Injured While Riding in a Bike Lane: Who’s at Fault?

Drivers must yield to cyclists who are using a dedicated bike lane. If you have been injured while cycling in a bike lane, you could have grounds for a personal injury compensation claim.

Dedicated bike lanes

The bike lane across Vancouver’s Burrard Bridge was the first of its kind in the city. Built in 2009, the innovation caused much controversy, with many dooming it to failure. Evidently, the naysayers were wrong, and there are now hundreds of kilometres of dedicated bike lanes across the province.

While bike lanes do afford cyclists greater protection, they cannot mitigate the risks entirely. Unfortunately, many cyclists are injured every year, despite obeying the rules of the road. Yet ICBC may still try to pin liability on a cyclist who is injured by a driver – even if that cyclist was using a dedicated bike lane.

This can be confusing for cyclists who are left wondering exactly what the rules are, and who might be held responsible, should an accident occur.

What does the law say?

The Motor Vehicle Act states that cyclists have the same rights and duties as a motorist. However, the law is entirely silent on dedicated bike lanes. In other words, the legislation does not mention who has right of way, or who should yield to who, when a motorist crosses a dedicated bike lane. To understand the rules, we must instead look to previous cases that have settled.

Charlton-Miner v. Hedgecock 2020

A particularly important case is that of Charlton-Miner v. Hedgecock which concluded in January 2020. The plaintiff was a cyclist who was in a dedicated bike lane. To her left was a designated right-hand turn lane. A collision happened when the cyclist proceeded straight through the intersection, only to be struck by a motorist who was turning right.

ICBC argued that the cyclist was at fault. Amongst other reasons, they said that the cyclist should have vacated the bike lane temporarily because it was adjacent to a right-hand turn lane. However, the judge dismissed their argument entirely, finding the driver 100% at-fault for the accident. In his judgement, Mr. Justice Wilson said that:

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

Have you been injured in a bike lane?

This case just goes to show that ICBC will defend motorists, even if their defence stands little chance of success. It also highlights some important points with regards to bike lanes. Namely, the judgement emphasises that cyclists do have a responsibility to remain ‘clearly visible’. Yet it also indicates that motorists should ‘anticipate’ that a cyclist will proceed through an intersection, and that motorists should ‘yield to cyclists’ in dedicated bike lanes.

Therefore, the law is still not clear-cut. However, if you have been injured while cycling in a dedicated bike lane, there is a high possibility that the motorist is at fault. If so, you are entitled to pursue a personal injury claim for compensation, as well as claim Part 7 benefits.

Vancouver personal injury lawyers

If you have been injured as a cyclist, please contact us at John Mickelson Law Corporation. We specialize in cycling accident claims and are ready and willing to help you.

Either fill in the free online enquiry form or call us on 604 684 0040.

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