A Warning to Cyclists Passing Cars on the Shoulder
Cyclists will often pass stopped vehicles on the shoulder of the road. While this may be fine if there is a dedicated bike lane, the situation is less desirable if there is no bike lane. In a recent BC Court of Appeal case, a panel of judges found a cyclist partial responsible for an accident that happened when he was passing cars on the shoulder and was hit by a car. Th
e name of the case is Ilett v. Buckley.
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In this case, cars before an intersection were backed up in gridlocked traffic. The cyclist, Mr. Ilett, waspassing the stopped cars on the shoulder of the road. There was no designated bike lane. Meanwhile, in the opposite direction, at the intersection ahead, a car was trying to turn left. That direction of the car would, unfortunately, be directly in the path of Mr. Illet’s bicycle.
The car was being driven by Ms. Buckley. Vehicles that were stopped in the gridlock at the intersection waved her on, encouraging her that the ‘coast was clear’.
Unfortunately, the coast was not clear. When Ms. Buckley turned she collided with Mr. Illett’s bicycle, who was trying to go straight through the intersection at the time. Mr. Illett was injured in the crash, and he sued Ms. Buckely for his injuries.
The Court of Appeal felt that Mr. Illett was partially to blame for the accident. The judges held him 50% responsible. In making this decision, this meant that Mr. Illett was only entitled to half the money he otherwise would have been.
The Court noted that Mr. Illett had a duty to take care and pay attention when riding his bicycle. Like any other motorist driving a car, the judges noted that the cyclist had to drive with reasonable consideration for others driving on a public road. The Court emphasized that in this case, Mr. Illett entered the intersection at a high rate of speed, and did not stop or slow down in case there were other vehicles present, and he should have driven more carefully in the circumstances.
In this case, the Court also made it clear, however, that left turning vehicles in gridlock also has to be cautious. The judges found that the vehicle turning left, Ms. Buckley, was not sufficiently cautious. She made a left turn at a time when she was unable to see if the shoulder of the road was clear of cyclists. Because she did that, the Court also found her 50% to blame for the accidents.
This case is a good lesson for cyclists riding in busy cities like Vancouver and Surrey. As bicycles become a more mainstream way of travel, the Courts will likely treat them more similarly to vehicles, and expect cyclists to obey rules of the road and drive cautiously when warranted.
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