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June 15, 2011

Cyclists Versus Motorists

Imagine you are riding your bike down the road passing parked cars on your right. A car door suddenly opens in front of you. There is no time to take evasive action. You hit the door and go flying off your bike. You suffer neck and back injuries.

Who is at fault?

According to section 183(1) of BC’s Motor Vehicle Act, “a person operating a cycle on a highway has the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle.”

Section 183 goes on to identify a number of duties that are specific to cyclists. One such duty is that a cyclist must ride as near as practicable to the right side of the highway.

But motorists must give equal respect and consideration to cycles – a central theme in BC Supreme Court case Hagreen v. Su.

This case applies Section 203(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act which states the following:

A person must not open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so.

The plaintiff, Mr. Hagreen, is riding his bike to work. He is wearing a helmet and reflective stripes, and is dutifully riding along the right side of the road. He is careful to monitor vehicle traffic, including any potential risks from parked cars on his right.

The defendant driver, Mr. Su, is parked in front of his house at the side of the road. He opens his car door just before Mr. Hagreen tries to pass. Mr. Hagreen has no time to react. He collides with the car door and suffers upper body injuries that affect his future work and athletic pursuits.

The Judge says the driver opened his car door when it was unsafe to do so. The cyclist had no time to take evasive action. The Judge refers to section 203 of the Motor Vehicle Act and finds the driver 100% at fault for the accident.

For more information:

Bike Sense BC, Cyclists and the Law

Author - James Richards

James Richards is a born and raised Vancouverite who studied History, Political Science and Law at University of British Columbia. His over 20 years of legal practice and a busy and active family gives him his purpose, focus and some good writing material. When not in work–mode, he enjoys any excuse to be out and about our amazing city.