Cyclists: Enjoy the Ride in Safety

During the summertime, there’s almost no better way to enjoy the sunshine than a ride on your bicycle. Whether you are training for a GranFondo or Iron Man event or simply enjoying a casual ride on the weekend, cycling is a great way to enjoy the summer and a fantastic alternative to driving.

A recent Supreme Court of British Columbia case reminds us that, as bicyclists, we have to be accountable for understanding the rules and responsibilities of sharing the road with other vehicles.

In Stalzer v. Nagai, 2014 BCSC 1388, the Plaintiff was riding his bicycle just before sunrise on his way to work. He was wearing dark shoes, all-black clothing, a black backpack and no helmet and it wasn’t clear to the Court whether his bicycle had any reflectors.

Like many cyclists fall into the habit of, the Plaintiff was playing fast and loose with the rules of the road and crossed the street against a red-light at a pedestrian side-walk. At para. 61 the Court found that:

…the plaintiff’s conduct breached multiple sections of the Motor Vehicle Act. First, he rode his bicycle on a sidewalk contrary to s. 200 of the Motor Vehicle Act. Second, he did not obey traffic control lights (s. 125), a red light (s. 129), or pedestrian control (s. 132). Third, he rode his bicycle in a crosswalk on the left side of a roadway (ss. 183(2)(b) and (c)) without lights, front or rear (s. 183(6)(c)) or mandated reflectors on his bicycle (s. 183(6)(b)).

Under the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318 (the “MVA”), bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as any driver subject to certain exceptional rules (s. 183(1)). For example, generally it is a cyclist’s responsibility to ride on the right side of a road or in a bike lane unless directed to by a sign or authorized by a bylaw to ride somewhere else. Check your local bylaws or municipality website to see where cycling may be permitted on sidewalks or shared use paths.

A cyclist is also responsible for obeying all other rules of the road such as signalling, stopping at red lights and stop signs and not weaving through traffic. For example, a cyclist cannot use a cross-walk while riding since they are considered a vehicle, but may dismount and use the cross-walk as a pedestrian would. Likewise, drivers have to respect a cyclist’s right to operate as a vehicle on roads.

The CAA has some helpful information for cyclists on its website.

Ultimately in Stalzer, the court found that the plaintiff’s dark clothing and breaches of the Motor Vehicle Act amounted to negligence by failing to operate a vehicle with due care and attention. Other users of the road are not responsible for anticipating when someone will engage in unlawful and dangerous behaviour. As a result of breaching the Motor Vehicle Act (and perhaps also due to the Plaintiff exaggerating his injuries), the Court dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim entirely.

Help avoid collisions by obeying the rules of the road as though you were driving a motor vehicle and be aware of what exceptional rules apply to you as a cyclist. In the unfortunate event that you are in a collision while cycling, ensuring you have abided by the Motor Vehicle Act will guard against losing some or all of your potential compensation for any injuries or harm you suffer as a result of the collision.

If you’ve been in an accident as a cyclist or if you’ve been in any other collision, we’d be happy to answer any questions you have and to work to ensure you recover the full amount you are entitled to for your damages.

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