Toronto considering legalizing motorcycle filtering

An upcoming council vote could put an end to Toronto's free parking for motorcyclists.

The Riders Training Institute says Toronto city council is examining three initiatives that would make the GTA much more moto-friendly—and one of those initiatives is an experiment into legalizing lane filtering.

(As a quick explanation, filtering is the practice of riding a motorcycle between stopped traffic at an intersection, allowing the bike to get to the front of the line and quickly accelerate when the light changes, reducing the number of vehicles stuck bumper-to-bumper—more information here).

City council adopted several policy proposals at the last meeting in June, proposals that RTI says it drew up. According to the city’s website, these proposals include:

1. City Council request the General Manager, Transportation Services, in consultation with the Toronto Parking Authority, to report to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on:
a. expanding the number of dedicated motorcycle parking zones;
b. the enforcement of motorcycle only parking within those parking zones; and
c. the revenue implications from the ticketing of prohibited vehicles within those zones.

2. City Council request the General Manager, Transportation Services, to report to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on expanding the Designated Class of Vehicles permitted to use the reserved lanes on the following streets to include motorcycles:
a. Bay Street, from Front Street West to Bloor Street East; and
b. Don Valley Parkway, from Lawrence Avenue East to north of York Mills Road.

3. City Council request the General Manager, Transportation Services, in consultation with Toronto Public Health, to consider and report to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on a pilot project along the Richmond Street and Adelaide Street corridors which would allow motorcycles to filter between stopped vehicles, up to the stop line at controlled intersections where a stop signal is active, and only along lane boundaries that are not adjacent to any curb or pedestrian walkway, with implications for minimizing the risk of rear or front end collisions, and the overall flow of traffic.

Councillor Anthony Perruzza put the motion forward at the meeting, Councillor Gary Crawford seconded it. You can see a write-up from RTI here.

All these are good ideas; putting motorcycles in restricted-usage lanes and adding more parking should help ease congestion by promoting gridlock-busting bikes. But it’s the third point that’s the most interesting, as it appears Toronto is seriously considering this pilot project to examine the benefits and risks of filtering.

So far, Canadian provincial governments have mostly seemed extremely averse to the idea of looking seriously at lanesplitting and filtering, even while American legislators have been at least proposing the idea around at the state level for the past few years (with California legalizing the practice, all other states shooting the idea down). So, maybe this is what we need: a motivated municipal government willing to think outside the box and do some practical research of its own. It’s exciting news, and we’ll share any follow-up information we get.


  1. Ontario has had liberal governments for so long it needs to debate the obvious. Lane filtering and splitting have been in Europe forever. Just friggin’ do it already!

  2. Will wonders never cease? First legal weed, now (potentially) legal lane filtering.
    It seems like Canadian governments are finally allowing adults to make (some) decisions for themselves. Let’s see what happens now that the Tories are taking the wheel in Ontario.

      • The bike lanes along the same stretch are also technically still in “trial” even after three years and drivers still don’t know the rules. I welcome this movement, but don’t have faith in average Toronto drivers wrapping their heads around it.

  3. The rules are the easiest things to skirt. It’s the T.O. mentality of me first that has to end. Ask any cyclist. I won’t even head into the GTA on my bike. Now trialing these rules on a smaller scale in Hamilton might be a better move.

  4. Toronto’s such a joke. This needs a debate? And only getting a debate NOW? What a dumpster fire of a city this is.

  5. Items 1 & 2 are an expansion of things that exist today. The dedicated motorcycle parking spaces were a trial program that was made permanent when a bylaw was passed in December. With that by-law, they now have the legal right to ticket cars parked in these motorcycle spaces.

    Item 3, while a good idea, contravenes the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, which does not allow 2 vehicles to share the same lane. The City has no authority to over-rule the Province on these matters.

    This was a motion by one Councilor, seconded by another on behalf of a constituent group. The motion was not part of a budgeted program, simply a request for staff to review the idea and report back. They may recommend implementing 1 and 2 if they find that the existing dedicated parking spaces and motorcycle accessible HOV lanes are actually being used by bikes, but I suspect that the result of their review of 3 will be to report back that it is not allowed under the HTA, and nothing further will happen.

    It’s interesting to note that traffic on Richmond and Adelaide has gotten much worse since the City added separated bike lanes to these streets, reducing the traveled lanes fro 3 to 2. Also, the King Street straight thru restrictions has effectively moved most of the King Street traffic to Richmond and Adelaide. Allowing bikes to filter would be a small bandage on a much larger self-inflicted traffic wound.

    • re: i asked about the HTA roadblock. RTI said they requested the health department to be consulted and ideally with their support, the city can work with MTO and local police on an exemption for certain roads.

      • could’t the city just get around that by asking TPS not to enforce that on city streets? or create “motorcycle lanes” between lanes near intersections, kind of like phantom bike lines (those bicycle markings with chevrons painted along curb side of road)
        If there is a will there is a way, just get creative.

    • i can see the adelaide bike lane from my work window. traffic has always been terrible even prior to the bicycle lanes. at least the bicycle lanes are being used a lot. car traffic around here will never be curtailed, as public transportation along spadina is literally one of the slowest in the entire world. but hey if this filtering plan goes through, at least motorcyclists can get moving a bit more!

    • Actually Local by-laws overrule provincial. For example in Montreal you cannot turn right at a red light, but everywhere else in the province you can.

    • Peter, the HTA is, at best, ambiguous on the matter of filtering (neither explicitly mentioned, prohibited, or allowed). Though you can cite any number of cases where the riders have been fined/charged for interrelated infractions, that fact is that the HTA is simply a piece of legislation. It requires willing enforcement to matter, either directed by MTO or pursued by local police. And sorry, but in this matter, and especially if Toronto Public Health supports the recommendation, the MTO simply has no reason whatsoever to get involved. They rarely do, as a matter of course, on transportation matters involving municipal oversight (a myriad of bicycle related by-laws “technically” contravene the HTA). You really need a firm grasp of inter-jurisdictional policymaking to see why this was even considered (after years of lobbying on the part of RTI). If every policy proposal lived or died by the current state of legislation, nothing would ever change (see marijuana legalization). As for the police, the city regularly directs TPS on enforcement issues (from massage parlours to cannabis shops), and they would do exactly that in this scenario if the proposal is adopted. RTI would not be pursuing this recommendation if there wasn’t a prospect of it succeeding.

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