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January 19, 2015

Road Rage Leads to Liability

Cycling Road Rage Nanaimo Court Case

Sometimes other motorists, including cyclists, can say or do things that irritate you. But is it worth stalking and intimidating someone in your vehicle to prove a point? In the case of Davies v. Elston, it wasn’t.

On a sunny October day in 2011, Jim Davies, an active 77-year old and experienced cyclist, rode along his regular route on Railway Avenue in Richmond with his son, Gary. Riding at a relaxed speed in a designated bike lane, Gary notices a truck’s mirror extending into their path. He comments on the mirror loudly enough for his partially-deaf father, and unknowingly for the owner Kevin Elston.

Elston decides to confront the cyclists and begins following them in his Ford F350 pickup. He rides closely to the bike lane and exchanges words with Gary: “Who had a problem with my mirrors?”, “Do you think you own the road?”, and “You cyclists are all the same”.

Jim was sandwiched between Elston’s truck and his son. The truck was driving closely enough for him to grab onto the passenger side window frame for balance. Once Elston sped away, he lost control and fell, badly fracturing his hip and pelvis area. He required two surgeries which left him with nerve damage. He can no longer work at the family bike shop and has trouble walking.

Davies believes Elston was liable for the accident, which had left him disabled for six months.

Elston argued the Davies’ were solely at fault for the incident and that he was not being confrontational. He also claimed that the collision was caused by Davies and his son riding side-by-side, not by his vehicle.

Madam Justice Griffin rejected Elston’s claims and found him fully responsible. Without Elston’s aggressive and negligent conduct, Jim Davies would not have fallen from his bike.

“As he was riding along, Jim Davies had no reason to expect a motor vehicle driver to pull up beside them in the way Mr. Elston did. There was lots of room on the road for a driver to give them space and the cyclists were not unreasonable in not foreseeing that by riding side by side a person driving a large truck might deliberately pull up so close to or on the edge of the bike lane so as to crowd them, “she explains in the trial judgment.

“No matter how aggravating a cyclist’s behavior might be, and in this case there was nothing aggravating about the Davies’ conduct, 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 or death or serious bodily harm on a cyclist just because the cyclist was rude or broke a traffic rule.”

Davies was awarded damages of $100,162.69, plus damages for cost of future care.

For More Information:
Davies v. Elston, 2014 BCSC 2435
Cyclist wins $100,000 from driver after angry confrontation led to crash, The Province