Each year many cyclists traveling Vancouver roads and are involved in car accidents. During rainy weeks like we’ve had the past little while we are reminded that it is important to be diligent as both a vehicle driver and a cyclist. The majority of accidents occur during the peak months of May through October, with 160 BC cyclists injured per month on average. Most cycling accidents are caused by drivers’ lack of awareness and failure to yield the right-of-way. Many motorists lack an awareness of cyclists, fail to accommodate for weather conditions, and fail to share the roadway.
Lack of Awareness of Cyclists
Motorists need to be aware of their surroundings at all times and keep a safe distance from other drivers as well as cyclists. Drivers often report their failure to see a cyclist as their reason for striking the cyclist, especially for accidents that occur in intersections, where approximately 60 percent of motorist-cyclist collisions occur.
Another frequent cycling accident occurs when a motorist or passenger, without looking, opens a vehicle door into the path of an approaching cyclist. The British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act prohibits people from opening a car door on the side of moving traffic unless it is safe to do so. There were 370 “dooring” incidents reported to ICBC between 2009 and 2013 with many more incidents that were likely not reported to ICBC.
Drivers also need to be aware of the potential for inexperienced cyclists on the road who are not familiar with the rules of the road. New cyclists might display unpredictable reactions while cycling in traffic. Motorists should slow down and use extra caution when driving near young or visibly timid cyclists.
Failing to Accommodate Weather Conditions
Weather in British Columbia can be unpredictable and require motorists to make appropriate accommodations in maneuvering through unexpected slippery and foggy conditions. According the BC Motor Vehicle Act a driver must maintain control of their vehicle at all times, otherwise they will often be found at fault in the event of an accident.
Failing to Share the Roadway
A motorist always has a legal obligation to drive responsibly and share the roadway with other road users. When crossing railway tracks, for example, motorists should be especially careful when a cyclist is crossing at the same time. Uneven pavement and grooves along the rails could catch the narrow wheels of a bicycle. If the tracks crossing the road are at a sharp angle the cyclist may have to swerve suddenly and may unexpectedly veer into a motorist’s path.
The law requires slower moving traffic to keep “as near as practicable to the right side of the highway,” but that doesn’t require a cyclist to ride at the very edge of the road. A cyclist may need more of the lane when there is no bike lane or paved shoulder on the road or if there is debris, potholes or deteriorated asphalt in the lane. This can frustrate motorists who do not pay attention to the road conditions and are not familiar with the rules.
Case Law: An Example of When Things Go Wrong
The following case highlights the importance of drivers maintaining an awareness as to where cyclists are located in relation to their vehicle. In Davies v. Elston, 2014 BCSC 2435; , the motorist was found negligent after a confrontation, which led 77 year old Jim Davis to lose his balance and fall, resulting in a fractured right hip and pelvis.
In this case, Gary Davies and his 77 year old father Jim approached a parked truck with the mirrors extended when cycling. Gary commented loudly about the thoughtlessness of the vehicle’s owner, who was in his front yard and heard the comment. The defendant, Mr. Elston, got into his truck and followed the cyclists, pulling alongside the Davies’ who were cycling beside each other in the 6-foot-wide bike lane. Mr. Elston lowered the passenger window to confront the cyclists for about 10-seconds during which Jim Davies reached out to hang onto the truck’s door so he could maintain a safe distance between himself and the vehicle. As Mr. Elston pulled away, Jim Davies lost his balance and fell.
In giving the reasons for her judgement, Madam Justice Susan A. Griffin stated “I conclude that Mr. Elston did not know where his truck tires were in relation to the bike lane. He was distracted by his anger and yelling and looking across at the cyclists. At a minimum his right side view mirror was in the bike lane and I find it likely that his tires were at a minimum close to or on the line dividing the bike lane from the vehicle lane.” Mr. Davies was awarded damages of $100,162.69 plus damages for cost of future care.
Contact Taylor & Blair LLP, Personal Injury Lawyers in Vancouver
If you have been injured in a car accident, regardless of the circumstances, you should contact a Vancouver car accident lawyer immediately to seek out advice. We have tremendous experience dealing with Vancouver ICBC lawyers who may seek to minimize your claim. We will fight hard to help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today at 604-737-6900.