The Motor Vehicle Act provides guidance on the conduct and responsibilities of drivers and cyclists on roadways.  While the Motor Vehicle Act does not define cycles as vehicles, the Court of Appeal in Ormiston v. ICBC 2014 BCCA 276 noted that Section 183(1) of the act “imposes on the operator of a bicycle the same rights and duties of a driver of a vehicle“.

In Steinebach v. Skittrel 2022 BCSC 89, the injured claimant was a cyclist in a dedicated bike lane who was struck by a vehicle driven by the defendant that was turning right into a residential driveway on Mother’s Day in 2014.  The injured claimant was an experienced cyclist who was familiar with the route which he had ridden many times before.  Traffic was particularly heavy at the time.  There was a near miss between the defendant and the injured claimant that the defendant driver was unaware of.  As the parties proceeded to travel ahead, the defendant signaled a right hand turn and then turned across the bike lane towards the entrance to a townhouse complex colliding with the injured claimant.  The defendant testified that she only looked in her rear view mirror before making the right hand turn.  She did not look in her side mirror and she did not perform a shoulder check.  The impact caused the injured claimant and his bike to fly over the hood of the vehicle landing on the pavement on the other side.

ICBC argued that the injured claimant was entirely at fault because he was not taking into consideration other uses of the road and he wanted to speed although there was no evidence whatsoever that he was speeding or that speed contributed at all to the collision.

The trial judge summarized the law regarding a turning vehicle and a cyclist as follows:

[76]         If traffic may be affected by turning a vehicle, a driver must not turn without giving the appropriate signal. For a right turn, a driver must give the signal continuously for a sufficient distance to warn traffic before making the turn. If there is no opportunity to give a signal, a driver must not stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle without first giving the appropriate signal: MVA, ss. 170, 171. A driver of a vehicle must not overtake and pass another on the right when the movement cannot be made safely: MVA, s. 158(2). The Defendant argues that the Plaintiff passed to the right of slow moving or stopped vehicles, where he should have slowed and exercised greater caution, and that his conduct falls “well below the standard of care to be expected of a reasonably competent cyclist”: Nelson v. Lafarge Canada Inc., 2013 BCSC 1552 at para. 79 [Nelson].

The trial judge also reviewed the following similar cases:

[79]         The court’s task is to assess the respective blameworthiness of the parties, rather than the extent to which the loss may be said to have been caused by the conduct of each. Fault or blameworthiness evaluates the parties’ conduct in the circumstances, and the extent or degree to which it may be said to depart from the standard of reasonable care: Alberta Wheat Pool v. Northwest Pile Driving Ltd., 2000 BCCA 505 at paras. 45-46; Bradley v. Bath, 2010 BCCA 10 at para. 24.

[80]         In Dolphin v. Lepine, 1999 CanLII 5562 (B.C.S.C.), an accident resulted from a cyclist passing unsafely on the right. In finding the plaintiff cyclist 50% liable for the accident, Mr. Justice Burnyeat discussed the dangers a cyclist must be aware of when overtaking a vehicle on the right, noting that “drivers may be less attentive to street traffic on their right than would be the case if they were driving on a multi-laned roadway”: at para. 41.

[81]         In Ormiston, a cyclist who passed a stopped vehicle on the right was found 100% liable for the accident. The vehicle did not strike the cyclist, but its sudden movement to the right as the cyclist was passing caused the cyclist to fall over a barrier and down a rock embankment. With no dedicated bike lane, the cyclist was expected to abide by the MVA and had improperly passed the stopped vehicle on the right shoulder of a laned roadway. The Court of Appeal stated that the cyclist was the “sole author of his misfortune”: at paras. 25-27.

[82]         In Nelson, liability was held 65% against a cyclist who passed a right-turning truck at an intersection. The light was green and the cyclist was in a curb lane intending to proceed straight ahead. They did not check for an activated right turn signal on the truck. The defendant truck driver had some knowledge of the plaintiff cyclist as he had seen him beforehand. The Court accepted that the right-turning vehicle was the dominant driver in the circumstances because of his signalled intention to turn well in advance of the intersection.

[83]         In Sivasubramaniam v. Franz, 2010 BCCA 210 at para. 24, the Court of Appeal noted that the driver “was in the midst of a lawful turn to the right from the curb lane when the appellant rode his bicycle heedlessly into the mid-section of the truck” and that “by the time the appellant reached the intersection, Mr. Franz was well into his turn and could not have avoided the collision”. The Court of Appeal upheld the trial judge’s finding that the cyclist was solely responsible for the collision: at para. 22.

[84]         In Jang v. Fisher, 1990 CanLII 2147 (B.C.C.A.), the Court of Appeal noted that the defendant had turned her vehicle into the curb lane where the cyclist was “without looking” but found that the cyclist had contributed to the accident because of their speed, and apportioned liability 50:50.

Based on the evidence presented at trial, the trial judge concluded that the defendant was primarily at fault for the accident in that she had little situational awareness of the possibility of cyclists on the road just prior to and at the time of the collision.  Specifically, she was found to be negligent because she turned into and across a dedicated bike lane without a side shoulder check, and without a check of the side mirror to ensure no cyclists are in the dedicated bike lane, falling far short of the requisite standard of care and attention required in such circumstances. It was her lack of attentiveness to the possibility of cyclists that was found to be the primary cause of the accident.

The injured claimant was also found to bear some responsibility over the accident.  The trial judge focused on the cyclist’s own observations about the unusually busy traffic at the Intersection, and the fact that three driveways occurred in quick succession between the Intersection and scene of the Accident.  The trial judge found that a reasonable and situationally aware cyclist in those circumstances ought to have slowed and exercised caution when passing on the right of slowed vehicles.

In the end, the trial judge apportioned 85% fault against the defendant and 15% against the injured claimant.

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