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Apportionment of Fault in Bicycle Accidents

Vancouver is often ranked as one of the top bicycle-friendly cities in the world. But, opting for this affordable and eco-friendly mode of transportation, comes with its own set of rules and regulations concerning road sharing and safety.

In BC, cyclists are allowed on all highways (ie roads) except designated freeways. Section 183 of the Motor Vehicle Act regulates the rights and duties of cyclists. A person operating a cycle on a highway has the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle. However, cyclists are less visible and more vulnerable than other road users, they must take reasonable care to ensure that they see and are seen by oncoming traffic. Hersh v. Stinson, [1992] B.C.J. No. 1428 (S.C.). Section 183(14)(a) states a person must not operate a cycle "on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway."

If the duties set out in the Motor Vehicle Act are not met, a cyclist can be found up to 100% at fault for an accident. Some examples of BC Supreme Court decisions concerning cyclist liability include:

Harvey v. Robin, 2021 BCSC 640 - cyclist 10% liable

Ms. Harvey, a cyclist, was traveling through a roundabout. Ms. Harvey saw the defendant's vehicle stopped in the roundabout. It was two to three car lengths away. Ms. Harvey saw the vehicle with its reverse lights on. Despite seeing the reverse lights, Ms. Harvey did not stop. Ms. Harvey proceeded through the roundabout. Only when the defendant started reversing into the traffic circle did Ms. Harvey stop. Both her feet were on the ground when the impact occurred.

Held: The plaintiff was held 10% liable. The plaintiff was passing the defendant's vehicle on the left. The plaintiff was considered a person operating a cycle on a highway at the time of the Accident. The plaintiff saw the stopped car, with its reverse lights on, but continued to proceed by passing it on the left. She did this despite s. 159 of the Act which only allows for such a maneuver if the driver, here a cyclist, can do so safely.

Davis v. Jeyaratnam, 2019 BCSC 1698 – cyclist 100% liable

The plaintiff was riding his bicycle on the Broadway Avenue sidewalk in violation of his duty under s. 183(2)(b) of the Act. He therefore had a heightened duty of care in the circumstances.

Mr. Davis did not undertake any measures, let alone reasonable measures, to ensure that he was seen by vehicles who might be making such a left hand turn, particularly in light of the fact that he was acting in violation of the law by travelling on the sidewalk; as a result, he did not appreciate that the defendant vehicle was turning into his path. The plaintiff did not exercise reasonable care by cycling on the sidewalk and entering the street from the sidewalk, in a manner that posed an immediate and unavoidable risk of collision with the defendant vehicle. It was the breach of his statutory duty under the Act and his failure to exercise due care that caused the near collision with the defendant vehicle that in turn caused him to startle and jump off his bicycle when there was, in fact, no need to do so.

Dhanoya v. Stephens, 2019 BCSC 723 - cyclist 100% liable

The plaintiff was riding his bicycle in a pedestrian crosswalk when he was struck by a vehicle driven by the defendant. A witness indicated that the plaintiff had not stopped before entering the crosswalk.

Held: The plaintiff did not exercise a reasonable degree of care when he cycled into the crosswalk without looking for vehicles. He assumed that there was no traffic and cycled into the crosswalk without looking. Had he looked, he would have seen the defendant’s vehicle and not proceeded into the crosswalk. The plaintiff was 100% at fault for the accident.

Nelson v. Lafarge Canada Inc., 2013 BCSC 1552 - cyclist 35% liable

The defendant commercial truck driver struck the plaintiff cyclist while making a right turn on a green light at an intersection. The defendant was in a dominant position as the parties approached the intersection. The plaintiff passed the defendant in the right curb lane as they entered the intersection. The defendant did not see the plaintiff while turning and the plaintiff failed to see the defendant's activated right turn signal.

Held: The plaintiff cyclist was 65% at fault for failing to take "reasonable care for his own safety, which failure was a contributing cause of the accident." The plaintiff in Nelson tried to pass a right-turning truck in a curb lane for cyclists "when there was little, if any, margin for error associated with such an attempt."


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