Pedaling Around Misconceptions – Cyclists and Insurance Liability

by | Uncategorized


Between the dozens of provincial triathlons and recreational cycling enthusiasts hitting the roads and highways in the summer, liability has become a hot topic in BC. Riders share the pavement with drivers and pedestrians alike, and in doing so add the risk of accident and injury. But unlike automobile insurance and liability, the FAQ around cycling is much less clear cut, leaving many to ponder if anything can be done to better protect their interests. Today, Park Insurance is here to clear up the matter.

What You Need to Know About Insurance and Liability as it Applies to Bike Accidents in BC

What Drivers Need to Know

Approximately 1,100 cyclists are injured every year in BC, and incidents with motor vehicles are the primary cause of each. While many drivers are frustrated about sharing the roads with two-wheeled pedal-powered counterparts, BC law stipulates that you have a critical role to play in keeping cyclists safe, and the provincial government has laid out an agenda for accepting this charge:

  • Allow one metre between your vehicle and the cyclist.
  • Change lanes to pass.
  • Be cautious when opening car doors.
  • Keep your distance.
  • Check your blind spot when turning right.
  • Respect bike lanes.

In addition to the list above, there are other considerations that must be taken to mitigate risk of accident liability, including driving free of distraction, yielding the right of way, and monitoring for cyclists’ hand signals. View Park’s complete guide to safe driving around cyclists. A proven failure to abide by any of the above may show that you have not exercised the required care, and you may find yourself fully liable for injury to the cyclist and damage to their bicycle. With recent updates to the ICBC rate model for automobile insurance, limiting your potential for even minor collisions is even more important.

What Cyclists Need to Know

There is a misconception that cyclists have greater rights than drivers. This is not the case. BC Law stipulates that anyone operating a bicycle on a highway has the same rights as a driver of a vehicle. On that token, it must be made clear to cyclists that they have the same level of duties as drivers as well. When it comes to sharing the road with vehicles, the BC Motor Vehicle Act mandates that you are required to exercise extreme care. Key practices include (but are not exclusive to) the following:

  • Must ride as near as practicable to the right side of the highway.
  • Must not ride a cycle on a highway where signs prohibit their use.
  • A person operating a cycle who intends to turn it to the left at an intersection where there is more than one lane from which left turns are permitted must i) cause the cycle to approach the intersection in the lane closest to the right side of the highway from which a left turn is permitted, ii) keep the cycle to the right of the line that divides the lane from the lane immediately to the left of that lane, iii) after entering the intersection, turn the cycle to the left so that it will leave the intersection to the right of the line referred to in paragraph, iv) when practicable, turn the cycle in the portion of the intersection to the left of the centre of the intersection.
  • Must have the appropriate equipment (detailed here) when riding between 1/2 hour after sunset and 1/2 hour before sunrise.
  • Must not operate a cycle on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway.
  • Must signify a left and right turns with the recognized arm signals (detailed here).
  • Must wear the proper bicycle safety helmets and equipment (detailed here).

If you are a cyclist, review the complete Section 183 of the BC Motor Vehicle Act so that you understand your duties on the road. Failure to do so can result in liability that may have you selling your bike and equipment for claims not covered by your current policy.

Of course, not all cycling accidents involve motor vehicles. For instance, you may get into an accident on private property. In this case, Occupiers Liability Act of BC comes into play, and if making a claim you will be required to prove that a property owner neglected to exercise due care in keeping their premises free of public harm. On the flip side, if you caused damage to property while riding, your homeowners insurance may be tapped to cover the damage.

Beyond property, there is another concern that has a very direct impact on your liability as it pertains to injury – pedestrians. Keep reading.

What pedestrians Need to Know

Like with drivers, pedestrians almost always “have the right of way” if injured in a collision with a bicycle, with cyclists often held liable in claims court. Once again we return to the BC Motor Vehicle Act, taking note of cyclist duties to pedestrians:

  • A cyclist must not ride on a sidewalk unless authorized by a bylaw made under section 124 or unless otherwise directed by a sign.
  • A cyclist must not, for the purpose of crossing a highway, ride on a crosswalk unless authorized to do so by a bylaw made under section 124 or unless otherwise directed by a sign.
  • A cyclist must not ride on a sidewalk or path (where permitted) without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the sidewalk or path.
  • If operation of a cycle directly or indirectly causes a potential injury to a pedestrian, the cyclist must remain at or immediately return to the scene of the accident, render all possible assistance, and exchange information with said individual/s and provide a licence or registration number of the cycle.

Failure to prove adherence to the above can result in liability claims against a cyclist should a pedestrian be injured in a collision. Liability for bicycle accidents are commonly covered under a home insurance policy, but this is not always the case. In addition, if an electric bike is involved, there are many other variables to consider, so please read up on ICBC’s take on the matter.

While we’ve touched on the key points, there remains some grey area with liability risk solutions depending upon your current policy. Make sure you have the best possible coverage, whether you operate a motor vehicle, bicycle, or both. Contact an independent broker at Park Insurance today.

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