If a pedestrian is hit by a British Columbia car, ICBC accident benefits can provide up to $150,000 in medical rehabilitation expenses and disability benefits of up to $300 per week. If the same pedestrian was hit by a bicycle, she would get nothing. The Chinese tourist pedestrian killed by a cyclist in Stanley Park is an example of an insurance system in need of change. If the same tourist was killed by a BC vehicle, there would be an ICBC claim for funeral and death benefits. None of these ICBC accident benefits are available to the family of a pedestrian killed by a cyclist.
Should cyclists have to register their bikes and pay insurance? Amazingly before the advent of automobile insurance, third party liability insurance for moving vehicles began with the bicycle. Yes, bicycles were insured before cars! However, currently in British Columbia, lawyers will often have to explain to injury claimants that there is no insurance and the person responsible may not have the assets to pay a court award. In some cases cyclists do have insurance under homeowners insurance, but those cyclists without this insurance coverage, ride uninsured. Those uninsured cyclists however are still responsible for following the same rules of the road as insured automobiles.
One difficulty with changing the current system appears to be the cost of mandatory bike insurance and licensing. The cost of administering a licensing, registration, and insurance scheme in British Columbia for cyclists may indeed out weight the revenue generated.
There have been several jurisdictions in North America that have tried a combination of registration and licensing but none have been successful. The city of Regina, for example, has a bicycle licensing by-law, but the enforcement has been given to a community association which treats is as a voluntary registration.
There has been a renaissance of bike use in the Lower Mainland and other areas of the Province so the issue or mandatory bicycle insurance and the vulnerable pedestrian will not be going away anytime soon. If the Province is truly committed to spending the money on additional bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure it may become economically feasible to introduction mandatory insurance for cyclists. However, we must learn from the Swiss example that requires that all pedestrian facilities should be safe, interconnected, accessible for all users, and also attractive to cyclists.
Posted by Vancouver Personal Injury Lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B.
ISSUE: Should cyclists have to license, register, and insure before using the British Columbia roads?