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Tag: cyclist collisions

BC Court of Appeal Finds Cyclist 50% at Fault for "Cycling Between Lanes"

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal addressing the issue of fault for a cyclist involved in an intersection crash.
In today’s case (MacLaren v. Kucharek) the Plaintiff cyclist was injured when he was travelling through an intersection in Surrey BC when he was struck by a left hand turning vehicle approaching from the opposite direction.  At  trial the driver of the vehicle was found 100% at fault.  The vehicle operator appealed and the BC High Court overturned the trial judgement and found the cyclist 50% at fault.
The roadway the cyclist was travelling on had one marked lane but as it approached the intersection it “widens…(and) although unmarked as two lanes, there is sufficient room for two vehicles to travel abreast within the one marked lane.”  Critical to the Court’s judgement was a finding that although unmarked, the roadway had “two de facto lanes” just prior to the intersection.
It was accepted that vehicles that drove in the right of these two defacto lanes were right turning vehicles. Vehicles that intended to drive straight through the intersection stayed in the left hand portion of the wide lane.  As the cyclist approached the intersection a vehicle in front of him in his direction fo travel stopped and left a “gap in the traffic lined up behind the intersection“.  The Plaintiff passed this traffic on the right and entered the intersection (basically travelling down the centre of these two defacto lanes).  At the same time the Defendant made a left hand turn into the intersection resulting in collision.  The Defendant testified that he never saw the cyclist prior to the crash.
The driver was found at fault for failing to see the cyclist.  In finding the cyclist 50% at fault the BC Court of Appeal provide the following reasons:
The question that arises, however, is whether Mr. MacLaren should have “taken the lane”; that is, ridden behind the other traffic in the lane, rather than do what he did which was to put himself beside vehicles in that lane and to pass them on the right…

…In my view it is not so much that Mr. MacLaren was passing on the right when he was struck by the appellant, but that he was riding between what were effectively two lanes of travel before entering the Laurel Drive intersection.  In my view, s. 183(2)(c) (which required him to ride as near as practicable to the right side of the highway), did not authorize him to ride between two lanes of travel.  For Mr. MacLaren to ride between two unmarked but commonly travelled lanes immediately prior to reaching the Laurel Drive intersection was dangerous because a northbound left-turning driver would have little opportunity to see him as he cycled alongside vehicles to his left.  In my view, given the configuration of the roadway and the pattern of traffic in this case, for Mr. MacLaren to cycle alongside vehicles to his left created a danger both to himself and to the appellant.

[29] While Mr. MacLaren did the right thing by moving out of the curb lane, he should have moved in behind the vehicles travelling toward the “through” lane, not beside them.  By cycling between lanes Mr. MacLaren did not show sufficient care for his own person to avoid a finding of contributory negligence.  Taking a lane was the only way, in my view, that a bicyclist could have satisfied the mandate of s. 183(2)(c) to safely travel as near as practicable to the right of the highway…

I am of the view that the trial judge erred in failing to conclude that Mr. MacLaren, in choosing to ride in between the two travel lanes and beside the stopped pick-up rather than in the lane of travel behind it, did not take reasonable care for his own safety.  His failure to take reasonable care for his own safety was one of the causes of the accident.  Mr. MacLaren was therefore contributorily negligent.

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.

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