A recent decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Davies v. Elston, 2014 BCSC 2435, dealt with the duty of care owed by drivers to cyclists on BC roads. In this case, the elderly plaintiff and his son were riding in a bike lane when they passed the defendant’s Ford F350 which was parked with its mirror extending into the bike lane.
The defendant heard the plaintiff’s son comment about the mirror and drove after the two cyclists to confront them. Accosting them through his open passenger window, the defendant drove his truck close enough to the cyclists that the plaintiff felt threatened and put his hand on the frame of the truck window to protect himself. When the defendant abruptly drove away, the plaintiff fell and fractured his right hip and pelvis.
The Court found the defendant negligent and liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, adding the following commentary at paragraph 169:
No matter how aggravating a cyclist’s behaviour might be … a driver of a motor vehicle can never be justified in deliberately using a motor vehicle to confront a cyclist who is riding a bike. Confrontation creates a serious risk of harm to the cyclist which is way out of proportion to anything the cyclist might have done. A driver of a motor vehicle is not entitled to impose a penalty of death or serious bodily harm on a cyclist just because the cyclist was rude or broke a traffic rule.
This should not be taken to mean cyclists have free reign to do as they like with the blessing of the courts. While cyclists have the same rights as drivers on BC roads, they also have the same duties and obligations as well. In other words, just like drivers, cyclists have a duty to know and follow the rules of the road.
Over the years I have witnessed a number of cyclists aggressively confront a driver in traffic. I have cringed every time, amazed the cyclists’ emotions have blinded them to the danger of what they are doing, and what could happen if they provoke the wrong driver at the wrong time.
As a motorcyclist, I have appreciated firsthand how the balance of safety is on the driver’s side. In a clash with a car, a cyclist’s vulnerability is such that one can be seriously injured or even killed with the driver completely oblivious.
In an attempt to shift the balance somewhat, some cyclists may decide to aggressively assert their rights against motor vehicles in an attempt to “educate” certain drivers, relying on the fact they are in the right and the driver is in the wrong.
Ultimately, “right” or “wrong” has little relevance to the end result in a situation where a driver is belligerent, distracted, or just plain does not see you. Knowing you were right is little consolation if the result involves a wheelchair, a catastrophic brain injury, or a funeral. Remember, everything can change in the space of a heartbeat.
Ride defensively, not aggressively.
Be aware. Be safe.
Be Beyond Right and Wrong.
Einfeld Law is a highly knowledgeable and experienced BC personal injury law firm specializing in motor vehicle accidents, motorcycle accidents, and other negligence claims involving bodily injury. We have successfully litigated many ICBC and other insurance claims, including out of province, wrongful death, brain injury, spinal cord injury, whiplash, soft tissue injury, and all other bodily injury claims. We have collected millions of dollars on behalf of our clients. We never act for ICBC or other insurance companies.