99 years ago, British Columbians started driving on the right-hand side of the road

Residents drove on the left until 1922

CVA Str P43.1City of Vancouver Archives

Before traffic lights, police constables with white gloves and white batons directed traffic.

In this 1921 photograph, Constable Duncan C. McKinnon keeps order on the busy corner of Hastings and Granville Streets in front of the Canadian Bank of Commerce.

Order may have been a bit more challenging to keep several months later on January 1, 1922, as drivers of automobiles, street cars, and wagons had to adjust to driving on the right side of the road when the rule of the road changed at 6 a.m. that Sunday morning. Up until that point, drivers in B.C. drove British-style, as can be seen in this photograph.

The switch harkened both challenges and opportunities. Besides the obvious potential for serious accidents, the valuation of some property came into question. Property on corners where street cars stopped could generally command higher rental rates from businesses.

When street car stops had to be relocated to opposite sides of the road, some landlords were set to lose, and others benefit. There was also the question of how horses would behave, and a slightly tongue-in-cheek article ran in the December 29, 1921 Vancouver Daily World detailing a horse’s views of the change.

The main benefit, however, was bringing B.C.’s rule of the road in line with most other Canadian provinces, as well as the United States. This was important given that motoring trips taken by tourists were growing in popularity. Out-of-province visitors would no longer have to constantly remind themselves to “keep to the left”.

See more archival photos on the City of Vancouver Archives website.

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