.

Instead, they should merge into the traffic lane and pass to the left.

"If a cyclist is passing them, cyclists should pass them on the driver's side," DiCicco said. "This also means though that when a vehicle is approaching the intersection and there is a cyclist in front of them that the driver is required to wait behind the cyclist."

That's how it should work when there's a broken line – but it doesn't always, said Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto, in an e-mail.

"In practice, many drivers don't (pull to the right) and instead behave like the protected bike lane scenario," Kolb said. "The design differences have added confusion on our roads. We'd advise drivers and cyclists to both slow down and do the safest option."

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That means that cyclists have to be aware that, even when they have the right of way – drivers may not actually see them, DiCicco says.

And, drivers have to realize that cyclists don't just come out of nowhere when you're trying to turn.

"You've already passed the cyclist a block and a half ago," DiCicco said. "Scotty didn't beam him down from the Starship Enterprise."

Drivers should be planning for their right turns – and looking out for potential barriers – two blocks ahead, DiCicco said.

"You should be judiciously monitoring your rear view and side view mirrors and scanning sidewalks for pedestrians," he said. "That jogger didn't just suddenly appear as you're turning – if you paid attention you'd see him running a half-a-block ahead of the intersection."

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