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Motorist Found Fully Liable For Striking Cyclist in Dedicated Bike Lane

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, discussing the duties of cyclists riding in dedicated bike lanes.

In today’s case (Charlton-Miner v. Hedgecock) the Plaintiff was travelling on a bicycle in a dedicated bike lane.  As she approached an intersection that she was driving straight through the Defendant motorist approached from her rear and “turned across the plaintiff’s path, causing the right side of his vehicle to collide with the plaintiff’s left shoulder area and causing her to fall.”  The Plaintiff’s bike lane was to the right of a designated right hand turn lane.

ICBC argued that the Defendant should not be at fault for striking the cyclist for a variety of reasons including that the cyclist should have had a rear view mirror and somehow reacted differently and further arguing that the cyclist should have left the dedicated bike lane and entered the lanes intended for vehicles to go through the intersection because the bike lane was to the right of a dedicated right hand turn lane.  In rejecting these arguments and finding the motorist 100% at fault Mr. Justice Wilson provided the following reasons:

[33]         Neither party was aware of any cases that address the issue of whether a cyclist who intends to cross an intersection is obligated to leave a dedicated bicycle lane and cross a right turn lane in order to move into the through lane for traffic. If the plaintiff was so obligated, she would have been subject to a heightened duty of care that may be significant in determining whether she was at fault, in whole or in part, for the accident….

[40]         If I were to accept the defendant’s argument, the dedicated bicycle lane should not be used by cyclists who intend to cross the intersection and would instead be used solely by cyclists intending to turn right. However, there are neither signs nor markings in the bicycle lane that would indicate that the bicycle lane has ended for through cyclists. There are no signs or markings that require users of the bicycle lane to turn right. The bicycle lane is separated from the single lane and what subsequently becomes the right turn lane by a solid white line. The bicycle lane contains only one painted sign, which is a picture of a bicycle. The painted bicycle sign is positioned shortly after northbound lane divides into two lanes divided by a broken line. In the absence of any signage indicating that through cyclists should do otherwise, it is reasonable to assume that cyclists are intended to remain within the bicycle lane, regardless of whether they intend to turn right or to continue through.

[41]         Dedicated bicycle lanes provide cyclists with a small portion of the roadway in which to travel to the exclusion of motor vehicles, recognizing that motor vehicles may need to traverse a bicycle lane, whether to enter or exit the roadway, to park adjacent to the curb, or for other reasons. Cyclists can expect that vehicles will not be driving in the dedicated bicycle lanes and will yield to cyclists using those lanes, just as drivers of motor vehicles can expect that cyclists will confine themselves to dedicated bicycle lanes where available.

[42]         At this intersection, a cyclist would have to leave the dedicated bicycle lane, traverse the right turn lane, and then merge into and ‘take’ the through lane, a potentially hazardous manoeuver when the latter two lanes can be expected to contain vehicular traffic travelling much faster than the cyclist.

[43]         I find that the plaintiff was not in breach of any traffic rules or the rules of the road when she stayed in the dedicated bicycle lane and proceeded to cross over the intersection in the direction of the dedicated bicycle lane on Hollywood Road north of Highway 33 because cyclists in the dedicated bicycle lane are not obligated to turn right. The dedicated bicycle lane is both for cyclists who are turning right and those who are continuing through the intersection. The plaintiff was not subject to a heightened duty of care.

[44]         The facts here are similar to those in Levers v. Blace, [1993] B.C.W.L.D. 1666, 1993 CarswellBC 2355. In that case, a cyclist was riding alongside a motorist in the same lane of traffic when the motorist made a sudden right turn into a parking lot, resulting in the cyclist colliding with the passenger side of the motorist’s vehicle. Justice Lowry held the motorist to be solely responsible for the collision:

[5]        Mr. Blace says that he was stopped beside Mr. Levers at the light. But he says Mr. Levers was in the right turning lane. He says that when the light changed, he accelerated and did not see the bicycle again until the impact. He assumed Mr. Levers had turned right on Trunk Road. Mr. Blace has no recollection of looking to his right or behind before he made his turn into the Dairy Queen lot. If he had, he would have seen the cyclist. He activated his turn signal just as he cleared the intersection. He assumed there was no reason he could not turn safely. His assumption was wrong.

[45]         The circumstances in this case are similar to those here because the defendant had previously seen the plaintiff before he got to the intersection, but had lost track of her and failed to ensure that it was safe to commence his right turn.

[46]         I do not accept that the plaintiff should share any responsibility for the accident. The plaintiff had been travelling in the dedicated bicycle lane for several blocks. It was a bright and sunny day and she was clearly visible. Motorists such as the defendant who were travelling in the same direction as the plaintiff had a prolonged opportunity to observe her in the bicycle lane and the defendant ought to have anticipated that she may continue through the intersection in line with the dedicated bicycle lane.

[47]         Because I have concluded that the plaintiff was ahead of the defendant as they approached the intersection and that they arrived at the intersection at approximately the same time, the defendant was obligated to yield to the plaintiff, no different than if she had been a pedestrian using the adjacent crosswalk. The defendant’s evidence was that he did not see her, even though he had seen her previously. However, it does not matter whether he actually saw her at the time he was commencing his turn. Rather, she was riding her bicycle in the dedicated bicycle lane in accordance with the bylaw and she was there to be seen.

[48]         I do not accept the defendant’s submission that the plaintiff failed to take sufficient precautions for her own safety by not having a rear-view mirror attached to either her bicycle or helmet. Even if she had been aware that the defendant was approaching her from behind in the right turn lane, it was reasonable for her to expect that the defendant would have allowed her to pass before commencing his turn, and it is not apparent on the face of the evidence as to what kind of evasive action the plaintiff could have taken upon the sudden realization that the defendant was not going to allow her to do so.

[49]         I find the defendant 100% at fault for the accident. Subject to something of which I am unaware, the plaintiff is entitled to her costs.

bc injury law, Bike Lanes, Chartlon-Miner v. Hedgecock, cyclist collisions, Mr. Justice Wilson