Motorcycles are symbols of freedom and, for some, rebellion. They are also some of the smallest vehicles on the road, offering little protection in case of an accident or collision. When it comes to the rights and responsibilities of a motorcyclist in Canada, most of the additional rules are based on keeping the rider and any passengers safe on the road.

In order to operate a motorcycle, you must have a valid motorcycle license (known as an M1, M2, or M class license). This is separate from a G class driver's license, which as of 2008 no longer covered motorcycles and mopeds. To get a motorcycle license, you must be at least 16 years of age and go through a graduated license program, which takes at least 20 months. After passing a vision test along with written tests covering rules of the road, road signs, and motorcycle knowledge, you can receive your M1 license and are eligible for a road test. Once you have passed the level 1 road test, you will receive your M2 license. Then, once you have taken and passed your level 2 road test, you will be fully licensed (an M class license).

Once you have your motorcycle license, there are still requirements your motorcycle must meet before it can be used on public roads:

  • Your motorcycle must be insured, and you must carry 3rd party liability insurance of up to $200,000, direct compensation coverage for property damage, uninsured automobile coverage of up to $25,000 (which covers you if you are injured or killed by a driver without insurance or who cannot be identified), and accident benefits.
  • Your motorcycle must have a valid license plate and vehicle permit. To get these, you must also have a legitimate bill of sale.
  • Your motorcycle must have a valid safety certificate, certifying that it is fit to operate on the road.

Because motorcycles are such symbols of individuality, many motorcyclists prefer to customize them and the gear they wear while riding. This is something that must be done carefully, as customizations can alter the handling of the bike in a manner that makes it unsafe.

If you are customizing your motorcycle or your riding gear, there are some additional requirements that must be met:

  • The helmet must conform to provincial safety standards, and remain in good order. It can have speakers and a microphone installed for the purposes of radio communication or the use of a mobile phone. A helmet must also be worn at all times, as Ontario is not a province that permits religious exemptions in regards to helmet laws.
  • Handlebars must be properly maintained and not be allowed to become loose or damaged. If you are modifying the handles, they cannot exceed 380mm above the uppermost part of the seat while a rider is seated on the motorcycle (also known as the 15″ rule).
  • A customized muffler must work as required and not create emissions above levels permitted under provincial law, and must not be unreasonably loud (a requirement shared by other parts of the motorcycle that make noise, such as the horn). Whether a muffler or a horn is considered too loud depends on the judgement of the local police – there is no specific decibel limit set by law.

Just as they are bound by the same rules of the road as all other road vehicles, motorcycles and cyclists have the same rights on the road as any car or truck – they have the same right of way as any automobile, and they have the right to use an entire lane, just like any other vehicle on the road.

Likewise, in case of a parking or speeding ticket, motorcyclists have the same right to dispute an alleged infraction as any other driver. This includes appearing before a judge or justice of the peace in Provincial Offences Court to plead your case, as well as explaining extenuating circumstances, and receiving due process.

Originally published January 11, 2016

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.