The popularity of cycling is on the rise in Vancouver and other parts of British Columbia. According to the City of Vancouver, between 2008 and 2011, the number of cycling trips per day increased 41 percent from 47,100 to 66,500.
In response to safety concerns, governments and other organizations have put in place programs to help protect both motorists and cyclists. On its website, ICBC provides tips for safe cycling and a map showing high risk intersections for bicycle crashes. The BC Ministry of Transportation has posted on its website a list of locations where cycling is prohibited, such as on certain sections of highway and on the roadways of certain bridges.
Many BC cities are addressing the growing interest in cycling by creating more dedicated bike lanes and providing more protected routes for cyclists. The City of Vancouver, for example, has plans to make capital investments in improving its cycling network, including creating new routes and improving existing ones. Vancouver is also working to improve signage for cyclists. The need for greater signage at intersections is particularly important as more cycling accidents occur at intersections than in other locations.
Motor Vehicle Act and Municipal Bylaws
According to section 183(1) of British Columbia’s Motor Vehicle Act, a person operating a bicycle on a highway has the same rights and duties as the driver of a vehicle, including the responsibility to watch for other drivers. Nothing requires a cyclist to ride on any part of a highway that is not paved. This means that motorists and cyclists must share the road and both could be subject to fines or penalties for failing to follow the law. Cyclists, like motorists, must abide by the Motor Vehicle Act and any applicable municipal bylaws. For example, under sections 183 and 184 of the Motor Vehicle Act:
Drivers of motor vehicles must also take steps to avoid collisions with bicycles, including the following:
Additional Safety Tips
Safety precautions are recommended for all users of the road. Motorists should pay attention at all times and be aware of their surroundings. To avoid “dooring” (the act of opening a car door into the path of a cyclist), drivers and passengers should use their opposite hand to open the door. This forces the body and head to turn so that your eyes are looking over your shoulder. Parents dropping off children at school should educate their children to check for cyclists before exiting vehicles.
Cyclists can also take measures to increase their safety on the road, including planning out their route where traffic is lighter and using extra caution if travelling during rush hour on main thoroughfares. Cyclists are also encouraged to use a bell to alert others when they plan to pass.
Cyclists can increase their visibility with bright reflective clothing and helmets, lights, and even colourful bike rims. New technology such as SmartHalo (available this fall) is designed to make bicycles safer with features like a safest-route GPS, a night-activated ultra-bright light and weather updates, all contained in a device that can be mounted on the handlebars of a bicycle.
When a Motorist/Cyclist Accident Occurs
Often motorists are found responsible when a collision with a cyclist occurs. A cyclist may also share responsibility if he or she was not following the rules of the road. In the situation of “dooring”, the person opening the door may be found 100 percent at fault for a collision.
A highly publicized case of dooring was that involving Patricia Keenan’s unfortunate death in July 2015. Ms. Keenan was cycling behind a friend on Bernard Avenue towards downtown Kelowna when a motorist suddenly opened the driver's side door of a parked car. Ms. Keenan slammed into the open door and, despite wearing a helmet, sustained serious head injuries that she died of two days later.
Contact Us at Bronson Jones & Company LLP
If you are involved in a bicycle accident in Vancouver or elsewhere in BC, contact us at Bronson Jones & Company LLP for a free consultation about your personal injury case. Our Vancouver personal injury lawyers can inform you about the laws applicable to your situation. We have 13 offices in the Lower Mainland. Contact us at 1-855-852-5100.