Court of Appeal Discusses Liability of Cyclists Riding In Crosswalks


Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal discussing the law of negligence with respect to cyclists who are struck by a vehicle while riding on a cross-walk.
In today’s case (Bradley v. Bath) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2003 BC Cycling/Motor Vehicle Accident.  He was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk heading towards a gas station.  At the same time the Defendant was driving a car attempting to exit the gas station.  The Defendant struck the Plaintiff.  The Plaintiff sued for damages and succeeded.  The trial Judge Found the Defendant 100% at fault and damages of $396,753 were awarded.  In coming to her conclusion  she stated  “the plaintiff was not contributory negligent because the plaintiff could have been struck by the defendant’s vehicle if he had been a jogger, rollerblader or regular pedestrian rather than riding his bicycle.  Thus, she concluded that the plaintiff’s breach of the Motor Vehicle Act was not causally connected to the accident.
The Defendants appealed arguing, amongst other things, that the Trial Judge was wrong in finding the motorist 100% at fault.  The Appeal was successful and the Court of Appeal concluded that the cyclist was 50% at fault for the crash.  In reaching this decision Mr. Justice Tysoe stated as follows:

[27] In my respectful view, the trial judge did not ask the correct question.  The proper question was not whether a jogger, rollerblader or pedestrian could have been hit by the defendant’s vehicle.  The correct inquiry was to determine whether the plaintiff failed to take reasonable care for his own safety and whether his failure to do so was one of the causes of the accident.  While the judge acknowledged that the plaintiff was under a heightened duty of care because he was in breach of the law by riding his bicycle on the sidewalk, she failed to give effect to the heightened duty because she did not consider what care had been taken by the plaintiff when he saw the defendant’s vehicle moving towards the exit from the gas station.

[28] In my opinion, the plaintiff was at fault, and his fault was one of the causes of the accident.  Contrary to law, he was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk against the flow of traffic.  He saw the defendant’s vehicle moving towards the exit he was approaching.  Rather than making eye contact with the defendant or stopping his bicycle and letting the defendant’s vehicle exit the gas station, the plaintiff assumed the defendant saw him and would not accelerate his vehicle.  In these circumstances, he was at fault for continuing to ride his bicycle across the path to be taken by the defendant’s vehicle in exiting the gas station…

[30] I am of the view that the fault of the parties in this case is equal.  The plaintiff’s fault was riding his bicycle on a sidewalk against the flow of traffic and continuing to ride across the path of the exiting vehicle without ensuring his way was clear.  The defendant’s fault was his failure to keep a proper lookout when exiting the gas station.  I do not believe that one party is more culpable than the other.

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of “In Trust” Claims and awards for “Diminished Earning Capacity” which can be found at paragraphs 37 – 52 of the Reasons for Judgement.

bicycle accidents, Bradley v. Bath, cyclist collisions, icbc injury claims, liability, Nelgigence, Riding Bicycle on Sidewalk

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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