Motor Vehicle Act to Traffic Safety Act: Background Information

Along with our partners the Halifax Cycling Coalition, the Ecology Action Centre, the Atlantic Active Alliance, and Walk N’ Roll Halifax , Cycling Nova Scotia has been pushing the Provincial Government to reform the Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) a. Our objectives are as follows:

  • Increase road safety for all
  • Promote and prioritize walking and wheeling
  • Remove barriers to walking and wheeling, including legal penalties
  • Increase the responsibility of drivers
  • Expand tools available to create safe, continuous and connected active transportation networks

Nova Scotia’s Motor Vehicle Act was last re-written in the 1920’s, and there were many changes to various sections since then. This resulted in a confusing piece of legislation that did not provide protection for vulnerable road users (ie: non-motorized road users, such as people walking, cycling, and rolling). In 2018 the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal began work on updating the MVA, now called the Traffic Safety Act (TSA). The new Traffic Safety Act has been fully re-written. The Act itself is a framework piece of legislation. The details will be found in the regulations connected to the TSA. The regulations are easier to change than the Act itself, making the laws more adaptable to new technologies and the changing needs of road users. Adaptability is important because the way that people travel is adapting all the time.

We have been actively working on reforming the Motor Vehicle Act since 2016. You can see more information on the history of this process here.

Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Response

The Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal recognized the need for the MVA to be revamped. In the spring of 2018 they launched a public engagement process to collect feedback on how Nova Scotians would like to see the Act improved. The new Act will be called the Traffic Safety Act. To learn more about the province’s process, visit their website here.

In January 2017, our groups established an Active Transportation Subcommittee of the Road Safety Advisory Committee (we know, it’s a mouthful!) to work on the TSA. We began working through the formal process of drafting the new TSA with the Province, Halifax Regional Municipality, regional police forces, and other stakeholders. The Act itself is a framework piece of legislation, which was introduced as Bill 80 in 2018. The details about how people can use public streets will be found in the regulations connected to the TSA. The province began seeking public input on the regulations in 2020. Our stakeholder groups have re-engaged the public to inform our feedback on the regulations and encourage others to submit their own feedback.

2020 Public Engagement

In December 2020 Cycling Nova Scotia, along with our partners Halifax Cycling Coalition, , the Ecology Action Centre, the Atlantic Active Alliance, and Walk N’ Roll Halifax hosted two public engagement sessions to gather feedback about the TSA regulations that pertain to rules of the road. Several of our recommendations have been addressed in the new TSA regulations, but several have not, and there are some things we still have questions about. You can read the draft Rules of the Road Regulations here. Please see below for an overview of what’s been included, what hasn’t, and what we are asking the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal for more information about.

  • Changed name to Traffic Safety Act
  • Bicycle signals/traffic lights permitted [53]
  • “Dooring” prohibited [103]
  • Allowance for permanently attached bicycle seats [119(1)(a)]
  • Municipal ability to designate shared-use sidewalks [117(3)]
  • More info about the use of bicycle lights
  • Clarity around cycling through roundabout [121]
  • Signalling turns
    • No longer obligated to signal for the duration of turn [29(3)(a)]
    • Can now use the right arm to signal a right turn [29(4)]
    • Not required to hand signal if unsafe to do so [29(5)(b)]
Not Included
  • Passing distance not increased to 1.5m on roads 70km/h or more [30(7)(b)]
  • Cyclists not permitted to treat a stop sign as a yield
  • No allowance for municipalities to decrease default of 50km/h speed limit [59]
  • Cyclists still required to dismount at crosswalks
  • Seeking further clarity on cross-rides
  • Riding two-abreast not permitted [122(1)]
  • Cyclists passing vehicles on the right still not clear
  • Parking distance from crosswalk still 5m, not 10m [135(1)(c)]
  • Right hook not clarified
Questions and Concerns
  • 30km/h school zone limit only applies when a child is present [61(3)]
  • Construction vehicles can drive in bicycle lanes [19(1)(c)]
  • Drivers allowed to drive in a bicycle lane if the vehicle in front is waiting to make left turn [19(2)(a)]
  • Pedestrians crossing at any point other than crosswalk must yield to traffic [20(5)]
  • Seizure of vehicle or conveyance still permitted as an enforcement tool under Bill 80 [62]
  • Religious exemption for helmets requires a certificate from Registrar [111(2)]
  • Must yield to traffic when merging from a bicycle lane [13(3)] and cyclists must yield to other traffic in the area they are entering [114(4)]
  • Cyclist required to ride in a bicycle lane when one is present [114(1)]
  • Understanding pedestrians (including people using a wheelchair) required to use the sidewalk if present
  • How does flag requirement for seated riders shorter than 1m impact children [118(3)]
  • Cyclists must leave 1m of space when passing a vehicle on the left [112(3)]
  • Only e-bicycle (power-assisted bicycle) mention is about the minimum age of 14 years for operators [123]
  • Bicycles not recognized as mobility aids

With our partners, we have submitted written feedback for the Nova Scotia Department of Infrastructure Renewal about the Rules of the Road Regulations.

[vc_button_new title=”View Cycling Nova Scotia’s Feedback” target=”_blank” size=”normal” href=””]

We encourage you to submit your own feedback to the province about the TSA Rules of the Road. Please cc us ([email protected]) on your e-mails so we can keep track of feedback being submitted. You can also cc your local MLA to let them know your concerns. You can look up your MLA and their contact information here.

Public support helps these amendments become enacted. Please take a moment to submit your feedback.