With the warm weather upon us, the cyclists are starting to come out in full force. (Photo: Flickr user, bike)
What is your cycle savvy?
Apr 2, 2011 / 5:00 am
With the warm weather upon us, the cyclists are starting to come out in full force. If you are like most people when you drive, you feel like you have to be psychic to figure out where the cyclists are coming from and going to and you get frustrated with cyclists who don’t seem to know what they are doing. On the other hand, if you are a cyclist you probably think most drivers are ignorant of the law and they never pay attention or look where they are going.
My first experience with a cycling accident is unforgettable. It involved a young man headed to work on his bicycle. He needed to cross four lanes of traffic to get to work. Looking both ways and thinking the road was clear, he started to cross the road while riding his bike at a slight diagonal. He made it across the first two lanes of traffic but as he entered the third lane (just over the yellow line) he was hit by a young man driving a sports car. The accident rendered him a paraplegic. It was a difficult case that was ultimately settled. Unfortunately, that accident like so many could have been prevented.
The reality is that lack of knowledge and poor judgment by both drivers and cyclists result in numerous cycling accidents every year. According to statistics collected by ICBC there is an average of 1,300 cyclists injured and 10 cyclists killed in cycling accidents each year.
So what are your obligations?
Obligations of cyclists are set out in the Motor Vehicle Act and in local municipal bylaws. A cyclist must abide by the same laws as motor vehicles and the following additional obligations:
A cyclist must not ride on a sidewalk, unless authorized by a bylaw or otherwise directed by a sign.
A cyclist must not, for the purpose of crossing a highway, ride on a crosswalk, unless authorized by a bylaw or otherwise directed by a sign.
A cyclist must not ride side by side (in other words, cyclists must ride one in front of the other).
A cyclist must not ride a bicycle on a road where a sign prohibits its use.
A cyclist must not operate a bike without due care and attention.
A cyclist must, unless permitted by a bylaw or otherwise directed by a sign, ride as near as practicable to the right side of the road (Note: this does not require the cyclist to ride on any part of the road that is not paved).
A cyclist must keep at least one hand on the handlebars.
A cyclist must signal (using the appropriate hand signals) if they intend to turn or stop.
A cyclist must wear an approved safety helmet.
A cyclist must in all the circumstances, take reasonable care for his or her own safety.
If a cyclist intends to turn left and there is more than one lane from which a left hand turn is permitted, the cyclist must use the lane closest to the right side of the road from which a left turn is permitted. Once in the permitted lane, the cyclist is to keep his or her bike closest to the line separating the next closest turning lane.
If riding within a half hour before sunrise or a half hour after sunset, the bike must be equipped with a lighted lamp mounted on the front, capable of displaying a white light visible at least 150 m, a red reflector, and a lighted lamp, mounted and visible to the rear with a red light.
If a cyclist is in an accident, the cyclist must remain or immediately return to the scene of the accident, render all possible assistance and give to anyone sustaining loss or injury the cyclists name and address and the name and address of the owner of the bike and if registered, the license or registration number.
Obligations of drivers to cyclists under the Motor Vehicle Act are the same as their obligations to other drivers, which includes keeping a proper look out at all times. Another section of the Act that more readily comes into play with cyclists is section 318, which prohibits drivers opening their door to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so. A video on YouTube titled “What Happens When You Open a Car Door in Front Of A Bicycle?” provides a great demonstration of this common type of cycling accident.
Bike lanes are a fairly recent addition to BC and while the concept is a good one, not everyone agrees and the law in BC has not kept up. Kelowna does have a bylaw which prohibits parking in a bike lane, but unfortunately, to date there is no legislation that specifically tells a driver or a cyclist what their respective obligations are to one another when a cyclist is in a designated cycling lane. What is clear from the case law developed so far is that it is reasonably foreseeable that a cyclist would be in a bike lane (see Wong v. City of Vancouver  BCJ No. 1100). As a result, drivers should exercise a higher degree of caution when crossing over cycling lanes. From a practical perspective, it is a good idea to treat a bike lane just the same as you would treat any other lane of traffic.
*Important Note: The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought.
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