Cyclists are subject to most of the same rules and regulations as motor vehicles. This has some perks – despite what some impatient motorists might feel, you have a right to occupy space in the roadway. For example, you can take up a whole lane if there isn’t enough room for you to safely stick to the shoulder (the Johnson Street Bridge comes to mind). There are also restrictions on what you can safely and legally do. For instance, you have to stay on the right side of the road (apparently, 10% of cyclist-motorist accidents are caused by cyclists riding on the wrong side of the road), signal your intentions, and make yourself visible at night.
Failure to observe the rules of the road not only increases the likelihood that you will be in an accident, it could also significantly limit your ability to claim damages from the driver who hit you.
For example, in Dobre v. Langley, the plaintiff was a cyclist who was struck while cycling through a crosswalk. The plaintiff had stopped at the crosswalk to activate crossing lights and then looked to the left where he saw the defendant’s vehicle approaching. Satisfied that he had time to cross, the plaintiff hopped back on his bike and started cycling through the crosswalk. The plaintiff misjudged the defendant’s distance and speed and the defendant struck him in the rear tire. The plaintiff was significantly injured with permanent damages to his dominant hand. The judge assessed his damages at over $135,000. However, the judge noted that cyclists are required by the Motor Vehicle Act to dismount if they want to take advantage of a pedestrian crosswalk. By failing to do so, the plaintiff was partially to blame for the accident. The judge discounted his award by 15%. The plaintiff’s small decision to bike rather than walk across the crosswalk cost him over $20,000 (not to mention the serious injury).
ICBC publishes a handy guide for cyclists looking to safely join traffic on BC’s public roads (www.bikesense.bc.ca). It is worth having a read for anyone riding in traffic, both to keep yourself safe and to protect your legal rights if you are struck by a vehicle.
If you are hit, it is crucial that you do the same things you would do after an accident involving two vehicles – exchange contact information, get the names of witnesses, call emergency services if necessary, etc. If the vehicle doesn’t stop, have a look at our Hit and Run blog post to read about your obligations as a hit-and-run victim.